Lillian Carrier can currently be seen starring as Drea in the television series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. The groundbreaking comedy series from Freeform navigates the trials of parenting while struggling with grief.
Like Lillian herself, Drea is autistic; bringing a refreshing sense of authenticity to the series that allows her to film with her own service dog, Luke, who is officially the first real service dog on TV. Another first for the show, Drea’s character is featured in the first autistic and queer relationship on television.
We spoke with Lillian about season 2 of Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, what is ahead for Drea and Matilda in these upcoming episodes, and why Drea’s story is an important one to tell.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Lillian Carrier below:
Thank you so much for chatting with us! What would you say inspired you or motivated you to go into acting professionally?
Ha ha, it’s kind of a funny story! It really wasn’t planned. I was studying to be a biologist and my job coach told me about a show that was seeking autistic actors. I shared this apprehensively with my family who talked me into auditioning, and the next week I was reading for the network. A year later, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay was in production! So umm… oops! And thank you Josh Thomas and Stephanie Swedlove for convincing me I could do it.
Can you talk a little about your character Drea in Everything’s Gonna Be Okay and what viewers can expect from them?
My character Drea is an Autistic teenager transitioning into adulthood. She is proud of who she is and will do anything for the people she cares about. She has a lack of filter that can get her in trouble but always has the best of intentions. She is an absolutely wonderful representation of a person on the spectrum. She really advocates for her sensory needs with her loyal Service Dog, Duke, by her side. You really never know what to expect from her and this upcoming season has some amazing new adventures for her.
What would you say attracted you to the role of Drea?
Well, um the character didn’t exist before I met the writers. She was written for me and based on parts of myself, which is so cool. Again, thank you Josh Thomas! But when he described her to me, I fell in love. I love how fearless she is and how comfortable she is in her own skin. You really don’t see that with autistic characters unless it’s used as a joke. So having someone embracing their identity and those around her doing the same is incredible. I am truly honored to play her. Her story line has so many groundbreaking moments that I am honored to be a part of. She really has the kindest heart and I strive to be more like that.
Drea and Matilda are the first autistic and queer relationship on television. How does that feel to be part of something so important and groundbreaking? Was that an important story for you to share?
I still can’t believe I get to play her and be part of this. It really is such an honor. I don’t have the words to describe it. Especially when people share how much the character means to them or how they had never seen themselves on screen before these two characters. It is just so emotional.
I mean of course it’s an important story to share. The percentage of the queer population within the autistic community is much higher than amongst allistic, which makes it astonishing that it hasn’t been done before now. Reading the script for the first time, I had so many emotions about being able to portray this amazing story. I truly felt such an incredible joy at seeing that this was going to happen.
You also get the amazing opportunity to work with your personal service dog, Luke. How much fun is that to work together on set? How has the experience been for you?
Yes, oh my goodness, I am so grateful to have another groundbreaking part of my character. Having a character with a Service Dog is so rare and is never done right. I believe the closest representation is Pretzel in the show In The Dark. The main character in that show has a seeing eye dog. But it’s important for people to know that service dogs are used for a lot of different reasons. As with me and my character, Drea, we have a service dog for our autism.
Honestly, I think Luke has more fun on set than I do – it’s his absolute favorite place to be. I made sure that everyone was aware that first and foremost he is my service dog and that trumps any of his acting duties. I do allow pets and snuggles from other cast mates on set because he is working hard and needs that, but that does not go for all service dogs.
He had a particular habit of sneaking off into Richard Kind’s dressing room this last season. For the most part Luke has been an absolute natural on set. He just very much disliked the scenes where he had to run take after take. He’s also not a morning animal, he gets very grumpy with lots of complaining at those call times. I know everyone loves having him. He goes through a bit of post project depression whenever I wrap shooting.
The experience for me has been lovely. I haven’t been on a set yet where he has been a problem. Everyone is very accommodating for his needs and my needs. Whether he is in a scene with me or watching from a short distance, I am so glad to have him there. Having a service dog has given me a freedom I wouldn’t otherwise have. I know he can take care of me and I can do things without someone there to support me. Plus, Luke is an absolute sweetheart.
New episodes of Everything’s Gonna Be Okay are now airing on Freeform. What can you share about what viewers can expect from your character in the new season?
Well, the first two episodes just aired which showed the heartbreaking breakup of Drea and her girlfriend Matilda. This moment is really going to stick with Drea. She will return in episode 4 and quite often throughout the rest of the season. Obviously, she still loves Matilda and the two of them are going to figure out what they mean to each other and land in this new relationship that the world just doesn’t get.
It’s going to be a bit of a struggle and Drea is going to discover some new things about herself. She is going to learn to stand up for herself which is something she has struggled with in the past. I can’t tell you too much, but there is so much in store and I am so excited for it. The groundbreaking moments are going to continue this season. I really think people are going to love Drea’s story.
What are your hopes for Drea as a character moving forward? What would you love to get the chance to see or do on the show?
I really do trust Josh and the writing team, so I don’t want to dictate where they take the character. But if I had the power to choose where Drea’s story goes, I hope to see more of her story outside of Matilda. You only get to see her connected to Matilda, which is an amazing story line. I would just love to see more sides of her with other characters and other stories and branch off from Matilda.
This season is limited in characters due to it taking place in the pandemic. If the next season leaves that behind, I would love to see Drea make some neurotypical friends and show that it is possible. Not just a one-sided caretaker and disabled person story, an equal relationship where both individuals enjoy it and get something from it.
If she goes off to college or moves out, I would love to show the accommodations and how terrible and limited the systems are for adults.
I would also absolutely love to put Tellulah and Drea together somehow and have them explode with honest remarks, calling each other out on their flaws. For some reason, that just seems so fun. I always love the friendship moments between Drea and Jeremy. They just get each other. And, of course, more Drea and Matilda. They just belong together in whatever type of relationship they create.
Thank you so much to Lillian Carrier for taking the time to speak with us!
For more interviews from Freeform, check out our interview with Shelby Surdam from the new Freeform series Cruel Summer.