Ryan Murphy’s ‘Pose’ Series Makes History Casting 5 Trans Actors as Series Regulars
Over the past few years, transgender actors have slowly been getting cast in more prominent roles on TV, but the majority of those are often guest roles, or even more rare, recurring roles. But there have been few trans actors cast as series regulars, including Star’s Amiyah Scott, Sense8‘s Jamie Clayton, and Laverne Cox on the since-cancelled Doubt. But you can thank Ryan Murphy for making history today and helping to change that.
FX announced on Wednesday that Murphy’s upcoming series Pose, a drama set around 1980s ball culture in NYC and the luxury of the Trump-era universe, will feature the largest cast of trans actors in series regular roles – five, to be exact. Along with casting director Alexa Fogel, Murphy went on a six-month long casting search for his show. Pose’s cast will include Claws and Her Story star Angelica Ross as Candy, MJ Rodriguez from Luke Cage and Nurse Jackie as Blanca, model and actress Indya Moore (Saturday Church, Angel) playing Angel, model and Strut star Dominique Jackson as Elektra, and Hailie Sahara from Transparent and Mr. Robot as Lulu. Pose will also star Billy Porter (Kinky Boots) as Pray Tell, Ryan Jamaal Swaine as Damon, and Dyllon Burnside as Ricky, with more casting news to come. The press release notes that all five trans actors will playing “authentic trans characters,” which leads to my next question: OK, but who’s writing those characters?
Luckily, Murphy has wisely brought on multiple people of trans experience, and queer folks of color, to write and consult on the film. Co-creator Steven Canals, a queer writer of color, is penning the series along with Transparent writer Our Lady J and none other than activist and writer Janet Mock. Trans filmmaker Silas Howard, who’s helmed multiple episodes of Transparent along with This Is Us, will co-executive produce the show, and Murphy’s Half Initiative plans to bring on emerging trans directors to be mentored. But wait, it gets even better; Pose isn’t just bringing on trans creatives from the film industry, but known figures from the ball scene.
The series will be consulted by ballroom icon Michael Roberson, Twiggy Pucci Garcon, activist and co-writer of Sera Jordeno’s Kiki from earlier this year, along with figures from the ball scene in the ‘80s including Hector Xtravaganza, found, Skylar King and Sol Williams. Acclaimed vogue dancer Leiomy Maldonado and Beyoncé and Janet Jackson choreographer Danielle Polonco will be choreographing the series.
Back in March when FX first announced the series it was especially questionable that a gay cisgender white creator like Murphy was helming a series about an influential scene – yes, ball culture is where Madonna got “Vogue” – that originated in the queer and transgender community with folks of color. We’ve already seen the blowback this year when black trans women are excluded from telling their stories when Netflix’s Marsha P. Johnson documentary garnered controversy. But it’s incredibly reassuring that Murphy is seeking to tell the story of the ball scene with diverse queer and trans people on and off screen. There are so many ways to approach this topic wrong, from casting to developing scripts, but it looks like Murphy is set out to do it right. We’ll see how he pulls it off when the show eventually debuts.
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