‘Special’ Creator Ryan O’Connell on Challenging Hollywood’s Perception of Disabilities (Video)

“I can’t wait to point to my billboard right now and say, ‘I’m just fine,'” O’Connell says

One of Ryan O’Connell’s biggest pet peeves is when strangers on the street stop to ask him if he’s “OK.”

But O’Connell, a gay man with cerebral palsy, knows how he’ll answer that question once his Netflix comedy “Special,” which he writes, executive produces and stars in, drops on Friday.

“I can’t wait to point to my billboard right now and say, ‘I’m just fine,'” he told TheWrap.

The show, co-produced by “Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons, centers around what is essentially a younger and more sheltered version of O’Connell, Ryan Kayes — an aspiring writer who still lives with his overprotective mother (Jessica Hecht) and starts an unpaid internship at a new-age confessional blog called “Eggwoke.”

“Ryan kind of has the coming of age journey at 28-years-old,” O’Connell said. “He’s the boy in the bubble and then at the end of the pilot the bubble pops and he begins to navigate life for the first time.”

Based on his 2015 memoir, “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves,” the show borrows heavily from O’Connell’s own experience, and in a way mirrors the difficulties of actors, writers and creators living with disabilities.

After Kayes falls flat on his face in the show’s opening scene, a young kid stops to ask him if he needs any help.

“Hey you’re walking funny, you need to go the hospital,” the kid says.

Kayes politely explains that “cerebral palsy is a disability resulting from damage to the brain before, during, or shortly after birth and hourly manifested through muscular incoordination.”

The kid runs off screaming.

Shows featuring people with disabilities are still a rarity in Hollywood, and O’Connell is keenly aware of the added pressure that comes with having a main character living with CP, who also happens to be gay.

“There’s always a burden of representation,” he said. “But a show cannot speak for an entire population of people.”

Watch the full video above.


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