Drake took legal actions to get his Degrassi character 'James Brooks' out of the wheelchair
by Ana Walia | Sat, 16 Oct 2021 12:15:02 GMT
Drake played James Brooks on "Degrassi: The Next Generation". Image Source: Global Circulate 

Four-time Grammy Award winner Drake (real name Aubrey Drake Graham) is a Canadian rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, and entrepreneur who rose to fame after starring in the Canadian teenage television series "Degrassi: The Next Generation," where he played the role of James Brooks. Drake stared as James Brooks for seven seasons (from 2001-2008). 

The television series celebrated its 20th anniversary this week, and as a part of that celebration, a number of cast members and crew members decided to come together to share some of the greatest moments of the show that are still fresh in their memories in an oral history published by the A.V. Club.

Drake, however, decided to give this one a miss, but the cast and crew remembered the singer-actor for his performance as James Brooks. During the conversation, Drake’s character’s plotline was specifically remembered, specifically about how James was left paralyzed in a two-part episode involving a school shooting in the wake of Columbine that aired in 2004.

According to writer James Hurst, Drake did not want to be in a wheelchair on the show, so he enlisted the help of his lawyers. James Hurst shared, "There was a letter from a law firm in Toronto, and it was from Aubrey. It was an odd letter that said, 'Aubrey Graham will not return to Degrassi season six as Jimmy Brooks unless his injury is healed, and he’s out of the wheelchair." To which the writer said that he asked to meet the singer and confront him about the situation, claiming that he had nothing to do with the letter sent.

The writer further added, "I said, 'All right, I understand. But how do you feel about the wheelchair? He’s like, "All my friends in the rap game say I’m soft because I’m in a wheelchair. And I said, 'Well, tell your friends in the rap game that you got shot. How much harder can you get? ' ... He was like, 'Yeah, yeah.' He was so nice and apologetic about everything. Furthermore, he instantly backed down."

James Hurst also shared that he went up to Drake and made him understand the significance of the character. He mentioned that he told the rapper that there is some kid out there in a wheelchair who is being ignored, who has never been on television and never gets represented. "I need you to represent this person. You’re the coolest kid on the show, and you can say there’s nothing wrong with being in a wheelchair", James said to Drake.

Drake apparently wanted to quit the show because he did not want his character to be in a wheelchair. Image Source: XXLMagazine/Degrassi 

Shane Kippel, who played Spinner, added that there is apprehension about having your character confined to a wheelchair, or even not feeling right about portraying someone who is confined to a wheelchair when you're fully yourself." But that pertains to [Aubrey] and how he felt with that", the actor added.

According to the writers, during the conversation at the celebration, there were a lot of discussions about healing James Brooks with surgery. "The character had a stem cell treatment and, at the end of his run, used crutches, including to get his diploma in the graduation episode", the crew added.

Actress Laura Collins, who played Paige on the show, mentioned that she thinks that Drake struggled with suddenly being confined to a wheelchair just after performing everything physically. "That was really hard for him. I definitely have a few memories of him toppling the chair over and falling off of makeshift ramps that they’d constructed for him."

The actress also added that maybe Aubrey struggled with the idea that the show had two black characters, including him, and he was the one who ended up getting shot and in a wheelchair, which is a part of a much larger conversation.

Stefan Brogren, who portrayed the character of teacher Archie "Snake" Simpson, shared how they found a way to get Drake out of the wheelchair. He said, "There was always a conversation: 'Is there a surgery that Jimmy can have? Can we somehow get him out of this? ' The idea was played with a lot. In the end, we started having him getting up on his feet and walking with crutches." Stefan directed 51 episodes for the show.

Since the rapper decided to leave the show, he has gone on to be one of the world’s best-selling music artists in the industry, winning over four Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, two Brit Awards, three Juno Awards, etc. The rapper, who started out as a hip hop and R&B artist, has delved into pop and trap in recent years. The singer who is known for his egotistical lyrics, technical ability, and integration of personal backstory when dealing with relationships with women is also one of the most influential people in the industry with people following his style and fashion. They also admire him for his passionate work towards music and society. 

Drake's video for his song "I'm Upset" in 2018 took him back to Degrassi and featured him reuniting with many of his former cast members. The video received a positive response from the audience and the crew of the show. The rapper has not yet responded to any of the claims from the former cast yet.