“I’m a planner,” Toronto-based writer-actor Bilal Baig says early in our video call. “I like to manifest things.” That’s part of what makes the TV series Sort Of (which Baig co-created and stars in) so special: It wasn’t part of the plan. When an industry pal, fellow Canadian Fab Filippo, asked Baig—who is the first queer (trans-feminine) South Asian Muslim actor to lead a Canadian prime-time series—if they wanted to work on a show with him, Baig wasn’t sure. But then the duo landed on a premise for the dramedy, which follows Sabi, a gender-fluid millennial who turns down an opportunity to live abroad so they can stay on as a nanny for a family dealing with the aftermath of an accident. “I thought it was so beautiful that two people who look so different are feeling something similar internally,” says Baig of working with Filippo. Sort Of—which started streaming on CBC Gem last October and made its debut on CBC Television last November—may not have been part of the plan, but with its moving performances, dry humour and big heart, it’s exactly the kind of show we need right now.


“Visibility is a really complicated thing. Sometimes I like to be looked at, and other times I want to shrink and hide and disappear—to exist in the world but not be pointed at. I didn’t know much about the industry, but TV felt like the place to go to be looked at—especially if you’re leading a show—and that was hard and scary for me.”


“There’s a real chance this show could change lives and impact people in a way that my art hasn’t yet. I thought, ‘If we do this right, with integrity and compassion, I might be able to reach all these people—people who look like me and [people who] don’t look like me.’ That felt transcendent, like I could really be of service.”


Sort Of sends a clear message that we are here and we aren’t invisible. It’s so important for trans and non-binary people and people of colour to see representation that is not clouded in stereotypes. I got tired of the empowered sassy, bitchy queer character. We all deserve a lead character who doesn’t always know what to say but has a great beating heart and a real drive to help people out.”

I like to manifest things.


“It was really important that we landed on a look for Sabi that felt non-binary—and that’s a hard thing to do. Sabi always wears bangles upon bangles [because] they first learned about femininity through their Pakistani mother. The other thing is their relationship with coats and jackets—it felt important for a trans character to have something that could feel like a shield.”


“There’s this book of poems called Zom-Fam, by Kama La Mackerel, that was recently published. They are a trans, Brown and Black artist out of Montreal whose work I’ve been following for a while. There’s just something they’re able to do with their words that makes you feel like you’ve been transported in time and [space].”

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