Special creator Ryan O’Connell explains why he cast gay actors in gay roles

Ryan O'Connell and Augustus Prew in Netflix comedy Special

Ryan O’Connell, the creator of Netflix comedy Special, has explained why he made sure to cast gay actors in gay roles.

The creator and star of Special spoke to The Wrap about his decision not to cast straight actors in gay roles for the show, which is based on his real life as a gay man with cerebral palsy.

Special creator Ryan O’Connell: It was really important to me to hire gay actors

Speaking about the lack of representation for people with disabilities on TV, O’Connell explained: “I’m not saying actors can’t play something that they’re not, but the world is structured in a way where disabled people have no opportunities.

“On my show there are a lot of gay characters, and it was really important to me that I hire gay actors to play that role.

Ryan O'Connell in Netflix comedy series Special

Ryan O’Connell in new Netflix comedy series Special. (Netflix)

“Is that because I think straight people can’t play gay? No, but I know a lot of talented gay actors that don’t have the same opportunities as straight actors because they’re gay, and that’s just the world we live in.

“Until that can be rectified, you bet I’m going to give opportunities to people who don’t have them.”

He added: “That’s what you have to do, you have to protect the powerless and give them opportunities, that’s the only way they can advance.”

Ryan O’Connell Hollywood loves to profit off the pain of marginalised people

O’Connell also hit out at the Hollywood approach to telling the stories of disabled and queer people through trauma alone.

He said: “Hollywood loves to profit off the pain of marginalised people without giving us any opportunities.

“For gay movies, it’s usually predicated on some sort of tragedy. We’re always getting beaten up by a baseball bat for a movie, and I’m done. I’m done with metaphorically being beaten by a baseball bat.

“I just want to see gay men living, laughing and loving. Those [other] stories are valid and deserve to be told, but when it’s the only kind of story being told, that’s a problem.”

O’Connell also told The Wrap that public discourse about disability was well behind discussions about other marginalised groups.

He said: “Disabled people are just like, honey! Look over here! Look at us! It’s been really frustrating, because especially in today’s outrage culture, when people are getting outraged over every little thing, I’m like, well honey, can you spare some of that outrage and put it over here?

“Disabled people have been trolled by society forever. It’s frustrating, and I don’t know why disabled people don’t get attention. There’s no real dialogue happening, I think because people are so scared of offending them or how to navigate it.

“That all sucks and needs to change ASAP.”

The first season of Special dropped on Netflix on April 12.