November 30, 2022
The Mehboob family is enjoying a meal together, and for a moment, things seem picture-perfect. People are passing around dishes of home-cooked food and sharing laughs. D. Sruthilaya Subiksha’s bouncy “Chham Chhmak Chham” is playing in the background. But as the meal wraps up and the mothers begin clearing the table, the dynamic shifts. Sabi (Bilal Baig), a 25-year-old gender-fluid former electrician and current nanny, rises to start clearing the plates. “Sit,” says Imran (Dhirendra), Sabi’s father, who is freshly home from Dubai, instructing Sabi’s sister Aqsa (Supinder Wraich), to take the dishes instead. Aqsa complies with a glare. Imran turns to Sabi and offers them a job renovating the main floor of the family home. “Together, we give your mother her open concept,” says Imran. “Father and son, OK?” Imran is extending an olive branch — sort of.
That grey space — between tradition and acceptance, gender norms, parents and children, first and second generation — is where CBC and HBO Max’s hit show Sort Of thrives. As the show’s co-creator and star, Bilal Baig, put it, Sort Of aims to bring “a realness about what it means to exist in a Muslim family and be trans as well...We’re not presenting a cutesy world where everything is kind of OK.” It’s a world that audiences and critics quickly fell in love with in Season 1 (2021), as a “genuinely original” eight-episode series that is “wonderfully confident,” earning a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The show went on to win several awards, including a Peabody.
Sort Of, a show based on life’s transitions, whether that be shifting from mother to independent woman or evolving gender identity, is about to go through a transition of its own. Going into its second season, the show’s characters and audiences are established, yet things are about to get thrown off-kilter with the arrival of Imran — and he’s not the only new face fans will meet this season. Ahead of the Season 2 premiere, out on CBC Gem on November 15 and which hits HBO Max on December 1, we spoke with the show’s writers and cast about the success of the series and how a show about change still maintains such a strong sense of self.