Genevieve (Maeve Press) did not wet the bed, but that’s all she wants to say about the fact that she’s currently stuffing bedsheets into the washer in one of the first scenes of Freeform’s new show, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. It’s only when pressed by the ramshackle gaggle of family members in the kitchen that she admits that, at 14, she got her first period.
“Isn’t that a little old?” Nicholas (Josh Thomas), her Australian half-brother comments.
“There is no need to feel ashamed,” Matilda (Kayla Cromer), her half-sister who is on the autism spectrum, insists. “Menstruation is a natural and wonderful part of being a woman.”
Her dad, played by Christopher May, says he’s going to order cupcakes.
“You’re overcompensating because I don’t have a mom — again,” Genevieve exclaims as she leaves the room, cementing the wry, unabashed tone that comes to define Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’s debut season. Almost as quickly as we meet this unlikely family, it’s upended. Darren, their dad, has cancer, and by the end of the hour-long first episode he’s died, leaving Nicholas in charge of two teenagers he previously only had a long-distance, vaguely familial relationship with. Since they’ve all acknowledged their situation is not ideal, their relationship is less paternal and more a group of misfits trying to figure out the world together.
Thomas is already a break-out star following the success of his 2013 show Please Like Me (fans of which will be happy to hear EGBO serves as a grown-up, redefined extension of everything they loved about the coming-of-age Australian series), but Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is the world’s first real introduction to Press and Cromer. At 14 years old, Press was the youngest comedian ever to perform at Boston's Women in Comedy Festival in 2017, and has continued to pursue stand-up since. Cromer, who recently revealed that she herself is on the Autism spectrum, previously wanted to work in criminal profiling for the FBI before the opportunity to give the autistic character an authentic portrayal accelerated her acting career. She still wants to do both.
In fact, the two eager young women want to do it all. When Refinery29 caught up with them in New York City, ahead of the premiere of EGBO, both Press and Cromer wanted to make one clear: They’re just getting started.
Refinery29: The show doesn’t shy away from difficult, explicit, or uncomfortable topics. Was that important to you?
Maeve Press: “I love playing roles that are real and it's real life. And that's what's so wonderful, Josh is — that's all he does. He doesn't write specifically for comedy or for drama, just for life.”
Kayla Cromer: “Yes! It’s not your typical cookie cutter show.”
Kayla, you announced that you were on the autism spectrum last year. There are hardly any actors who are openly autistic. Did this inspire you to go public with your diagnosis, or did it make you feel hesitant?
KC: “I was scared of being typecast, of only getting roles with autism. I knew I didn't want [that], cause I know I can play neuro-typical groups, [and] I don't want that to be my only option as an actor. But I realized that so many actors out there that have a disability or have autism are desperately trying to even get in the audition or get an agent or just simply get a meeting with an agent and by me doing this, me being the first actor to have autism in a leading role in a TV series playing an autistic character, that could really break through the stigma attached to disability in entertainment.”
How much input did you have in your character’s autism diagnosis and behavior?
KC: “It was more in the pre-production process when we would rehearse the scripts and [Thomas] would notice something, like a quirk or something that I had, and he would incorporate that into the script. So it's more authentic, it's more part of me.”
I want to be in Marvel, I want Squirrel Girl, Cloud 9...I want action. I want my career to take off. I just need the entertainment industry to get rid of the stigma.
Maeve, you are a stand-up comic. How do you think that experience helped you with this role?
MP: “What's very cool about Genevieve is that her outlet with the grief is writing and she gets really into more of a creative side that she never really explored before. And so being a writer and doing stand up, that really helped. Also just with the character, when you do stand up, you have to always be prepared and on your feet.”
Do you consider yourself more of an actress or a comic?
MP: “I think I'd love to do both. Right now, I'm writing a solo comedy show. [I'd like to] keep doing roles that surprise me and that have a voice for the voiceless.”
What comedians do you look up to?
MP: “I love Tig Notaro. I love her. I love George Carlin, John Mulaney. Any comedian that makes you think. Like, Tig Notaro did an entire set where she just pushed a stool on the stage. I just want to be able to push a stool.”
Why do you think this show is important for other girls your age to watch?
MP: “I don't really like melodramatic people. It erases the nuance in life and I feel like we don't need more melodramatic teenagers, and that's what our show doesn't have.”
KC: “I’d personally like for parents to watch it, explain, and re-watch it as a family and then discuss it sometime.”
You’re both at the very start of your careers. What do you hope to be doing in five years?
MP: “Definitely doing more comedy or acting and writing.”
KC: “Well. I have a whole year planned out. Most of the stuff in five years time I want to do this year because I know with me being out in the public and the press with this show, maybe I'll finally get the audition set up that I really want. I want to be in Marvel, I want Squirrel Girl, Cloud 9...I want action. I want my career to take off. I just need the entertainment industry to get rid of the stigma attached to what I have so I can have those chances. I'd love to be offered roles instead of always having to audition. And a date with Matthew Gray Gubler.”
MP: “I would like to change my answer. I would like to be Kayla.”
Everything’s Gonna Be Okay airs Thursdays 8:30 p.m. EST on Freeform.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.