‘Please Like Me’s’ Josh Thomas returns as series’ creator and star
Josh Thomas can’t be accused of not giving himself, and his co-stars, a bounty of material for their new show.
The Australian comedian who made a television mark with the now-defunct Pivot’s “Please Like Me” wears a number of creative hats again with the seriocomic Freeform series “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay,” premiering Thursday, Jan. 16. The show’s creator, writer and executive producer, Thomas also plays Nicholas, a young man with his own concerns before a visit home adds more … as his father’s sudden death makes him the guardian of his half-sisters, one of whom is on the autism spectrum (as is the actress who portrays her, Kayla Cromer).
“I had female writers in the writers’ room helping me, because I’m not really an authority on what it’s like to be a teenage girl,” the good-humored Thomas allows. “With a new show, the hardest thing is getting to know the characters. It can take a little while, but I’d say we got there in the end.”
On top of that, there’s the autism aspect, which Thomas says he feels is “really under-represented. There’s, like, literally zero of it on television … which is like crazy. I don’t have autism, but I have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), so I’m autism-adjacent. I have some insight into having a brain that walks a little bit differently from how people expect brains to work. And we had to do a lot of research. That‘s a big responsibility, because that community really wants to see themselves in the character.”
Thomas feels fortunate that he found Cromer for that role: “She was the first to audition, and she was great. Mostly, we were looking at girls who were on the autism spectrum, and they generally were really good actors.” Playing Nicholas’ other half-sister is Maeve Press, giving Thomas the challenge of writing material for a stand-up comic other than himself.
“Sometimes, she’ll pitch jokes,” he reports, “and as (filming of) the season went on, she contributed more and more to the writing. The great thing about having her is that she has funny bones and really ‘gets’ the jokes as written. She comes in and just does the comedy the way it’s meant to be done. It feels like her words to me, which is what you want.”
Though comedy is his strongest suit, Thomas maintains he’s had no trouble working dramatic elements into “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.” He notes, “In my life, when something sad happens, I’m not completely sad … or when something funny happens, it’s not completely funny. It can be both, depending on your point of view. Even in a painful experience, you can try to find moments of joy.”