After Drake’s reluctance to allow his Degrassi character Jimmy to be paralyzed after an episode about a school shooting became public, his portrayal is now being praised by the leader of an organization dedicated to kids with mobility issues for helping normalize wheelchairs. Madeline Robinson, executive director of Wheelchair 4 Kids, told TMZ that Drake’s role — however reticent he initially was to play it — gave kids in wheelchairs confidence. “When was the last time you went to a mall and saw a kid in a wheelchair hanging out with other kids?” she wondered, saying it’s rare.
“It is great when we see our kids being represented,” Robinson asserted. That was the logic that the show’s producers used to get Drake on board with the character development when the actor threatened to quit after seeing the script, worried that it would have a negative effect on his then-nascent rap career. In AV Club’s oral history of Degrassi: The Next Generation, writer James Hurst recalled telling Drake, “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.”
Drake is now arguably the biggest star in hip-hop, so it’s clear he’s surmounted his worries, however well-founded they may have been.