There’s a lot to love about NBC’s new sitcom Abby’s, and that’s in part because it’ll remind you of Cheers. The show centers on Abby (Natalie Morales), a woman who owns and operates a self-named bar from her backyard. The people who frequent the joint have become Abby’s good friends, naturally, and they’re an interesting bunch. There’s Fred (Neil Flynn), an ex-Marine who takes his drinking very seriously; Beth (Jessica Chaffin), a fed-up mother who lives next door; James (Leonard Ouzts), a lovable bouncer; and Bill (Nelson Franklin), Natalie’s new, socially awkward landlord. This group’s playful, jokey dynamic will absolutely remind you of Sam Malone and his loyal customers on Cheers in a comfortable, nostalgic way.
While the plot and tone of Abby’s might feel familiar, it’s more progressive than sitcoms of yesteryear. For one, the ensemble is incredibly diverse, spanning race, gender, age, and body type. And Morales’ character, Abby, is openly bisexual. You can count the number of bisexual lead characters on network TV with just one hand, and Morales was completely aware of that when she signed on. (She identifies as queer.)
“When I was growing up, and even today, there was nothing like this,” she tells Glamour. “If I had seen a Latin bisexual lead on network television, and she was doing OK, that would’ve been huge for me as a kid.”
Morales makes a key distinction here. Yes, her character is bisexual—but she isn’t defined by that, nor is it a source of conflict on the show. Abby lives a happy, fully out life, something Morales thinks more LGTBQ+ people need to see on TV.
“It’s important to tell stories about people who are marginalized, but it’s also important to tell stories that aren’t necessarily about how they are marginalized,” she says. “We have those already. There’s been a lot of stories about what we have to suffer through to be who we are. If we keep telling only those stories, we’re still other-ized.”
Morales says both types of narratives should exist: stories that highlight the issues LGBTQ+ people face, and ones in which they’re just part of the community fabric. “There are horrible things that happen to people like us, but there are also really great things that happen to people like us,” she says. “There are many, many of us living healthy, normal lives with friends and families, and I think that’s important to see.”
What’s more, the majority of stories about LGBTQ+ people center on gay or lesbian characters, while bisexual individuals can feel left out of the conversation. Even in 2019 bisexuality is still viewed in some circles as invalid or temporary—a metaphorical pit stop on the way to gay. Morales wants to break this stigma with Abby.
“There’s a lack of respect for people who identify as bisexual,” she says. “I think it’s important to see a truly bisexual woman who dates both men and women, and that’s OK. There are so many people who are like, ‘Bisexual people who are in a male-female relationship are not really bisexual.’ That’s so wrong.”
Abby‘s, however, gets it right. When Bill asks Abby, “Do you date women?” in one episode, she simply responds with “And men. I’m bisexual.” She’s direct and unapologetic about her identity—and her friends respect it. Morales hopes more scenes like this help move the needle forward. “I think for some of us who live in bigger cities, having friends who are openly bisexual isn’t a big deal,” she says. “But for other places in America—and certainly other places in the world—it’s still a really big thing to live your life openly. Not everybody is welcome to do that, so I think it’s important to keep normalizing it. And network television is the place most people have access to.”