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'Degrassi' writer says Drake threatened legal action to get his character out of wheelchair

Drake's character wound up in a wheelchair after being shot.
Drake, in the wheelchair, was reportedly not pleased with how his character could no longer walk on "Degrassi: The Next Generation."
Drake, in the wheelchair, was reportedly not pleased with how his character could no longer walk on "Degrassi: The Next Generation."TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Everett Collection
/ Source: TODAY

“Degrassi: The Next Generation” was known for its honest storylines during its 15-season run, but there’s one plot point that star Drake was reportedly so against that he nearly took drastic measures to put an end to it.

His character, Jimmy, used a wheelchair when he was paralyzed from the waist down after he was shot in a season four episode. Drake, who then went by the name Aubrey Graham, reportedly didn’t want the character to end up like that.

“There was a letter from a law firm in Toronto, and it was from Aubrey,” show writer James Hurst told The A.V. Club. “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.’”

Hurst says Drake had an eye on his burgeoning rap career.

“I said, ‘Get him down here,’” he said. “He came in and was like, ‘What letter? I don’t know about that.’ And 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? You got shot, and you’re in a wheelchair.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah.’

TODAY has reached out to Drake for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

Hurst says Drake ultimately dropped the matter.

“He was so nice and apologetic about everything. He instantly backed down,” he said.

“I was very passionate about it, and I said, ‘Aubrey, there’s some kid somewhere in a wheelchair, who’s completely ignored, who’s never on television, 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.’”

The idea of getting him out of the wheelchair was a subject that was discussed.

“There was always a conversation: ‘Is there a surgery that Jimmy can have? Can we somehow get him out of this?’” Stefan Brogren, who played Spike, said. “The idea was played with a lot. In the end, we started having him getting up on his feet and walking with crutches.”

At least one cast member thinks Drake had trouble taking his character in a new direction.

“I think (Aubrey) struggled, just physically with having to all of a sudden do everything confined to a chair. That was really hard for him,” Lauren Collins, who played Paige, said. “I definitely have a few memories of him toppling the chair over and falling off of makeshift ramps that they’d constructed for him.”