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Reprinted from The Canadian Jewish News with permission of the author.
Dec. 21, 2006
Aubrey Graham, who plays wheelchair-bound student Jimmy Brooks on the popular TV show "Degrassi: The Next Generation," has real-life experience being different than other kids.
Graham was born to a black Catholic father and a white Jewish mother, and went to school at Toronto's Forest Hill Collegiate. Growing up with mostly white peers was tough for him.
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"Going to Forest Hill was definitely an interesting way of growing up," he says. "When you're young and unaware that the world is made up of different people, it is tough growing up. But me being different from everyone else just made me a lot stronger."
Graham has played Jimmy on Degrassi since the start of the first season in 2001. Alienation aside, he says he is very different from his TV character.
"People have to realize that every character on every television show is just that," he says. "Obviously in five years I've become extremely connected.
"It's sort of second nature to switch into Jimmy on set, but there are very little similarities between a character and a person, unless you get so immersed into the role, that you become your character."
Graham's acting career started in high school. "There was a kid in my class whose father was an agent. His dad would say, 'If there's anyone in the class that makes you laugh, have them audition for me.' After the audition he became my agent," he says.
His decision to become an actor was supported by his family. "My father and my mother are both people who definitely support anything in the arts. My father is a musician and my mother's side is immersed in music and acting."
Before Graham shot to stardom as Jimmy on "Degrassi: The Next Generation," he appeared in "Convicted" with Omar Epps (now Dr. Foreman on House M.D.) "To work with him was amazing, because as a young black man, [I realized] we have many talented people, and Omar Epps is definitely one of them," he says.
Graham was nominated for a Young Artist Award for best supporting actor in a TV series for "Degrassi" in 2004 and was the 2002 winner of a Young Artist Award for best ensemble actor in a TV series for "Degrassi."
He has a role in the upcoming movie Charlie Bartlett with Robert Downey Jr.
Graham has entered into the music scene and will release a rap mix-tape in February under the pseudomym of "Drake." He plans to release a CD soon as well.