ABC’s Speechless kicked off their Paley Live event at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills last night with the cast and creatives from the hit comedy.
Cast members Minnie Driver, John Ross Bowie, Micah Fowler, Mason Cook, Kyla Kenedy, Cedric Yarbrough and creatives Scott Silveri, Melvin Mar and Jake Kasdan were on hand to discuss the show during a screening and panel moderated by Variety’s Deborah Birnbaum.
The comedy series centers around the DiMeos, a less-than-perfect family that happens to also include a son with cerebral palsy and their daily lives and challenges.
“Our goal is first and foremost to entertain and that’s it. Full stop. We want to entertain. We want to be funny,” said creator and executive producer Scott Silveri. “Our goals were to take those real things and turn them into a way to make us laugh. We take the real world stuff – from reality – and spin it into something entertaining.”
Silveri wants audiences to know that Speechless isn’t an “issue” show. It’s just a show about a funny family that happens to have a son with a disability. Of course, Silveri knows there is a responsibility when it comes to featuring disability and makes sure homework is done through consultants and people on the show who have disabilities or come from families with a disability.
“We know what we know and we know enough to know that we don’t know everything. So we work hard to be informed,” says Silveri.
John Ross Bowie, who plays father Jimmy DiMeo, commend the writers for addressing the issues and still remain funny throughout the show.
“The main goal is to be funny and if we get there via discussing these “I” issues. Great, but our destination has to be funny,” said Bowie. “That’s something that Scott Silveri and our crack team of writers do very well is they take the kind of serious topics whether they’re as simple as accessibility, whether or not if we could toss the R word around. They find the intelligence and the nuance of the argument and then they go in for the kill with the funny.”
The series has received praise from critics and audiences for their portrayal of a family with a child with a disability. The cast and creatives know there is a responsibility in telling this story.
“We’re making history on this show,” Mason Cook, who plays middle child Ray DiMeo, tells us. “We’re representing a community that hasn’t been represented on TV before. When it has, it’s been sad or depressing. We are representing them in a fun and comedic way, but also it’s informational and it’s showing these people who aren’t in a disabled family or have a relative who is a disabled and what these peoples’ lives are like and the daily challenges they go through like stairs and not having a ramp and stuff like that. It’s a great show to be a part of.”
Cedric Yarbrough, who plays JJ’s (Micah Fowler) aide and best friend, Kenneth, tells us, “Everyone wants to be represented. For such a long time, people with disabilities or different labeled people have not really been on television, really been represented. When I get a comment or a kid who wants to meet or I talk to them ‘we love the show so much and it’s so funny, thank you so much. We’re finally being shown on TV.”
Fowler agrees there is so much love on the set and the fact that the show brings representation, “I love it. It feels so good and so honoring. I am so blessed to be on this wonderful journey.”
Speechless wrapped up two months ago with the season finale airing next Wednesday, May 17th. With the series most likely to get renewed for another season, Silveri does have some ideas for the second season.
“The nice thing there is always going to be a new journey for a family like this. We could keep shoveling conflict into this machine. For a family like the DiMeos, there is no shortage of roadblocks that they find,” Silveri tells us. “I love the way that these guys approach every challenge. It’s not always the easier way or the most mature way or noble way, but they always find their way to do it – to find the laughs. We’ll take those lemons and keep trying to make lemonade.”
The kids on the show have some possible ideas for their characters for the next season as well. Possibly a boyfriend for daughter Dylan DiMeo.
“I have no idea. I feel like it’s going to happen eventually soon,” Kayla Kennedy said. “I feel like she’s going to meet someone who is interested in the same things as she is. I don’t think she’s going to realize what’s going to come. I think she’ll be in the moment and live with it. I hope to see a feminine side to her.”
Cook seemed to not be ready for that.
“Oh… being an actual older brother of my younger sister in real life, her and boys is an important topic because I have to approve of this boy,” joked Cook. “It’s something that comes with being a brother.”
As for the season finale, the cast and creatives wouldn’t tell us much. But, Silveri did reveal, “That’s the baby bird pushing himself out of the nest whether mom wants it or not. There’s a lot of fireworks in that one. It does not go smoothly, but we’ll see how it turns out.”
So there will be a possible cliffhanger?
Silveri confirmed with us, “There will be no who shot JR or which door is Ross walking into. We’re going to leave it with a question where they go ‘what are they going to do with that next season?'”