“Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” is a new comedy show coming to the TV network Freeform starring Kayla Cromer, an actress on the autism spectrum who will play an autistic character in the series.
“Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” will follow 25-year-old Nicholas, who has two teenage half-sisters. One of the sisters, Matilda, is on the autism spectrum. When their single father dies, Nicholas becomes his sisters’ guardian. The show was created and written by Josh Thomas.
According to Variety, Tom Ascheim, president of Freeform, said they were excited to partner with Thomas — who is also the star of the show — to tell a story about a different type of family. “Both on and off screen, Josh is a master of creativity and bringing unique stories about underrepresented topics to television,” Ascheim said.
Cromer disclosed she is autistic at a Freeform Summit press event in March. Variety reported Cromer said it was the ideal place for her to talk about her diagnosis. “I have learned to trust the journey and this event is the perfect place for me to come out publicly for the first time that I’m actually on the autism spectrum,” Cromer said.
She will become one of the few autistic actors playing an autistic character on TV, a representation issue disability advocates have been focusing on for years. According to a Ruderman Family Foundation white paper on actors with disabilities in television, only 2% of TV characters have disabilities, and of those, 95% are played by non-disabled actors.
Karin Willison, disability editor at The Mighty, wrote about why authentic disability representation is so important. She said:
Disability is not a costume nor a performance to be imitated; it is an identity, a core aspect of a person like race or gender. Disability doesn’t fully define a person, just as race and gender don’t, but it plays a role in shaping who they are: how they move, how they communicate and how they perceive the world. An actor without a disability may think they’re depicting a character accurately, but as the deaf community’s response to ‘The Shape of Water’ illustrates, they usually aren’t. You can’t learn how to be disabled by following someone with a disability around for a few weeks.
Mighty contributor and disabled actress Arianne Hutch added, “We have stories worth telling and they demand respect.” A way to do so is to have actually disabled actors play disabled roles.
Cromer auditioned for the role of Matilda in the comedy without having an agent, believing she could play the character authentically. She thinks being autistic is why she got the part of Matilda.
“So many characters on television today, they’re portrayed by people that do not have a difference. And, honestly, people with a difference, we’re fully capable of portraying our own type and we deserve that right,” Cromer said. “With so many changes in the industry right now, why not now? Just give us our chance. Include us. We can do this.”
Freeform ordered 10 episodes of the half-hour series. Thomas revealed on Twitter “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” will start filming in late May. A release date for when the show will air has yet to be announced.