With Pose, the FX TV series set in the gay and transgender ball culture of New York City at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, Janet Mock, already recognized as a gifted writer, is making her mark as a producer and director.
“Directing was never on my list of things -- I didn’t think it was a possibility,” Mock said while appearing on a panel with Pose co-creator Ryan Murphy on the 21st Century Fox lot in Los Angeles Thursday night.
But after a quick read of Redefining Realness, Mock's memoir, Murphy knew Mock would be the perfect addition to the show's team. Mock, who is transgender, and Murphy, who is gay, hired five trans women of color as series regulars and hundreds of other transgender actors and crew members. Pose is “without question the highlight of my career,” Murphy said. That's quite a statement, as Murphy's career has also included the hit TV series Glee, American Horror Story, and Feud, and the Broadway revival of The Boys in the Band.
Mock has been a producer on every episode of Pose and a writer on three, and she directed the sixth episode, “Love Is the Message,” which aired last Sunday. The episode provides an intimate look at the relationship of a couple struggling with AIDS in their last days together as well the themes of family and community as the disease affects the lives of others, particularly the trans characters of Blanca and Angel.
The episode's subject matter resonated with Mock, she said. “A lot of the conversations that the women have about their desires, their dreams, their bodies, love, hope, romance, all of that stuff, is channeled through my experience. All the things I didn’t have, Angel [Indyah Moore] has access to,” she said. The directing credit made Mock the first transgender woman of color to direct, write, and produce a television series.
“How I got here was through writing about myself, through telling the truth, through committing to telling my story," Mock saud. “My book is the first book I’ve ever seen written by a trans person of color, in terms of trans memoir. So that’s how it all started. And I think that book got to Ryan in some way, and he saw something there, and he said, ‘Leave the world of books and come to TV.’”
Murphy, who has long been a champion of LGBT people as well as other “hurting” communities, made his aim with Pose to highlight the stories of people of color, particularly trans people of color, a community that still faces many hardships.
“For so long the business has been controlled by straight white men over 50, who like to reward and mentor the vision that they see, which is themselves,” Murphy said. Mock's work on the series allows a different type of voice to be heard.
Pose airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on FX.