Ryan O’Connell Netflix series ‘Special’ to air 2nd, final season in May

Actor-writer Ryan O’Connell stars in the semi-autobiographical Netflix series “Special,” which is based on his 2015 memoir “I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” and his personal experiences navigating sexuality and disability.

The second and final season of “Special” will be available May 20.

“Special” was nominated for four Emmys in the short-form comedy categories, and O’Connell won a GLAAD Special Recognition Award in 2020. O’Connell was a parade grand marshal for LA Pride in 2019.

O’Connell, 34, who created the series, plays Ryan Hayes, a gay man in Los Angeles with cerebral palsy who decides to do away with his identity as an accident victim and pursue the life that he wants.

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At the end of season one, which O’Connell wrote, moved out from his overprotective mother, (Jessica Hecht), found a best friend, and landed a job at a digital magazine.

In season two, Ryan’s life takes some unexpected turns when  he meets a handsome dance instructor (Max Jenkins of “Dead to Me”), who lays on the charm even though he already has a boyfriend, which will lead to a messy triangle.

Meanwhile, Ryan’s gal pal Kim (Punam Patel) faces some of her own life changes.

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The first season of “Special” garnered significant acclaim, particularly the third episode, which featured the main character losing his virginity and a frank depiction of gay sex. The scene, O’Connell told The Huffington Post in 2019, was a response to his frustration with movies like “Call Me by Your Name,” which depict gay relationships as mostly chaste. 

“I was just like, ‘Can we really just talk about anal sex, the positions?’ Because no one ever has,” O’Connell said. “I was beyond frustrated. So I was like, ‘Fuck, I’ll do it,’ and then we can start a conversation.”

Season two will feature “a lot more gay sex,” O’Connell told EW.com. While he’s “frustrated” more shows don’t tackle subjects like first-time gay-sex experiences, O’Connell takes pride that “Special” addressed it.

“Anything that still has a stigma attached to it just naturally excites me,” O’Connell said. “There shouldn’t be any of that, especially with gay sex.”

A screenwriter whose credits include NBC’s “Will & Grace” revival, O’Connell also told Huffington Post that he adapted his memoir for the small screen because disability representation in mainstream entertainment has been almost invisible.

“People are so uncomfortable around disabilities, and they’re so scared of offending or treating someone the wrong way, they choose to ignore us,” O’Connell said. “We’re strong, independent, emotionally complex people with our own wants and desires.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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