Amidst the multitude of shows on Canadian television, one stands out that not only defies expectations but also catapults its lead actor and creator into the spotlight. The third season of “Sort Of” —a ground-breaking television series that explores the complexity of identity and relationships, recently premiered. The show’s star, Bilal Baig, is winning over even more viewers and I’m proud to be one of them.
Serving also as show’s co-creator, Baig has blazed a path for themselves and the Canadian entertainment industry. Baig’s performance of Sabi Mehboob is praised internationally for its emotional depth and sometimes irreverent humor. As I binge-watched this incredible series, I realized, too, that I’d never seen such a representation of a South Asian character. Baig’s performance has helped Sort Of succeed and spurred discussions about diversity, ethnic stereotypes, and authentic representation in the media.
In my recent interview with Baig, I admitted that I don’t watch many scripted television programs. Still, I was intrigued by the opportunity to interview them, whom I had read extensively about in the press over the past few years, and this piqued my interest in watching the show, all episodes past and present.
I loved it from the first opening scene and was honored to express to Bilal how much I enjoyed and appreciated such a fresh, creative production and their handling of poignant subject matters. Ever so graciously, Baig, replied,
“Oh, thanks so much. I love hearing that. It doesn’t matter when people discover the show. It moves me so much when people find it and can relate to it and connect to it. So, thanks so much for that.
For those who have not yet watched an episode of Sort Of, I asked Bilal to share a synopsis of the show:
The show centers around the character that I play — their name is Subi. And it’s like a total millennial kind of portrait. We’re looking at somebody in the middle of their twenties and in transition, in every sense of the word.
They’re trying to figure out what they want to do in the world, as a job, trying to figure out who they are, who they are to their mother, their friends, and their community. So it’s a show that looks at the idea that we are all changing. Everyone is on that journey, even though it looks very different for different people.
Our show also includes a really inspiring ensemble of characters from so many different walks of life. And it really is just an exploration of how these people grow and change together.
With a growing notoriety beyond the screen, Baig has become a leading voice in the LGBTQ+ community. Their masterful portrayal of Sabi as a universally relatable character drives home the many common denominators shared across all walks of life: the trials and victories of self-discovery. Notably, Baig’s ability to meld their own experiences into the character of Sabi makes Sort Of a potent tool for understanding, self-reflection, and self-awareness.
Regarding representation and awareness, the gender divide between Best Actor in a Comedy Series and Best Actress in a Comedy Series prevented Baig from submitting for consideration, even though Sort Of won the most overall in the television categories at the 10th Canadian Screen Awards in 2022.
This civil protest led to The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television later announcing that gender-neutral awards for Best Performance will be given in place of separate gendered actor and actress categories, starting with the 11th Canadian Screen Awards in 2023. Thus, Baig made history, winning the first-ever Canadian Screen Award for Best Leading Performance in a Comedy Series.
If you haven’t seen the first two seasons of Sort Of, I implore you to watch them to appreciate the continued journey of Sabi’s life entirely. But you can always enjoy it by beginning with the current 3rd season and then going back to watch seasons 1 and 2. The show is thoroughly enthralling even when watched in reverse. Overall, for three seasons, the show has been a triumph with distinctive storytelling and the collaborative efforts of Baig and various show contributors, including the immensely talented and very handsome writer/producer Ian Iqbal Rashid.
What I personally love about Sort Of is how it questions social conventions and gives marginalized voices a forum. And whereas the series resonates with a genuineness that’s struck a chord with viewers of various backgrounds, its success shows how Canadian television has evolved. Baig is proudly a significant contributor to that evolution.
Many “buzzed” about shows fail to deliver after a few episodes. And then there’s Sort Of — living up to all its hype as a cultural phenomenon that challenges stereotypes, promotes empathy and understanding, and delivers wickedly thought-provoking entertainment.
Well done, Bilal Baig and team!