Grey’s Anatomy alumna Sara Ramirez recently criticized ABC and The Real O’Neals over a joke made on the family comedy’s Jan. 17 episode.
The episode saw Kenny — an openly gay teenager played by Noah Galvin — liken being bisexual to having “webbed toes” or “money problems.”
The actress — who identifies as bisexual and played a bisexual character on the medical drama on the same network — tweeted that she was “truly disheartened and disappointed” by the joke and pledged to “invest my brand where I’m respected.” She also encouraged followers to sign a petition to ABC protesting alleged biphobia on the show. (For more on Ramirez’s remarks, as well as those from Galvin and LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG, which partnered with the show for the episode, head here.)
At the time, ABC declined to comment to EW, but now creators and showrunners Casey Johnson and David Windsor are sharing their responses to the criticism and address the possibility of introducing a bisexual character in the future.
“That joke was not meant to be offensive at all,” Johnson says. “It was from the perspective of a 16-year-old kid. Kenny’s got his first boyfriend, and his biggest worry is that he might like girls too, so it wasn’t meant to be offensive at all, but we are always trying to broaden out our characters that we bring into our world.”
She continues, “This year, we really wanted to bring in a lesbian character, so we introduced Allison [Ramona Young] as Kenny’s new friend, and I think that really broadened out the world. Our mission has always been to be really respectful and inclusive of the LGBTQ community, so we would love to keep broadening that world. We need to do it in a way that feels real to Kenny O’Neal’s world in Chicago in his Catholic school, so we kind of take steps like introducing Allison, but absolutely. We want the show to keep growing and evolving.”
Windsor echoed Johnson’s sentiments. “From the beginning, our goal was always to be inclusive and to, if nothing else, start a dialogue with people,” he adds. “For parents who have gay kids that they don’t support, we didn’t want to hit anyone over the head with a message, but we were very aware of the impact that we have on the community. [That’s] why half of our staff is gay. We try to be as inclusive as we can and really keep a dialogue going with everyone. That’s how change happens. Even if we have differing opinions, as long as we’re talking and communicating those opinions with each other, that’s really what’s important to us, so we’re going to continue to try to be as inclusive as we can and keep these dialogues going.”
Johnson hopes they can continue those conversations if the show is renewed. “We really are hopeful for a season three,” she explains. “We have so many more great stories to tell.”