Ryan O’Connell (‘Special’): ‘Everyone lives in their own little prison of shame or anxiety’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“I was really frustrated by the lack of representation [of people] with disability and of gay stuff,” reveals Ryan O’Connell, the creator and star of the Netflix short-form comedy “Special.” “There was a lot of conversations that we weren’t having that I just didn’t understand why, like why not?” Watch our exclusive video interview with O’Connell above.

“Special” unfurls in a blast of very funny, often raunchy and beautifully heartwarming eight 15-minute episodes on the streaming giant. It opens with a man in his 20s finding his feet as an intern for a trendy lifestyle blog, while coming to terms with his sexuality and his cerebral palsy. The series also stars Jessica Hecht and Punam Patel and is co-executive produced by Emmy winner Jim Parsons.

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“Depending on the day, I can tell you that this show is really autobiographical, it’s like straight from the pages of my journal and on other days I’m like I don’t know this bitch at all. It waxes and wanes. It’s a very deeply personal story absolutely,” O’Connell explains. “But there’s a ton that is fictionalized and the character of Ryan I will say I was never that awkward. He’s an exaggerated version of myself.”

O’Connell says that he went with a short format because it the only way to get this project off the ground, after countless rejections by every other production company and network he pitched the series to. Now that Netflix is on board, he says season two will be the standard half hour format, where he hopes to further explore some of the themes he touched on in season one.

“I think being closeted about being gay until I was 17 and being closeted about my cerebral palsy until I was 28, I think there was a certain level of freedom I had where I was like f— it, I’m not hiding anything anymore, I spent 28 years of my life hiding something about my identity. I don’t care anymore. There’s something really freeing in that,” he explains. “That’s the only way you can go through life. Authentically. And people are really attracted to that too. Everyone lives in their own little prison of shame or anxiety, and so when they see someone who doesn’t give any f—s and is living their truth, there’s something kind of envious and attractive about that.”

“As a marginalized person, you’re always taught to not take up too much space, so I thought it was obscene to want all of those things,” he proclaims. “How dare I! But now I have no qualms being the girl with the most cake!”

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