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Film and TV

Netflix star says being gay is more accepted and understood than being disabled

Nick Duffy September 28, 2019
Ryan O'Connell in Special

Ryan O'Connell in Special (Netflix)

Ryan O’Connell, the star of Netflix comedy Special, has said that sexuality is more accepted than disability.

The out TV creator earned four Emmy nominations for Special, which was based on his own experiences as a gay man with cerebral palsy.

Speaking to students at the University of Washington, O’Connell spoke about his long struggle to find the show a home.

Ryan O’Connell nearly gave up on TV before Netflix bought Special

He quipped: “I went out with my gay mafia and pitched it to all these networks.

“It was four years of like, ‘no’, ‘no’, and ‘fuck no’… I was told ‘no’ for so long, there were so many times where I was like ‘fuck this, I wanna quit’.”

Netflix: Ryan O'Connell created and starred in Special
Ryan O’Connell (L) created and starred in Special (Netflix)

He continued: “Then we went to Netflix and they just bought it. It was so weird.

“You just have to really believe that you have something to say that’s worthwhile, even when everyone around you is saying you don’t.”

O’Connell added: “Being gay, in a weird way, is more accepted and understood than being disabled.

“I think disability is not discussed. There are so many conversations about being gay. These chairs are gay. I don’t think people know how to talk about [disability].”

Special creator cast queer actors in queer roles

O’Connell has previously explained why he made sure to cast only queer actors in LGBT+ roles.

He said: “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.

“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.”

Speaking to The Wrap earlier this year, he added: “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.”

More: netflix, Ryan O'Connell, special

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