Degrassi's Spinner on being Drake's right-hand man in the I'm Upset video
'There was so much love in the air,' Shane Kippel says of the on-set atmosphere
Drake surprised fans this week by reuniting the cast of Degrassi: The Next Generation in the music video for I'm Upset, off his upcoming album Scorpion. Drake famously starred in the Canadian teen drama as Jimmy Brooks, a.k.a. Wheelchair Jimmy, who was best friends with Spinner, played by Shane Kippel.
In the video, Jimmy and Spinner are seen getting ready, driving around Toronto in a Ferrari, and then crashing the high school reunion, which gradually descends into a night of debauchery and chaos. The video was shot by Toronto's Karena Evans, who also directed "God's Plan" and "Nice for What," and starred almost the full cast of the show. But no one got to spend as much time in the spotlight as Spinner, so we phoned Kippel to take us behind the scenes.
Below, Kippel talks about the overall vibe on set, the inside jokes that did and didn't make the cut, whether Spinner and Jimmy will reply to Pusha T, and the overall whirlwind ride that was filming I'm Upset.
How did you first find out about this?
I heard about it two weeks before I went in for filming. I was out for my first run in about five years and two minutes into the run I get rudely interrupted by my friend [and Degrassi director of talent] Iain Christiansen, who's bursting with excitement about the news that he is taking its time to get to a point of. And then he tells me that he just got a call from members of Drake's team and Drake has a video concept for a big Degrassi reunion and, essentially, I'll be starring in it because, you know, I will be crashing this reunion in style with Aubrey. I knew it was real, but I still didn't want to allow myself to get too excited just in case for some reason it fell through. But over the next couple of days. it started to go through the appropriate channels and we were talking, signing contracts and everything, then it suddenly started. We shot it from this past Friday to Sunday and it was released three days later.
Was the video shot on the old Degrassi set?
Yes it is the old set. So, their team also had to set that all up again. There were some things that were removed or taken down or painted a different colour. They had to get a team back in there to bring it back to its former glory.
So, you guys were crashing the reunion because Jimmy and Spinner didn't graduate with everyone the first time?
That's an interesting take. I mean, I didn't even think of it that way. I think it was just mainly an excuse to have a reunion. And there could be no better way to get everybody under the same roof again.
What was it like to see everyone again?
The crazy thing about the relationships and the bonds that we all shared growing up there, we started our careers there, and it was like the heat of our teenage years, so no matter how much time passes, a couple weeks or over a decade, it's still like no time at all. As soon as we see each other it just brings it all back and there is nothing but good vibes. The bond still transcends time.
It's like how most people will always be friends with their high school friends. Something about that age makes you form these bonds that tend to last longer.
Yeah, that's very true. And yet you lose touch with high school friends, and then for some reason you find yourself in the same room and it's great to catch up with all of them. But this is the much crazier, much larger-scale version of the typical high school reunion.
When's the last time you saw Drake?
I would say about five years ago. We were put in touch by a mutual friend at an event, and that was the last time I saw him. Throughout the years, we follow each other on social media and he'll post something about me, I'll post something about him, and we'll private message each other for a little bit.
Actually, he's been posting quite a bit about Degrassi on his Instagram. You get the impression that there's this nostalgia happening for the Degrassi days. Do you get that impression?
I mean, it was just so cool to be back in the same room with everyone and dig up all those old memories and bring them back to the surface. Not only did we want to be back here and see these people and have a good time, but also, we were honoured that Aubrey, being so wildly successful, that he had remembered and wanted to pay homage to where it all began for him as well. But then, when we saw him, it became very apparent that it meant as much to him that we all came out, just as much as it did to us that he asked us to come. So, he kept thanking us and we're like, no, thank you. No, really, thank you. There was so much love in the air.
What can you tell me about the Ferrari scene with you and Drake? Did streets have to be closed down?
What ended up happening was that the Ferrari was put on the back of a flatbed truck and Aubrey and I climbed into it and they had a camera car with a massive boom arm attached to the roof following alongside with a police escort. Plus, I think four to six cruisers and then a couple other cars in the caravan. And we were just doing loops around Lakeshore [Blvd.] on the back of this thing. … I think we did that route maybe six or eight times. But aside from the obvious exhilarating part of it, just seeing people's reaction in the cars driving in the opposite direction, who really didn't know what they were seeing, was amazing. It wasn't like, oh my God, this must be a Drake music video. More like, why is there a Ferrari on a flatbed? Why is it all lit up? Why are there still people in it? … It was just such a unique experience. And then, while that's going on for about an hour, going around in the car together just gave us a chance to catch up on what's been going on. Obviously, with his life, I think he had a lot more to share [laughs].
It's been such a big big month for Drake. Did you talk about his beef with Pusha T? I mean, you guys were a rap duo at one point on the show, so an hour seems like enough time to write a response track.
Well, I mean, we talked about everything that we could and covered everything under the sun, but none of that was really brought up in the car. It was just more about the memories and what's going on in the future. And a lot of talk about just how excited he was that I was there with them for the video and that everyone else is coming out. And that was really what the focus was. Nothing negative.
So you're saying there will be no response from Spinner and Jimmy? You guys seemed like you were on a hot streak.
No, but I figured if one did come out, it will do a lot better than that throwback one from some 13 odd years ago.
There's a lot of puking in this video for you. Is that because you were the first character on the show to puke in class?
No, actually. The director of the video, Karena Evans, she's just incredibly talented and super professional and a great person. So the first day of filming, we were just going over things with the cast, and she just wanted to have a little [meeting] with everyone to introduce herself and to let them know that no idea was too crazy and nothing was a stupid idea, so just feel free to mention anything we're comfortable with. After that, she was like, ok, so there are a couple small things that I want to incorporate. Who wants to throw up a lot on camera? And I just threw my hand up. Then, it was just finding different ways of how they could work in puking all over the school.
It seems like there is so much fan service going on in the video, even just the reunion itself. So, what other inside jokes are there? For instance, the character of Rick (played by Ephraim Ellis), who shot Jimmy, coming in, seeing the OVO crew and running for his life, is amazing.
Oh my God, yes. And he has short hair now, so they hooked him up with extensions so that people would really recognize who is being chased. There were some other ideas that were in the talks that didn't make it in, too, because when all was said and done, we we're doing so much, had so many ideas, but then you realize, oh crap, we have to condense all of that footage into a three-and-a-half minute video. I think we wanted to have more inside jokes included but on the day of, everyone was just having so much fun partying with each other that it was like, we're just going to let this occur naturally. I think that's mainly what you see in the video. All the smiles, all the hugs, all the celebrating, it was all real. There was very little acting involved. What was going on in front of the camera was also going on behind the camera. Whatever reunion you saw, that's what we were living for real.
Last question: any talks about a more official reunion?
Everyone's been asking about it, and without speaking for everyone, but just being back in the same room with all the cast and talking about the future and everything, I don't think anything's off the table. But as of right now, I haven't gotten that call from my agent.
Well, it was clearly on Drake's mind so you never know.
Obviously if he could orchestrate a reunion, he could probably put a whole TV show together.