“I never saw myself represented on screen on television, so I always carried that with me once I made the decision to pursue film and television as a career — that I was going to tell the story of my people of my community,” “Pose” co-creator Steven Canals recounted to an audience of Emmy voters early this month at the Hollywood Athletic Club (watch the video above). Canals appeared on stage with fellow producing writers Our Lady J and Janet Mock, as well as stars Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Billy Porter and Mj Rodriguez for a campaign panel moderated by co-creator Ryan Murphy after a screening of the episode “Love is the Message” from the drama’s debut season.
Drawing on his upbringing in a black Puerto Rican family in the projects in New York during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, Canals wrote the first draft of the “Pose” pilot in 2014 and it took years of pitching to executives before landing at FX under Murphy, who became a co-creator. Canals reflected on the continual rejection that he faced, “It was a lot of coded language: ‘It’s too niche,’ ‘It’s too urban,’ ‘It isn’t commercial enough’ and then just blatant ‘It’s too queer,’ ‘It’s too trans,’ ‘It’s a period piece’.” He explained that coming out of of the screenwriting program at UCLA with a Master of Fine Arts, “You’re told you have to excise your demons, you have to locate yourself within the narrative, put yourself on the page and so ultimately, if you’re being told this project has no value, the subtext to that is you as a person have no value and so, I was walking out of offices feeling there’s something wrong with my queerness, there’s something wrong with my being a person of color and there’s just a huge resistance to that, so it’s tough, but you persist.”
Murphy concluded, “Hollywood likes what they know, but as I told you in the room when I bought your story, it only takes one ‘yes’ and here’s your yes and that’s what I would like to remind everyone.” Canals and Murphy shared in nominations for their producing and writing of the LGBTQ drama series at the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, Gotham and Writers Guild Awards before being nominated by the Television Critics Association this week. They contend at the Emmys for their “Pose” work in tandem in the categories of Best Drama Series and Best Drama Writing.
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