This week, we — as a people — received the greatest gift we could possibly ask for: cold, hard footage of Drake doing improv.
The clip is short and abundantly sweet, as wee baby Aubs shouts "Yes, and..." to the high heavens, supporting his scene partner with the finesse of an expert act-or. Which he is, lest we forget his work as Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi, his dramatic turns in videos like "Hold On We’re Going Home," and all those SNL appearances.
Yes, Aubrey Graham can act. And not just can — he does, beautifully. He'd like to do it more, too: "I can’t wait to get back into acting. No one ever asks me to do movies," he lamented last year. His intentions to take on new characters are very real — after he’s done playing the greatest character of all.
The talented Mr. Graham has played the role of "Drake" to the hilt for a decade, participating in enough drama for a Hamlet or a Macbeth. Before that, he honed his thespian craft on the stage of a Canadian teen drama, learning how to build a persona that was humble, compelling, complicated, and flawed. As Jimmy Brooks, Graham was the victim of a shooting at the hands of a kid named Rick, then spent the next few seasons overcoming all the corresponding obstacles before ending his turn on the series with an engagement. Through all those trials and tribulations and ups and downs, there was one constant: Aubrey Graham, great Canadian actor and arguably one of the greatest actors of all time.
Drake The Character™ tops the role of Degrassi Jimmy in every way. He's a man with passion, poise, and a love for the Toronto Raptors that rivals my own love for Canadian-centric conspiracy theories. This "Drake" is a man unto himself. An artist who lets us in, but not deep enough to map out too much of his past without citing lines from his music — or should we say, his dialogue. His persona is cocky, insecure, emotional yet guarded — a classic antihero. He shadow-boxes through rivalries, swoons over love stories, and recites darling sonnets (or: "songs") that he and/or other authors have penned. It's all so true-to-life, you almost believe he's real! What an incredible performance. The gifted player even put Daniel Day-Lewis to shame with his physical transformation, bulking up as though the tiny improviser Toronto once knew was a man he had grown out of.
But no. Aubrey Graham has always been that man. He is that man. He will forever be that man. And that man is an actor, one whose greatest role so far is Drake.
Really, we should have known this all along. His early music videos delivered to us images of a young man vying for genre credibility, before moving on to footage of our protagonist working at Shopper’s Drug Mart and recreating his own version of Scarface. Then, to peacock his range, Drake slipped into comedy, mastering beginners-level sweater choreography and using talk show appearances to cement his position as one of the most earnest and affable musicians in the game. In short, he was a walking acting reel. And he’s been giving us hints the whole time.
Remember "HYFR”? That 2012 video began with images of a teeny little Aubrey dancing like few of us can, all while knowing which camera to face and how to steal the show. His knack for showmanship transcends decades. To perform, for him, was like breathing air, even at the tender age of 13.
But we didn’t notice. Instead, we framed Drake — his beloved and most applauded creation — as a guy who just seemed good at everything. We wrote about him and questioned him and gazed upon him like a god among men, forgetting that we met Aubrey Graham as an actor before meeting him as a musician.
In a way, the confusion is all his fault. Had Graham not been such a consummate professional — had he not built up the myth of Drake so tall that only the CN Tower could be his throne — we’d have grown tired of his rapping creation years ago and allowed Aubs to be free. But no. He's too good an actor to let that happen.
So now he begs for movie roles and pines to be on a different type of stage. He shaves his beard to get into character and complains that he’s not being offered good parts. He no longer runs from his past, but cites it mercilessly, performing the low-key equivalent of standing atop a table and shouting, "My name is Aubrey, and I can be anyone!"
You think it was an accident that we were reminded this week of his comedic abilities? That he sat across from Martin Short and played the straight man to Jiminy Glick? How dare you. No, finally — finally — we’ve reconnected with Aubrey Graham the actor. We’re recognizing the genius behind this century’s Olivier, the Daniel Day-Lewis for a generation that thinks the other Daniel Day-Lewis needs to relax. And are you surprised that it's all a beautifully performed act? Come on: No man can truly claim sorrow while Photoshopping themselves onto Toronto’s most recognizable landmark. At least not while wearing such a comfy coat.