The debut season of "Pose" gave us an inside look at the ’80s "fairy tale," underground world created by the LGBTQ community in New York City. But, what happens to that safe space when the doors fly open and cameras flood in?
"Pose" season 2 picks up in 1990 when Madonna’s "Vogue" track was climbing its way to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and the city’s ballroom scene was suddenly on an intriguing climb to potentially become "mainstream."
"The reason they created this space wasn’t just to have a safe space and to have families, but to have a piece of what everyone else has," says "Pose" co-executive producer, writer and director, Janet Mock. Clarifying that by "everyone" she means white, straight, cisgender people, the history-making producer explains the city’s ball scene was born out of a desire to have a taste of the American dream New York’s LGBTQ individuals of the ’80s thought they’d never have.
"They’re able to have these things but we’re not, so we create a fantasy world where we can," Mock says. "But now, it’s not a fantasy anymore because it’s possible."
Mock, previously an editor for People.com, relates to the notion of believing something to be out of reach that many "Pose" characters embodied in season 1. With the release of "Pose," she made television history as the first trans woman of color to write, direct and produce for a major network series.
"This was never a part of my plan," she says. "This show has changed my life."
By the end of 2019, Mock will have several hours of television under her belt, between her directorial work on "Pose" and Netflix’s upcoming series "The Politician." On Wednesday, she made history again when she signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar deal with Netflix. She’s the first trans woman of color to do so.
“I understand the burden and the weight of being the first,” she says in a Variety video announcing the creative deal. "I am the Trojan horse."
For Mock, Keri Russell’s "Felicity," which aired on The WB between 1998 and 2002, served as enough inspiration to move to New York City and follow her own dreams. She hopes her work on "Pose" does the same for other young LGBTQ New Yorkers who might be too timid to add "director" to their goals.
"I hope when other people view it, like the kid that I was watching at home, they say they want to be a director, not just an actor," she says.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the longing to become an actor, she adds, noting that "Pose" has done something "everyone said was not possible" by hiring a record number of transgender actors to play trans roles on TV.
"You can’t have a show that’s not only the majority people of color but at the same time ‘has mainstream universality,’ whatever that means," she recalls people proclaiming before "Pose’s" success.
Aside from earning critical praise, Ryan Murphy’s "Pose" is the winner of the GLAAD Media award for outstanding drama series and the 2019 Peabody Award for entertainment. It’s up for four Television Critics Association awards and is eyeing Emmy consideration.
In its second season, the ballroom scene is finding popularity just as "Pose" is nearly three decades after the release of Madonna’s single.
"["Vogue"] frames the first half of the season," Mock says. "It will … propel our characters in different ways. How will they react to the spotlight and to the attention that comes into a world they created for themselves? It is now being seen by those who have never entered those doors."
"When those doors open," she adds, "some want them to be closed to keep their safe spaces, some see opportunity for a greater, grander more real future. Some see it as, we’ve been rehearsing for years and now it’s showtime."
Entering the ’90s, the series also puts a heavy focus on the AIDS/HIV crisis. Lead house mom Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) and Pray Tell (Billy Porter) introduce their families to ACT UP protests and safe sex, while Sandra Bernhard, an activist AIDS nurse, educates about pharmaceuticals and medical care.
"Pose" airs new episodes Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.