Freeform's new comedy Everything's Gonna Be Okay is unconventionally hilarious. Set in California, the show explores how three siblings cope with the sudden loss of their father.
Nicolas, played by Australian actor Josh Thomas, steps up to be the father-figure of his two teenage half-sisters: an angsty Geneviene (Maeve Press) and Matilda (Kayla Cromer), who has autism.
The show screened for an intimate audience at Chicago's Davis Theater on Tuesday and was met with laughter and applause.
What sets the show apart from other family sitcoms is that it bluntly unpacks grief, sex, love, and independence in a darkly humorous way. It also makes history as the first show to ever cast an actor on the spectrum in a lead role.
"Everyone that's been cast as a character with autism doesn't really have that disability themselves," Kayla, who plays the outspoken but kindhearted Matilda, says. "So how can they expect to act like one of us, when they haven't walked in our shoes?"
Previously a model, Kayla was one of the first actresses to audition for the role and landed it soon after. And while she's thrilled with the opportunity to give nuance to what it's like having autism, she's also well aware that there should be more representation on big and small screens of people with neurological disorders.
"I know there's always going to be people that won't like my performance and [others] will like it," she says. "But in reality, one character with autism can't represent every person with autism — everyone is different. We all have our different quirks. Not all of our brains are alike."
Everything's Gonna be Okay premieres Jan. 16 on Freeform.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue