‘Pose’ creator celebrates ‘incredible souls’ of 1980sNEW YORK - In the premiere episode of the new FX series “Pose,’’ a young black man hoping to be a star modern dancer is escorted into his first drag ball. Wild-eyed, he eagerly soaks it in. It quite literally makes him speechless.
In front of him are members of his fellow LGBTQ community dressed in high-fashion finery, strutting down a runway with fierce glamour and arch confidence as their friends cheer. It is 1987, in a gritty part of New York hit hard by crack and AIDS, and yet this is an act of defiance.
“We are not going to be walking the red carpet at the Oscars but this is our moment to become a star,’’ our aspiring dancer is told by his escort. “Balls are a gathering of people who are not welcome to gather anywhere else.’’
“Pose,’’ which airs Sundays, dreamed up by newcomer Steven Canals and ushered into production by mega-producer Ryan Murphy, acts as our escort into a world that has never been celebrated on TV before, starring the largest LGBTQ cast ever for a scripted series.
“The fact that this incredible community of black and brown queer and trans people could find a way to create community and family and survive in the face of poverty and disease and violence just astounded me,’’ he said. “So ‘Pose’ really came out of not only wanting to write a love letter about New York but also a way to just pay homage to these incredible souls.’’
Canals, who was born in the South Bronx, came across the balls in his 20s and wrote the original draft of “Pose’’ in 2014 while working on his master’s at UCLA. When he tried to get it made, he faced plenty of resistance from TV executives.
“There were execs who were just blatantly transphobic and racist, who were like, ‘The show is too queer, too trans, too black, too brown, it’s a period piece, and you don’t have a name so no one is ever going to make this.’’’
While some of the topics are heavy - drugs, AIDS and even anti-trans bigotry at the hands of white gay men - the creators have built the series on optimism and the universal yearning to create a family.
The drama contains multiple overlapping stories, including the ballroom rivalry between two houses run by two very different den mothers (Mj Rodriguez and Dominique Jackson). Ryan Jamaal Swain plays the dancer who is thrown out by his parents for being gay and learns about this subculture.
There is also a social-climbing businessman (Evan Peters) who falls in love with Angel (Indya Moore), a transgender prostitute. And there’s Billy Porter, winner of a Tony Award for wearing 34-inch red leather boots in “Kinky Boots,’’ who plays the balls’ organizer and MC.