He may not have been a superstar yet, but before he was Drake, Aubrey Graham was adamant about keeping his music career separate from his acting.
“He would play us mix tapes and we really tried to talk him into letting us use some of his music in the show and getting him to rap and sing,” “Degrassi: The Next Generation” executive producer Stephen Stohn told Page Six during the ATX TV Festival on Monday.
Producers pushed to get Drake’s character more into music, but the young actor — who played Jimmy Brooks on the Canadian teen soap from 2001 to 2009 — stood “firm,” Stohn said.
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“His music side was one side of his career and the acting was another,” Stohn told us. “We did manage to get him to do some rap, but it did take some convincing.”
As for the now-34-year-old’s rise to fame, Stohn said, “We knew that the music was compelling, we had no idea how compelling it would be.”
Executive producer Linda Schuyler noticed Drake’s talent as soon as she met with him during auditions.
“There was a vulnerability about him, the camera adored him,” she told us. “He had that special something you’re looking for when you’re casting.”
Despite efforts to separate his talents, in 2018 Drake brought together almost the entire cast of “Degrassi” for his “I’m Upset” music video, which showed the grown-up ensemble partying at their high school reunion.
“It was just a totally joyous occasion,” Stohn said of the three-day shoot, which took place on set in Toronto.
Along with the students, Drake even called in “Degrassi” mainstay Stefan Brogren, who played Archie “Snake” Simpson on the original 1980s series “Degrassi High” and went on to become the media immersion teacher and eventually principal of Degrassi Community School.
“First of all, when I was asked to be in the video, I was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I’ll do whatever Drake wants,’” Brogren told Page Six on Monday.
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And while on the show Brogren plays the straight-laced, lovable Mr. Simpson, in Drake’s remixed world he can be seen buying weed from Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, who told Page Six at the time he thought it was a scam when Drake’s people reached out to him about the music video.
Brogen added that the music video felt like being in one of Smith’s movies: “I got to be a ridiculous version of Mr. Simpson and buying from a dealer, I loved it so much.”
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