Ramy Youssef Has a Bold Vision for the Second Season of Hulu's 'Ramy'

Illustration by Britt Spencer

"I don't want to talk about the debate as to why we should be respected, I'm more interested in just showing our value."

When your name is in the title of your show, it's fair to assume it's at least semi-autobiographical. Not so, says Ramy Youssef, the 29-year-old creator, writer and star of Ramy, the Hulu comedy series returning for its second season on May 29. "What I really tried to do with this character was imagine my life with a less communicative family and what would I look like without an artistic outlet and a vision of what I wanted to do." Youssef's vision paid off; the actor won a Golden Globe for his performance in 2019. "My mom has it," Youssef says about the award, adding that winning it was a huge commercial for the show. "It was just the best advertising we could have gotten for people to see what is otherwise like a small show." Based on Youssef's stand-up, Ramy follows the spiritual journey of a young man torn between his Muslim faith and the modern realities of his millennial peers. But right now, the biggest thing Youssef is grappling with is his inability to do stand-up because of the coronavirus pandemic. "I definitely miss it. It's hard to beat regardless of any success in the onscreen space."

What can we expect from the second season of Ramy?

We really get into a lot of fun things between [my character] and this new character, played by Mahershala Ali. That dynamic is something I'm really pumped for people to see.

Why do you think it's so important to tell stories of the immigrant experience right now?

What I'm more interested in seeing is an immigrant family deal with problems of their own making and people who are messy and complicated because it humanizes them. I don't really want to talk about the debate as to why we should be respected or valued, I'm more interested in just showing our value.

Why was it important to make your character a person of faith?

Because I don't see it. Everyone's wrestling with the idea of that higher self and how to be it. I wanted to show these small moments that I think are super-specific to this Arab Muslim dude in New Jersey.

Do you think you benefit more from being on a streaming platform rather than a network?

This show only exists because of streaming. Before streaming, you had to be a huge touring comic—they've got to see how your special goes, they've got to do all these things. Streaming completely fucks with the format and in the best way because they get to take a risk.