When Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo's series Sort Of was released in 2021, the show with Canada's first queer, transfeminine, South Asian and Muslim star in a primetime TV series quickly attracted a devoted legion of fans in both Canada and internationally, due to its authentic, personal and funny storytelling.
Back in October, Baig and Filippo released a joint statement announcing that Season 3 will mark the end of the Peabody-winning CBC and Max original comedy series, with the final season premiering in Canada Nov. 17 (available to stream on CBC Gem).
"We know how much the series means to a lot of you — it means so much to us too," the statement reads. "We set out to tell a story about a kind of transition in Sabi’s life, and how those around them also change — and we feel in this coming season that story came to an end in a way that felt right for us."
"We’re aware that series like ours, shows that feature queer and trans characters, tend to get cancelled early on, and we know that’s been happening a lot recently. We want to say that’s not what’s going down here. We made this third season knowing it would be our last. ... We’re also aware that this show is ending at a time when trans communities continue to be targeted and trans rights are being constantly attacked. Our hope is that this series can continue to affirm lives and spark conversations well after the final season drops. Sort Of will always exist, despite all the transphobia in our world."
Looking back at the release of that statement, Baig shared that they were "nervous" to make the announcement.
"We really know the way people feel about the show and how passionately they do, so that was definitely on my mind," Baig told Yahoo Canada.
"I think what we tried to express in that statement was that it feels right on a narrative level, on a level between Fab and myself, to end it. ... It feels less painful in a way because it's something that we have talked about and I've been thinking about for a little while."
"The feeling that it's right is huge because there's some shows that you're like, 'Yeah, let's keep it going and going,' and there's something about this show, particularly, that feels like we would ruin it for everybody if we went too far, like if we went one too many seasons," Filippo added. "I'm really glad that that's not going to happen, especially with the show as sort of delicate as this one."
'It almost felt like I was playing a different Sabi this season'
Season 3 of Sort Of picks up shortly after the death of Sabi's (Baig) father. While experiencing these feelings of grief, Sabi also has to manage the aftermath of their kiss with Bessy (Grace Lynn Kung).
"I just thought it was so exciting to end that second season in such a messy place," Baig said. "It's fun to then pick it up so soon after, and I know that kind of sounds twisted because we're talking about grief and loss, but I've really loved how we've approached it on this show. We really get to see characters in a different way this season."
"It almost felt like I was playing a different Sabi this season, and I think when we meet them at the beginning of the first episode of the third season, they might feel different to audiences too. ... I do think it's important that we watch these characters deal with the aftermath of these things that happen and the loss of the father for sure, but I also really think about Sabi kissing Bessy, and what that means for Bessy's family, for Sabi."
While Season 2 largely focused on different facets of love, Season 3 as a whole is about transitions, and how each character is in their own form of transition.
"I think one of the interesting things that we have done with the show, in general, is taking either character tropes, or even cliché and story points, and then reinvented them," Filippo said.
As Baig teased, Season 3 involves several Sort Of characters making "huge choices" that feel "connected to their sense of self."
"I think that's going to be a really cool thing to watch," Baig said. "That has been happening throughout this whole show, but I think there are some major moments this season where we push the conversations around identity and evolving and transformation, and people's relationship with each other."
The power of collaboration
In the previous season, the Sort Of team established a training and mentorship program with Trans Film Mentorship, something that continued for Season 3 and was particularly impactful for the crew as well.
"I really felt like, in speaking with a bunch of the mentees across both the seasons, there was space to make mistakes too and kind of learn from it," Baig said. "The presence of those mentees on the set really made a difference to me, because I felt, this is all new to me too, and I felt like I was learning all the time, so ... it felt like I was in a similar place to them, in terms of learning and absorbing."
Overall, with Baig having to balance being a co-creator, writer, executive producer and lead actor throughout the series, a core takeaway for them has been that "collaborators are kind of everything."
"I have a feeling this whole thing could have been a nightmare if I wasn't working with Fab and with the producers from Sphere [Media]," Baig said.
"I genuinely felt cared for and I think that makes a big difference to me. I've been in artistic spaces where I feel kind of like the the object or the token, ... and it wasn't that in this experience, ever. ... I've learned so much about making television and all the things that go into it, and I'm really grateful for that knowledge."
Where to watch 'Sort Of'
The first two seasons of Sort Of are available to watch on CBC Gem.
Season 3 of Sort Of is being released weekly on the Canadian streaming platform, beginning Nov. 17.