Ryan O’Connell’s series Special is a different kind of coming out story. In the Netflix comedy, O’Connell plays a version of himself. Both are named Ryan, both are gay and both have cerebral palsy. On top of all that, the TV-version Ryan doesn’t necessarily have to come out of the closet as gay — he has to come out of the cerebral palsy closet. And it just so happens that this is the same thing that happened to O’Connell. He stopped by the New Hollywood Podcast to let us know how true to life Special is to his own personal life. Turns out, it is quite close.
The 8-episode comedy is based on O’Connell’s book I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves and is produced by Jim Parsons and is further proof that authentic representation behind and in front of the camera makes for a more genuine storytelling experience — and in the case of Special, it’s a very funny, heartwarming and an enjoyably awkward experience. We see his endearing and sometimes problematically co-dependent relationship with his mom (played with pitch-perfect maternal charm by Jessica Hecht), his fun and confident co-worker Kim (played by breakout star Punam Patel) and his no-nonsense and inappropriate boss with a heart of gold Olivia (played by another standout Marla Mindelle).
O’Connell has worked as a writer on Will and Grace and Awkward which has given him the necessary comedy writing chops for Special, but with the Netflix series, he also serves as producer and stars — something he wasn’t planning on initially doing. While in the New Hollywood hot seat, O’Connell talked to us about the journey of the show, representation of the disabled community on TV and film, being in front of the camera and his work on the upcoming 90210 reboot. On top of all that, O’Connell was not shy at all about spilling the tea about using dating apps, giving us an uncensored play-by-play of his experiences.
Listen to the episode below.