EDGE Interview: Bilal Baig Talks About What's Autobiographical in 'Sort of' and What's Not

Timothy Rawles READ TIME: 7 MIN.

Aden Bedard, Bilal Baig, Gray Powell, Grace Lynn Kung, Kaya Kanashiro in "Sort of."
Source: Courtesy of Max

Apart from the everyday lessons most human beings learn in different eras of their lives, there was one thing Baig wanted an answer to, and maybe the show could help: How do we normalize trans people in this world? To them, cisgender and transgender people, aside from dysphoria, had similar struggles, whether they were emotional or moral. Baig says the media sometimes focuses a lot on the differences rather than the similarities. That was the jumping-off point for "Sort Of."

"But then I was like, well, what if the father is a white guy? And what does that mean to say? A really fun discovery for me was how similar Italian and Pakistani families are."

Speaking of cultural diversity and mainstream entertainment, there is a commonly used trope where a person of color becomes the "magical force" who teaches lessons, offers advice and overall exists to make white people's lives easier. This archetype is explored in the recent fantasy/comedy movie "The American Society of Magical Negroes. It is considered a derogatory plot device these days. But is being trans still just a different form of that stereotype?

Baig was aware of those trappings while in the writer's room. "We've always worked with diverse writers from the beginning and always a team around us. It was important to have those conversations because yeah, I was aware of that part of it. It kind of excited me to offer that reality, that me, as a brown person, a trans person, and works for a mixed-race family. Like there's so many layers there, you know, and the wife is a woman of color, but the man is a Caucasian person."

Carefully they wrote the first season, making Paul and Sabi's relationship almost like a marriage. They yell and fight about Paul's parenting skills and bad habits.

"We wanted to make sure that the power dynamic gets played with, you know, and that Paul is also somebody who's searching and is learning things about himself and he can kind of do that on his own or with the people around him," says Baig.

It is established from the start that Paul has an eating disorder, something Baig says Paul sort of realizes by the final episode. It is an epiphany he comes to himself. Sabi isn't there to cure him, but they are definitely concerned. Baig says, as a writer, it was important to show these characters together but have them do the work on themselves, by themselves, it makes for a richer character journey.

"There's a part where Sabi says to Paul, 'please, just white savior this situation' in the first season," says Baig. "All of that felt intentional."

From left to right: Bilal Baig, Amanda Cordner, Supinder Wraich in "Sort of."
Source: Courtesy of Max

Canadian network execs greenlit the series after hearing the pitch.

However, Baig doesn't take credit for the go-ahead because of their or Filippo's writing talents alone. Baig says shows like "Euphoria," "Pose," and even the socially canceled "Transparent" were the ones who walked so their show could run.

"Any show that kind of brought trans into the mainstream a little bit or presented a kind of humanity of ours, I know really helped us get the green light."

They admit they didn't have to do any heavy lifting because trans issues were already being explored in American television and that helped to get "Sort Of" made even though Canada, like other countries has troubles with LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

"I know about the transphobia that exists in my country as well," Baig says about Canada. "But I think in getting this show made it was just a divine timing kind of situation because it was off of a four minute sizzle reel that we got the green light from the Canadian network CBC. I just remember them really being struck by the tone. The tone felt special to them, you know. And then I think there was a hunger to kind of present a really diverse story on a national broadcaster, like the CBC."

As the saying goes, all good things come to an end. Some earlier than others. "Sort Of," with only three seasons, ended in 2023 with Max streaming the final season in 2024. For Baig, three seasons of "Sort Of" is enough and it's ending at the right time for them. Especially what happens in the finale.

"I think it's really satisfying," they contend. "I think we set out to just capture a specific moment in time in this person's life and, and the characters around them. And I really love it. I'm not sure, but from what I'm understanding, I think other people are digging the ending too, but I know that we have some pretty hardcore fans and sometimes I get messages about, 'can there be a fourth?' and, for me, I feel really clear about it ending and feeling okay with that, and also feeling curious about what's next and moving on."

Baig admits that their professional future isn't really clear at the moment. There isn't some big Marvel project in the works that Baig can't talk about they joke. For them, it is a reprieve from creativity, a time to absorb rather than produce.

"Right now it's more about input for me," they say. "I just wanna kind of consume art. I'm also a slower person, you know, I'm not like the Issa Rae and Mindy Kalings of the world who like, they're pumping things out left, right, and center. I'm just a bit slower too, which I like. It takes me time to think about things and so I'm just doing that."

You can stream all three seasons of "Sort Of" on Max.

by Timothy Rawles

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