'Andi Mack's' Jonathan Hurwitz on writing 'One in a Minyan'

Editor's Note: Jonathan's piece is referencing Friday, February 8th's episode of Andi Mack and contains spoilers. Don't miss "One in a Minyan" Friday, February 8 at 8pm on Disney Channel and join the discussion on social using hashtag #AndiMack!

Writing “One in a Minyan” by Jonathan Hurwitz, Guest Contributor

For this episode of “Andi Mack,” three things needed to happen: Cyrus’ family would sit Shiva after the passing of his beloved Bubbe Rose, Cyrus would discover Jonah having a panic attack, and Cyrus would, at some point, come out to Jonah. As we brainstormed story details for the episode, it became clear to me that one more thing needed to happen: I needed to write this episode! As someone who’s Jewish, has dealt with long-term anxiety, and has come out to his friends and family, I had a very personal stake in this one. So you can imagine how I felt when the story breaking was complete and our showrunner, Terri Minsky, turned to me and asked, “Do you want to write this episode?”

“YES!!!” I said (read: squealed).

This episode soon became a collaboration with Terri, the other writers, and our Disney Channel executives and consultants— all of whom sought to ensure that we treated the portrayal of the Shiva, Jonah’s panic attack, and Cyrus’ coming out with the deepest care and respect.

In the Jewish tradition, Shiva is the ritual period of mourning, which takes place in the house of the bereaved. The challenge here was to respect the gravity of the tradition while simultaneously mining its potential for lightness, humor and positivity. Enter Grandma Hurwitz (hi, Grandma!), who spoke to me at length about our family’s relationship to the tradition, which she views as a celebration of life— simply a time for friends and family to come together in support of one another. Viewers who have never attended a Shiva are able to experience this tradition through the lens of Andi, Buffy and Jonah, all of whom are attending a Shiva for the first time. One of my favorite moments in the episode is when Jonah joins Cyrus in singing the Mourner’s Kaddish. While there’s undeniable comedy in Jonah’s earnest effort to follow along, there’s also palpable emotion as Cyrus, watching Jonah participate, realizes just how lucky he is to have such an eternally supportive friend.

This Cyrus/Jonah moment ultimately led us to the question that interested me the most: “Why does Cyrus feel the need to come out to Jonah?” Because he doesn’t have to. It’s up to Cyrus to decide who he wants to tell (if he even wants to tell anybody), and when. “Coming out” is a choice, an idea that Andi points out to Cyrus. After seeing Jonah show up for him, and witnessing the vulnerability Jonah displays in opening up about his panic attacks, Cyrus realizes that he, too, wants to find the courage to open up.

In the writer’s room, I shared a personal story about how nervous I was to come out to a college friend back in 2010. While grabbing burgers one afternoon, he asked me to pass the ketchup, so I handed him the bottle while mumbling the words, “I’m gay.” He looked up at me, said “Cool,” then proceeded to put ketchup on his burger as if I hadn’t just revealed my most personal, deepest truth. I remember thinking: “That’s it?! After a ten-year journey to come out to myself, I finally come out to my friend and all I get is a ‘Cool?!’” But what I ultimately realized was that my friends and family loved me unconditionally before I’d even learned to truly love myself. With this story in mind, we crafted Cyrus having a similar revelation after coming out to Jonah— who, in truth, seems to be more overwhelmed by what food to choose from the buffet!   In spite of Cyrus’ nerves about telling Buffy, Andi, and now Jonah, he continually underestimates how much people accept him for who he is. No matter how “weird” or “different” he feels (his words from Season One), his friends will always be right by his side, loving and supporting him.

Through Cyrus’ journey both in this episode and the series at large, I hope that audiences understand this— that we're all worthy of being heard, seen, and loved by the friends and family with whom we surround ourselves. Even when they’re distracted by the gefilte fish.

Jonathan Hurwitz is a writer living in Los Angeles. Most recently, he was the Writer’s Assistant on Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack,” where he received a Writers Guild Award nomination for his episode, “For The Last Time.” He’d like to thank Beyoncé for her continued support.