EXCLUSIVE: Charlie Barnett (Russian Doll), Max Jenkins (Dead To Me), Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty), Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project), Lauren Weedman (Looking), newcomer Buck Andrews, Anjali Bhimani (Modern Family), Ajay Mehta (This is Us) and Karan Soni (Miracle Workers) are set to recur in the second season of Netflix’s Emmy-nominated comedy series Special, created by and starring Ryan O’Connell. Additionally, Leslie Jordan (Will & Grace) will appear in a guest-starring role. Based on O’Connell’s part-memoir, part-manifesto I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, Special hails from Warner Bros. Television, Jim Parsons and Todd Spiewak’s That’s Wonderful Productions, Campfire and Stage 13.
The semi-autobiographical centers on a gay man with mild cerebral palsy, played by O’Connell, who decides to rewrite his identity as an accident victim and finally go after the life he wants. O’Connell also writes the series and executive produces.
The Season 2 logline: “Ryan really needs to get his shit together. It’s been two months and he still hasn’t spoken to Karen since their fight and he has a gnarly case of writer’s block that’s getting him in hot water with Olivia. Enter Tanner, a fun, flirty dance instructor who charms Ryan despite not being totally available. When his writer’s block eventually lifts, he’s inspired to write a longform piece about disability. From there, he begins a journey of self-discovery that creates unexpected complications in his relationship with Tanner. Meanwhile, Kim lets her guard down when she meets Harrison, a sensitive tech mogul with a humble background – but her insecurities and jealous tendencies continue to hamper her personal life and threaten to push Harrison away. With her spiraling credit card debt driving Kim even further towards rock bottom, she makes a hard choice to regain control of her finances and personal life. Since taking care of Ryan was her life’s purpose until their fight, Karen realizes that she needs to take an active approach to create a fulfilling life for herself – beyond just taking care of her ailing mother. Will she be content with continuing to clean up everyone else’s messes, or will Karen be able to lean into her newfound independence and create a life that centers around her own desires for once? This season is about our primary characters—Ryan, Karen and Kim—coming into their power and realizing they all deserve big gorgeous lives—whether society agrees or not, bitch!”
Barnett will play Harrison, who is extremely good-looking with an even bigger heart, and comes onto a wary Kim in a bar and they start a relationship.
Jenkins is Tanner, Ryan’s love interest this season. Tanner is a former back-up dancer/current dance instructor who Ryan meets at a bar.
Weedman plays Tonya, warm, friendly, kooky and more vulnerable than she lets on. Tonya is a friend of Karen’s from nursing school who reemerges in Karen’s life.
Ambudkar plays Ravi, a longtime friend of the Laghari family – he’s known Kim since they were babies and gets her in a way maybe no one else does.
Ortiz plays Susan, Phil’s new girlfriend. Charming and outgoing, she empathizes with Karen’s struggle to parent Ryan, as she also has a strained relationship with her child.
Andrews portrays Henry, who has high-functioning autism and exhibits stimming (repetitive, stimulating behavior). He’s gay, handsome, charismatic, playful, and a gentle spirit with a good sense of humor. Henry becomes Ryan’s entryway into the world of disability and the two of them become close friends.
Bhimani plays Bina, Kim and Dev’s mother. She loves her daughter but seizes each and every opportunity to casually
criticize Kim. Her heart is ultimately in the right place but she could use some therapy, tbh.
Mehta is Vijay, a calm, anchoring presence in an otherwise chaotic family. Kim is quietly his favorite child but that’s challenged when he finds out some unfortunate news.
Soni plays Dev, Kim’s brother who’s a part-time deejay who works at a cell phone kiosk at the mall. Having just proposed to his girlfriend, Dev has finally succeeded in impressing his family with his stability and maturity – though Kim isn’t buying it.
Jordan will play Charles, the ringleader of a group of friends who embrace Karen while she’s on a trip.
In addition to O’Connell, Jessica Hecht and Punam Patel return as series regulars. Marla Mindelle, Gina Hughes and
Patrick Fabian return as guest stars this season.
Special is created, written and executive produced by O’Connell. Parsons, Eric Norsoph and Spiewak executive produce for That’s Wonderful. Anna Dokoza also executive produces. Craig Johnson will direct episodes 205-208. Special is produced by Warner Bros. Television, That’s Wonderful Productions, Campfire and Stage 13.