Australian comedian, actor, television show creator, and showrunner Josh Thomas tells Rolling Stone that he wasn’t trying to fit into “the queer media landscape” when he came up with his semi-autobiographical series Please Like Me, in which he also stars.
“I was really surprised when I made Please Like Me and then everyone wanted to talk about how I was gay,” he recalls. “Because like, I’m gay, right? I’m gay all the time. I wasn’t thinking about it as like a social action initiative. I wasn’t trying to help gay teens. I wasn’t thinking like ‘How is this going to fit into the queer media landscape?’ I was just telling my story on screen.”
Thomas’ latest series, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, premiered this past January on Freeform (and is available to stream on Hulu). The series tells the story of a 25-year-old named Nicholas, played by Thomas, who learns that his father is terminally ill while visiting him in America. Nicholas is charged with becoming the guardian to his two teenage half-sisters, one of whom, Matilda, is autistic.
“I wanted to have an autistic character because I’m drawn to neurodiverse people,” Thomas says. “It was another thing that I felt like it hadn’t been done on TV very well — especially with girls.”
Kayla Cromer, the actress who plays Matilda, is autistic herself, and Thomas wanted to use the character to thoughtfully address the intersection of autism and LGBT identity. “Some people say that they think that autistic people are just more practiced at learning to be true to themselves and not worry about what other people think. I don’t know, when I found that out I was like ‘Of course they’re gonna be queer. If you give me permission to make more characters queer, then I’m gonna do it.'”
Thomas has came under fire for past statements on how “hard” it was to find non-white actors to cast in his series a few years ago, to which he has since apologized: “Authentic diversity in casting (and behind the scenes) is something that is really important to me, and that has been important to me for a long time,” he wrote on Twitter. He discusses ideas of diversity in our interview, so watch it here.