‘Sort Of’ Cast Reflects On Series And Mindset Ahead Of Season Two

TORONTO — When Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo’s comedy-drama « Sort Of » debuted on CBC and HBO Max last year, there was no show like it on Canadian television.

It told the story of a gender-fluid Pakistani-Canadian, Sabi Mehboob, played by Baig, coming to terms with balancing family, friendships and a career in Toronto — existential love triangles included.

Since its debut, the television series has garnered both local and international acclaim: a Peabody, three Canadian Screen Awards, and Baig has been called Time magazine’s « Next Generation Leader. »

The theme of change and transition largely influenced how Filippo and Baig thought about the impact of the series ahead of the Season 2 premiere.

« I’ve been aware of the pressures of this responsibility around my visibility from the time we even started to conceptualize what this show could be, » said Baig, whose pronouns are them and them.

« It’s something that I don’t allow to crash into because I just know it’s possible, but I’m grateful that this show came at a time when it did. I was old enough to have a lot of relationships and a lot of different communities and they mean a lot to me and they are on my mind and in my heart when I approach this work.

The new season, which premiered Tuesday on CBC-TV and CBC Gem, takes Sabi on an ongoing journey of self-discovery, with her father returning to Canada and coming to terms with her identity. Meanwhile, Sabi continues their quest for what they describe as a kind of Rachel McAdams and « The Notebook » love – a type of affection that values ​​the entirety of their individuality and character flaws.

« You know, I think what I love the most about this art form is that it kind of proves that people are complicated and love often is too, » said the 28-year-old writer and actor. « It feels good to be part of something that’s a show for everyone, and I’m grateful to be seen in different ways through this project. »

The second season of « Sort Of » also brings back actress, playwright, and filmmaker Amanda Cordner as 7ven, who continues her presence as Sabi’s gallery owner and best friend.

For Cordner, the idea of ​​being involved in Season 2 felt like a world away from when she nearly refused to be a part of the project.

Bilal approached the artist in 2019, but due to performance fatigue, which involved several theater projects including « A Midsummer Night’s Dream » with Toronto-based Theater Rusticle, she initially declined. It only took one night to adjust to the idea of ​​being on television before she finally accepted the role.

As Season 2 approached, Cordner said she felt the impact of this decision in every degree.

« Strangers have come up to me to tell me how much they love seeing their friends represented, especially in Toronto, » Cordner said. “They love seeing Toronto portrayed boldly, and not just as a metropolis masquerading as another city, but simply as our city. »

At the same time, Cordner said the response to « Sort Of » had been bittersweet, with some family members assuming the series was irrelevant to them due to its gender themes. « They hear ‘queer’ and they switch off, » Cordner said.

Co-creator Filippo, whose acting pedigree includes « Ready or Not » and the early version of « Queer as Folk, » said it was a mistake to view « Sort Of » as an LGBTQ-only experience.

For Filippo and Baig, it’s largely a series that touches on life’s transitions, regardless of identity.

« That’s what makes the show, in my opinion, one of the most cross-cutting types of experiences on streaming and TV right now. »

Filippo said the intention, going forward, was not necessarily to do his best to be revolutionary, but simply to present homosexuality as a matter of regular existence.

« We talked on the show at one point about what ‘queer things’ meant, » Filippo said. “It was about finding relationships that existed outside the norm. It’s a definition that has moved away from sexuality and gender, and away from those things to become a kind of more holistic idea.

In other words, Season 2, like the first, doesn’t seek to educate audiences with specific terms or a series of coming-out moments. It’s simply a case of Baig and the surrounding cast living their best, and sometimes, messy lives like many Torontonians in search of acceptance.

« This show changed my life, you know, there’s no doubt about it, it changed the way I see myself existing as a person. I see everything in the spectra now,” adds Filippo. « Once you start seeing the world that way, the hard lines stop in how you assume people see you and you stop taking things personally. »

That’s what makes « Sort Of » so essential – for the people it’s about and for a medium that has often ignored certain people.

« I hear words like ‘affirm’ and ‘heal’ in terms of what the show offers, and people learn things, » Baig said. « He gave people a kind of education that, in a way, so many people were so grateful for. »

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 17, 2022.


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