The FX drama series “Pose” made history when it premiered in the summer of 2018, and Janet Mock is just one reason why. The series explores the lives of LGBT characters in the New York City ball scene of the 1980s, and Mock herself has made unprecedented progress for trans women of color as a writer, director and producer for the series. “I’m so excited by the fact that our show has enabled so many firsts,” says Mock about the groundbreaking show, which also features more trans women of color in series regular roles than any other series ever made. Watch our exclusive video interview with Mock above.
The lives of trans characters have been explored in the past by movies and TV shows, but they have usually been portrayed by cisgender actors (like Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica” and Jeffrey Tambor in “Transparent“), and often relegated to tragic supporting roles (like Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”). So one of the things Mock appreciates so much from “Pose” is “the fact that we portray so many LGBT characters and we center them in their own world,” showing them as heroes as well as villains, saviors as well as sufferers, joyous as well as sad. And she adds, “The fact that behind the scenes that I get to be such a architectural part of building this beautiful house and this beautiful family … is really astounding.”
Mock directed the sixth episode of the first season titled “Love is the Message,” which she also co-wrote with series co-creator Ryan Murphy. Much of the episode follows the emotional journey of ball emcee Pray Tell (Billy Porter), whose partner is dying of AIDS. But the episode originated in an unusual way. Mock reveals, “Ryan called me — he had just gotten out of the shower, it was very strange — and he was like, ‘Janet, I have just had a vision and a whole episode has just come down to me in a way that has never before.” Murphy wanted the episode to be “a memorial” and “a way for us to give something back to all those who lost, and who left, and who left us behind.” And Mock admits, “I cried almost every day on set. It was just there, the emotional immediacy of that piece never left me.”
When we spoke to Mock, production for the second season of “Pose” was just getting underway. The series will jump forward from the late 1980s to 1990, when Madonna’s hit “Vogue” made ball culture mainstream. “We talked about the possibilities of what that song shows to our characters, who before this were always in the underground,” Mock says. “So what does it mean to soon be discovered?”
The series will also explore AIDS activism during the heyday of ACT UP. It additionally promotes season one guest star Sandra Bernhard to series regular and introduces Patti LuPone in a new recurring role. And there will be “a lot more voguing because we got a lot of folk from the community who said we need more dance, so we’re going to do a lot more of that. And then every episode of course will have gorgeous, outrageous, even bigger show-stopping ball sequences.”
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