Janet Mock on tackling fear for ‘Pose’ and ‘what-ifs’ on ‘Hollywood’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Janet Mock had a very busy year this past television season, executive producing FX’s “Pose” and Netflix’s “Hollywood,” plus writing and directing episodes of both series. The two shows may fall under the umbrella of Ryan Murphy‘s media empire but they are doing very different things, creating a challenge for Mock as she quickly wrapped up work on the Season 2 finale of “Pose” before heading into “Hollywood.” As Mock describes in an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby, Murphy “really wanted to push me to think about different worlds.” Watch the full video interview with Mock above.

It was important to Mock to have Season 2 of “Pose” tackle “the fear of police, the fear of systems, and the happenings of violence, specifically the global epidemic of murders of trans women of color specifically.” This was addressed directly in Episode 4, “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” when one of the show’s fan-favorite characters, Candy (Angelica Ross), is shockingly murdered. We then see her community come together and honor her at her funeral, where Candy appears to various key figures who were important to her. We knew that we wanted her death to be the central point of it and then have us celebrate her life, and in effect her death,” Mock explains, “how did it reflect to each other character who was struggling through something throughout the series.”

After wrapping up work on “Pose,” Mock directed and co-wrote two episodes of “Hollywood,” a series that initially intrigued her because of all the what-ifs it presented about Old Hollywood. “What if Rock Hudson, what if Hattie McDaniel, what if Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne and Anna May Wong had happy endings? What would that have looked like? And to me, happy endings only start from having opportunity,” Mock states. She recalls Viola Davis‘s Emmy speech from 2015, particularly the moment the “How to Get Away with Murder” star declared, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.” Mock admits she always struggled to see herself in classic Hollywood, considering the lack of representation in the ’40s especially. 

“Hollywood” offers an alternate look at history in which a film like “Meg,” written by a black, gay screenwriter and starring a black woman in a complex role that has little to do with her race, could become a major success in the 1940s. Mock is quick to point out that while such a film would not eradicate racism, she cannot help but wonder if it would have been a less difficult road for black and queer artists in the industry. “I hope that if a picture like that had existed, at least there would have been an example for the next Archie [Jeremy Pope] coming through who was pitching a project or the next Raymond [Darren Criss] who was coming through to pitch a project, that the road would’ve been a little easier.”

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