Steven Canals Interview: ‘Pose’ creator
“I wanted to affirm LGBTQ people’s lives,” declares “Pose” co-creator and co-executive producer Steven Canals. In our recent webchat, he talks passionately about watching his vibrant and authentic series spread a message of joy and survival. With a world that frequently tells queer folk that their voices and lives don’t matter, Canals believes “it is critically important to remind everyone… you are still a part of this incredible community. And you are deserving of love and joy.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Canals first wrote his first draft of the “Pose” pilot as a UCLA student, shortly after watching Jennie Livingston’s legendary documentary “Paris is Burning.” Though his parents grew up in Harlem, he admits, “I don’t think I nor my family had any idea that this incredible community existed.” The documentary follows New York’s drag ballroom scene of the 1980’s and a young Canals was shocked that no one had dramatized that particular culture. The creator was fascinated by the juxtaposition presented in “Paris.” There’s a “cultural, socio-political layer to the narrative, but then there’s also that vibrancy and the joy. I always felt like that would be such a beautiful marriage for narrative content.”
Canals spent about two years trying to turn his pilot into a series within a resistant industry. But a fateful teaming with Ryan Murphy helped turn the dream into reality. Murphy was immediately a great fit for the project, as evidenced by his desire to start “casting authentically.” With five trans women of color in the main cast, “Pose” has the largest cast of transgender performers on television. That diversity extends to the writers room as well. In addition to Murphy and his collaborator Brad Falchuk, trans writers Janet Mock and Our Lady J round out the main five person team. Canals is grateful for their collaboration because “everyone brings their full self to ‘Pose.’ Everyone is so willing to open up their hearts to this narrative.”
The series is a hit for FX. It was recently nominated for Drama Series and Drama Actor (Billy Porter) at the Golden Globes. The hotly anticipated Season 2 premieres during Pride Month on June 11th (in New York, where the city is gearing up to host World Pride, high fashion posters with star MJ Rodriguez are just as present as rainbow flags). It’s quite an accomplishment for a script that was once deemed “too niche” by many an executive.
Canals notes that the LGBTQ community is one where the history of its people is not taught in most schools, or seen in a majority of media. One has to go out and seek that knowledge. So ultimately he is happy that “Pose” is telling authentic stories from that community. He hopes the series shows queer people that “you can go out there and find your tribe.”