The end of Pose’s first season was full of triumph. House of Evangelista made waves at the Princess Ball, where house mother Blanca Evangelista (Mj Rodriguez) took home the trophy, and bragging rights, for Mother of the Year.
Pose, at its core, is a story about family. The people we choose to surround ourselves with, who shower us with love. That idea continues in season two, premiering tonight, which includes a small time jump into the 90s.
Co-creator Steven Canals said that the time hop was necessary in order to present new, meatier material to tackle this season.
“We recognized that 1990 felt like the perfect year,” Canals told ESSENCE. “It was the first year that a Black mayor was elected in New York, David Dinkins. Act Up [continued] to serve as an advocate for the LGBTQ community, dying of AIDS. Then in the midst of all this, you had Madonna’s “Vogue” reaching number one on Billboard, and the ballroom community went from being a subculture to mainstream.”
It will likely be a transformative year for TV’s favorite characters, who will also be tackling their own personal challenges as they move through the world.
“A large part of the season arc is exploring the challenges of Blanca as a mother of a large house,” Canals hinted. “What is she going to do to encourage her children to forge their path and basically live their best lives without her identity?”
It’s a question made all the more urgent as Blanca comes to terms with her own HIV diagnosis. As the disease continues to spread through the LGBTQ community, many members, including Pray Tell (Billy Porter) take to the streets to use their voices to raise awareness.
Fans can also expect to see Angel (Indya Moore), Blanca’s righthand woman, and Elektra (Dominique Jackson), former mother of the House of Abundance, pursuing their own dreams.
“What are the triumphs and all the exciting things that come out of pursuing your dreams? What are some of the challenges? Especially now that there’s this spotlight on the community as a result of Madonna’s song popularizing what they do,” Canals added.
Offscreen, Pose is making household names of its cast with its stars landing magazine covers and owning every red carpet they appear on. It’s refreshing and amazing to see the Black and Latino gay and transgender community front and center in their own stories, earning the recognition they deserve. An instance all too rare, unfortunately, when it comes to the stories we see onscreen.
And, often, when the spotlight finally lands, it’s too late. For example, it was recently announced that transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will be honored with monuments in New York City. Authorities claimed Johnson died by suicide in 1992, while Rivera passed away from liver cancer in 2002.
“Retroactively, we’re saying, ‘You did a lot for the community, you did really great work.’ Why weren’t we saying this about them when they were alive?” Canals pondered. “I understand why culturally we were resistant to acknowledge their contributions then, but at this point we have no excuse not to be doing it now.”
Canals points to civil rights activist Bayard Rustin as an example of someone whose story has yet to be told.
Rustin was an openly gay Black man, who played an important role in America’s civil rights movement, helping Martin Luther King Jr. take on a leadership role in the movement, and organizing March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom along with A. Philip Randolph.
“I think Bayard is someone who I can’t believe that someone hasn’t already told his story. Why isn’t there a biopic or a documentary series of his life and what he meant to the Civil Rights Movement? It’s pretty surprising,” Canals said.
Through Pose, Canals gets to tell these previously uncovered stories, shining a light on marginalized communities and people. Finding the familiar thread of family that connects us all in order to create a series that pays homage to the ballroom community, he’s long admired.
“The show is always going to be a family drama at its core. It’s always going to be about celebrating community, but this second season, the stakes are higher and I think we see more of the dangers for our characters living in this very fractured community [of] New York, now the early 90s,” the creator detailed, adding that the first half will “really surprise the audience.”
“I’m excited to see what the conversations will be amongst our viewers, our Pose family. It’s an emotionally heavier season and we don’t shy away from how grim New York was at that time.”
Season two of Pose premieres Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET on FX.