‘Pose’ Team on Importance of Inclusion on TV — and the Real World
Photo Courtesy of FX
“Pose” creator Steven Canals wrote the very first draft of his ballroom culture drama in 2014, on spec, while he was in the graduate program for screenwriting at UCLA. Although his professor Neil Landau gave him “really great feedback” on it, which fueled his confidence to take it out into the industry, once he stepped into meetings, “it was just sort of met with a thud,” he says.
“It was opening up doors for me, but it wasn’t keeping me in the room,” Canals tells Variety about his period piece set in 1980s-New York City that centers on a number of gay and transgender characters, some of whom are HIV-positive.
But what a difference a few years can make. Canals connected with Sherry Marsh, and then Ryan Murphy, with whom he shared “a real moment” about why they loved and were inspired by this community. “At the end of our first meeting, Ryan said, ‘We’re going to make this show together,'” Canals says. And they did, ultimately selling the project to FX, where it debut June 3.
What does being a part of the show mean to you personally?
Steven Canals: I grew up in New York City in the 1980s and my life was directly impacted by both HIV/AIDs and the crack epidemic of the time. And so I’ve always wanted to tell the story of the men, women, and children who went through and were impacted by the experience of those two epidemics. …Specifically with the ballroom community, my first interaction with the ballroom community came in my early-20s, but I wasn’t out. And the thing that was so incredible and the thing that moved me so deeply was that both of my parents were raised in Harlem. And so the Harlem balls were happening right around the corner from where they grew up, and yet I never knew about this incredible LGBTQ subculture. I took strength from their strength — that’s what inspired me to come out and be my authentic self. “Pose” is not only a way to highlight a particular experience that these black and brown queer and trans people were having but also a way to say thank you to this community that inspired me.
Dominique Jackson (Elektra): Being a part of this show means that I am assisting in bringing visibility to trans women and men of color who thrive every single day despite feeling ostracized by family, religion, and society for living in their truth! It means to me that the young homeless trans women can see me and know that I made it despite all of the obstacles I faced and that giving up is not an option.
Indya Moore (Angel): Being a part of “Pose” means being trusted with a unique and powerful responsibility. It is a responsibility that the world once told itself that someone like me could not carry. It means I am validating an inevitable evolution in thought and compassion. “Pose” is centering the perspective of people who have been silenced, ignored, and rejected for generations. Having the opportunity to use my talent as an actor to bring a full life to your living rooms, bedrooms, and waiting areas is existentially the most affirming thing that could ever happen to and for me. My role of Angel in “Pose” is dedicated to Naomi Hersi. She is a black trans woman of Somali origin who was murdered in her London hotel simply because of who she was. The fact that so many trans women and ballroom legends are not here to see “Pose” makes my heart tender. But I know things will change and people will take accountability for their own lack of humanity when they see our humanity represented in the stories we tell. Cheers to the future of healing, expansion, and “humanship.”
Read More at Variety