Everything’s Gonna Be Okay creator and star Josh Thomas has always been one to infuse his own life into his writing, whether it be the intrinsically personal or the absurd. Last season, that came to life in more comical ways such as the ceviche fight where Josh’s Nicholas dumps a bowl of ceviche onto his partner’s head while vacationing in Mexico.
Throughout the second season, Josh decided to intertwine his own journey into Nicholas’s specifically through his own recent Autism diagnosis. In last week’s penultimate episode, Nicholas is officially diagnosed as someone on the Autism spectrum after a heartbreaking breakup where he realizes he had consistently been missing out on countless social cues.
This is an incredibly personal arc for Thomas who was officially diagnosed during the hiatus between the first and second season. Speaking with AwardsDaily, Thomas discusses what it was like to work his own experiences into the show as well as what it was like to look back and make more sense of Nicholas’s actions in the first season now that we all have the bigger picture.
Throughout our conversation, Thomas also details what it was like to constantly retool a season to better reflect the ever-changing state of the pandemic and our attitudes towards it, the romance heavy second season, and what it was like working with special guest stars Maria Bamford and Richard Kind.
Awards Daily: Last year when we first spoke, the country had just entered quarantine, and we had no real idea where we would be today. I remember asking if you had any plans of incorporating the pandemic and quarantine into the second season, and you had zero interest in doing so. What changed?
Josh Thomas: Well, I guess when we spoke about it last year I thought I was going to be in quarantine in that house for only like three weeks. We thought it was part of this big two-week campaign to save America! No one knew this is where we would be a year from now.
When I was thinking about the second season, I thought it would be gross. I didn’t want to re-visit this pandemic year, but as it wore on it became clear we would still be in this when the second season premiered. I had to decide whether it was annoying to watch a show in a pandemic or if it was weird to pretend it’s not happening. At this point, it has taken on more of a ‘this is what our lives are now.’ It is now the truth and that’s normally what I end up falling on the side of: trying to tell the truth.
AD: What was the writing process for you like in terms of deciding what you want to incorporate from our past year and what you wanted to leave out? Did it affect the kind of stories you wanted to tell this season?
JT: The hardest part about the writing process was just not knowing what the world was going to be like when the show aired. Last year while writing episodes eight, nine, and ten we had no idea if these characters could go on dates, if they could go anywhere. We had no idea what our world would look like.
I would talk to my friends on Zoom or my close friends would come over and we’d talk outside for hours. We’d end up talking about COVID the whole time and it was so relentless. I was so sick of everybody always talking about COVID. Trying to set up this show during COVID without ever really talking about it as much as possible was something we were all pretty obsessed with.
The impression I got from other interviews was that lots of show creators went on this same journey. Everyone was trying to figure out what was nice about the pandemic and what was helpful and good about it so that we could tell a version of it that wasn’t bleak and boring. It seemed like everyone was trying to work out what contributed to character growth while living in the middle of it and having no idea.
AD: The second season is very relationship and romance-focused for Nicholas, Genevieve, and Matilda. What made you decide this is where you wanted to take the season in general?
JT: I mean, it is a very relationship focused season because our characters can’t really leave the house! It’s interesting. Originally because the show is two female leads and myself, I didn’t want to make both of their stories all about romance. It was more important to me to have them have other stuff going on. But after having lived in a pandemic and having lived with these storylines for a year I just really wanted to do this because it was cute. I knew it would be cute to watch after everything we had lived through. Of course, by the time we get to the end I had ruined it! But it was what I had a craving for. I just really wanted someone to kiss me and that’s the truth.
AD: Was there anyone’s storyline in particular that you had the most fun writing?
JT: I don’t have favorites, but I find Matilda and Drea’s relationship very interesting. It’s very specific. Something that kept coming up are these homo-romantic or hetero-romantic relationships that don’t have the same sexual attraction. It’s something that seems to be reasonably common among autistic people, definitely more common than among neurotypical people. I found it really interesting to find a way to tell a story like that that is so foreign to most people. I love Genevieve so much and I am so excited to see her going out there and kissing boys! I get so excited every time it happens and I am delighted to see her growing up.
Then there’s Nicholas and Alex. That storyline has always felt personal to me. If I’ve dated you then you’re definitely watching the show the whole time remembering it all and wondering what will pop up next.
AD: Speaking of that, I remember last season the ceviche fight was something that you directly plucked out of your personal life and inserted into the show. Was there anything like that this season that you incorporated?
JT: At the end of this season Nicholas is diagnosed with Autism. I’ve also been recently diagnosed with Autism. There’s a lot of exploration of relationships and Autism throughout this season. Even though Nicholas isn’t diagnosed until the end of episode nine the entire relationship is looked at through the prism of Nicholas not picking up on basic, obvious cues. At the time I don’t think we realized it but that’s definitely what we were doing with the ceviche fight. There’s a lot of ruminations on what it is like to date me when I’m not that clever about certain aspects of social interaction.
AD: This season an aspect of your writing that I began to notice is that you completely reject this idea of tokenism. Nicholas and Alex are both not the only members of their respective families with queer identities. Nicholas and Genevieve are both Autistic and it affects their experiences in very different ways. Throughout the show’s progression you spotlight different forms of physical ability. Is that something you are conscious of while writing or is it something that just comes naturally to you>
JT: For queerness it’s something that I never think about how they are going to fit into the wider media landscape. I never think about representation because I m gay all the time and it comes very naturally so I’m just going to do it the way I’m going to do it.
I am very aware that we don’t have a lot of Autistic representation on TV. Only having one Autistic character would feel weird. We have three Autistic characters in our show and there are only two or three other shows with Autistic characters and they aren’t even played by Autistic people! So suddenly we have half of all Autistic characters on TV. I want to make sure that they are all different. It was a solid point we wanted to make. That was the first time I had ever done that in a conscious way. Usually, I just set out to tell the story that I want to tell.
Awards Daily: Like most shows in the pandemic you were forced to cut down in scope the number of actors you were able to work with and write for. However in the second season you were able to bring on two major guest stars, Maria Bamford and Richard Kind. What was it like to work with them?
JT: I really wanted Nicholas to have some other parent to talk to and figure things out with. I realized that Drea’s parents would be pretty kooky so it allowed us to hire the kookiest actors possible which is what I love. I think Maria and Richard are incredibly fun and compelling. They are exactly what you would expect them to be.
The season two finale of Everything’s Gonna Be Okay airs tonight exclusively on Freeform and Hulu.