A disco ball the size of a wrecking ball hangs from the center of the room, the fabulous sun around which all the chaos, the glamour, the heart, the pain, and the fashion, honey, orbits. It is the central element of the Pose set, splashing pancake-sized dots of light on the performers assembled for a ballroom scene, reflecting off their sequins, shoulder pads, and bright makeup like solar flares of love.
From our perch hidden in the rafters, we see all shapes, colors, and representations of the gender spectrum among the performers, who are draped over folding chairs, crouching on the floor, or peering over the balcony in order to catch a glimpse of the dancers voguing 20 feet below. A routine from a group of male dancers crescendos until a break dancer is finally spinning on his head, the cheers in the room approaching ear-splitting heights that actor Billy Porterstill, miraculously, manages to boom his rasping commentary over.
“We have changed the culture!” Porter shouts as Pray Tell, the emcee of the ball and ceremonial grandfather to the various LGBTQ characters we’re introduced to in the groundbreaking FX series, which tells the stories of a group of trans women and gay men of color who find home and a family in New York City’s legendary ballroom scene in 1987. “Shit, we are the motherfucking culture!”
Everyone hollers with approval. It is the most joy I have ever seen on a TV set.
Season one of Pose centered on Blanca, played by Mj Rodriguez, the adoptive mother to the House of Evangelista, a group of children she houses, cares for as her own, and coaches for ball competitions. The series made history for assembling the largest cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted show. Rodriguez, along with co-stars Jackson, Indya Moore, Angelica Ross, and Hailie Sahar, instantly became the most visible trans actresses in Hollywood.
Murphy brought in writer and activist Janet Mock, who would become a producer, the first trans woman of color to ever be hired full-time into a series writer’s room and, then, to direct an episode of television. Our Lady J, an alum of Transparent, was also hired as a writer. The result of all this was authenticity merged with education all in the name of powerful entertainment: a study of this community at the dawn of the AIDS crisis that is, at its heart, a radical celebration of joy, hope, and resilience.
Steven Canals wrote his first draft of Pose as a love letter to the “miraculous” queer, trans, black, and Latinx people who, he says, “managed to create a community in the face of a plague, violence, and familial rejection.” He had countless meetings with executives, all with feedback that didn’t just amount to rejection—“Who is this for?” “Who would air this?”—but the further devaluing of a marginalized community.
Then he met Ryan Murphy.
It had been just over a week since Murphy’s People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story took home nine Emmy Awards. And yet the hottest creator in show business, at the peak of his success, was willing to say yes to the project everyone else turned down. But Pose was a case when even being Ryan Murphy didn’t matter—that’s how tough of a sell it was. He says it was the first time since Glee he had to make a pilot that wasn’t immediately picked up to series. “I remember saying, ‘You just have to trust me,’” he laughs. “You just have to write me a multimillion-dollar check.”
The laughter is purely in hindsight. He was serious that, if he was going to do this, he was going to do it the way it deserves. Read more via Daily Beast