“I see this being a bit revolutionary,” declares Angel Bismark Curiel about FX’s “Pose,” the Emmy-winning period drama about ballroom culture in New York which just aired its third and final season. Curiel’s role as Lil Papi Evangelista was originally only supposed to be recurring part. However, Curiel’s performance as the street-wise and eternally optimistic Papi has made the actor a fan favorite, as has the character’s love affair with trans model Angel (Indya Moore). In our exclusive video interview with Curiel (watch above), the actor talks about what he has learned from Papi and filming what he calls one of the most terrifying scenes of his career.
Fans of Angel and Papi rejoiced during the penultimate episode as the couple tied the knot in a lavish wedding. Curiel argues that it was important for Angel and Papi to get their happily ever after. “I thought it was a beautiful touch to the stories that we’ve told to give a black trans woman a happy ending,” he says. “I thought that was extremely important for the black trans women that tune in to watch the show and see themselves on a weekly basis that they have a happy ending, specifically because we live in a world that does not give them happy endings.”
Despite the scene’s sense of joy, it also provided Curiel with what he calls his most terrifying challenge to date– singing in front of the entire cast and crew. “When I saw that I was going to have to do that and people were actually going to have to listen to my voice, it was really terrifying,” he admits. “I did it and I felt naked, but it was the most liberating experience I had ever encountered.”
Looking back on his “Pose” journey, Curiel believes that the role of Papi is meaningful to more than just the queer community. The actor believes that there are also lessons for heterosexual men about the definition of masculinity. “The greatest joy of playing Papi is making sure that cisgendered straight men can see themselves and say ‘Hey, I also love a black trans woman and there’s no shame in that,'” he explains.
In a way, Curiel says that Papi has also taught the actor how to be more forgiving and more loving. “I’ll be brutally honest with myself…when people hurt me I’m very much out of sight, out of mind, and I’m learning that’s not healthy,” he confesses. “[Papi] cuts that cycle of trauma, that cycle of pain, which is something I see in Papi but don’t necessarily see in myself. So I’m learning to adapt.”
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