Two stars of Special have opened up about representation in media.
The hilarious new series hit our Netflix accounts on 12 April, staring Ryan O’Connell, who plays a fictional version of himself called Ryan Hayes. Ryan is a gay man with cerebral palsy who decides he wants to rewrite his identity.
In a new video from Netflix, premiering with Gay Times, Ryan and his co-star Punam Patel get real about the importance of LGBTQ, disability and minority representation in mainstream media.
“I get very overwhelmed by the magnitude of being one of the first gay, disabled leads on television, because I know that I can’t speak for everyone and I would never claim to, but I hope that this show allows Hollywood to wake up regarding disability,” Ryan said.
He also addressed the lack of representation of gay men in previous years on television, and how this affected him growing up.
“I’ve never felt like I’ve seen myself being represented on TV – which I think kinda caused a lot of psychic damage,” he said.
“Because I’ve been thinking what was there as a reference point when I was growing up, which was like Queer as Folk, which was all like amazing, gay men who were hot and y’know having sex like porn stars – and I wasn’t that!
“Growing up gay and disabled, I didn’t think that there was a lot of opportunity for me.”
Punam Patel, who plays Ryan’s friend and co-worker Kim Laghari, also talks about what diversity and representation means for her.
“My character in the show is important for people to see – not just because there aren’t as many Indians out there, but also, y’know you kind of see a one-size-fits-all type of woman on TV,” she explained.
“My character is a proud site twelve and she doesn’t wanna change a thing about her. So I think it’s important to see someone that isn’t a size zero and confidently walk around, and love the way she looks.”
The series was created by Ryan and is based on his memoir I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves. Watch the trailer for Special below.
Special is available to stream in full on Netflix now.