With Hulu’s Ramy recently getting picked up for a third season in the wake of its three Season Two Emmy nominations, creator and star Ramy Youssef appeared on Wednesday’s Daily Show to tell Trevor Noah that he—unlike his fictionalized TV self—isn’t stuck wondering what to do next. With Noah extolling the scene-stealing virtues of Ramy side character Steve (Youssef’s real-life childhood best friend Steve Way), Youssef explained that he’s currently working with Apple to develop a starring vehicle for Way himself, noting that, despite the occasional Steve-centric episode, “We don’t do enough for him.”
For Youssef, Ramy walks the fine line between righting the woeful imbalance of how Muslims are portrayed in American television and movies and just telling the human story of one millennial Muslim-American fuck-up and his typically multifaceted family. “We haven’t really had any chance at seeing ourselves onscreen in a story that doesn’t involves explosives or national security,” said Youssef, who’s revealed his own struggles against the Hollywood casting factory. (He tried to “sell out” for such stereotypical roles, as he’s confessed, but nobody was buying.) Saying that his intention was never to just “try to tick all the boxes” when it comes to portraying the Muslim-American experience, Youssef said of his universally acclaimed series, “This is just the story of this family.” Thus, Ramy was born, joining the growing (but still deeply inadequate) number of excellent, creator-led shows where “minority” actors just take the reins and do it all for themselves.
And now it’s Steve’s turn. As Youssef says of Way, his pal since third grade, disabled actors (Way has muscular dystrophy) suffer the same fate as Muslim ones when it comes to actually being able to tell their own stories onscreen. Noting that, as a predominantly Muslim American cast, Ramy needed to have “the white best friend,” Youssef implies that, while Way was fine with being shoehorned into that particular side role, he wasn’t going to let his newly powerful best friend off the hook when it came time to share the representational storytelling spotlight. “You have the power to do this now,” Youssef said of Way’s insistent, ultimately successful pitch for his own TV showcase, “and this is gonna be the first thing you do.” “Straight-up bullying me into it,” is how Youssef put it, so look for some Steve in the near future. As Youssef told Ramy super-fan Noah, it’s a matter of shifting that lens into the hands of the people whose story is actually being told. That means, in Way’s case, “the able-bodied people are the side characters.” For a change.