The New Hollywood North: Bilal Baig

Bilal Baig

The story behind Sort Of, the big-hearted CBC series that turned the rookie TV actor into a star

By Jason McBride| Photography by Vanessa Heins
| August 17, 2022

Age: 27 Known for: Creating and starring in the buzzy CBC series Sort Of
Up next: Filming season two of Sort Of

Just a few years ago, Bilal Baig had never acted on camera. Then they met Fab Filippo, the veteran actor whose most notable credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Queer as Folk. Here, Filippo reflects on the moment the two of them conceived Sort Of, the boundary-busting, award-sweeping show that turned Baig into a star.

The New Hollywood North: Bilal Baig

“I met Bilal when we were acting in Norman Yeung’s play Theory at Tarragon Theatre. We both had dry senses of humour, and I was taken with how graceful and articulate Bilal was about who they are and the space they hold.

“Neither of us was the lead in Theory, so we spent a lot of time hanging out backstage. We connected about writing, and then we started pitching story ideas to each other, and I had an epiphany. I said, ‘I’m really interested in making a show about you.’ Bilal said, ‘Great, but why would I make that show with you?’ I was going through some upheaval in my own life—thinking about my identity as a father, as a partner, as a human. So I came back and said, ‘What if we did a show that was really intersectional, that talked about how we’re all in transitions?’ Then we came up with the idea for Paul, a father who employs Bilal’s character. That’s when things clicked. Ideas just started falling from the sky.

The New Hollywood North: Bilal Baig

“When we shot the sizzle reel for Sort Of, in 2019, it was the first time Bilal had ever acted on camera. It opened so many doors. By the time we went to the CBC to have our big pitch meeting, one assistant was already star-struck. When she met Bilal, she was like, ‘Oh, it’s you!’

The New Hollywood North: Bilal Baig

“The fact that Sort Of landed on top-10 lists blew me away. The Canadian Screen Awards were an honour, and winning the Peabody was out of this world. We always believed we were making a show for everyone, and it’s been gratifying to see a wide range of audiences respond. There are big things in store for Bilal.”

Baig wardrobe styling by Mars Alexander, hair by Maxine Power, makeup by Ms. Myles Bryan-Murray; Filippo courtesy of CBC

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