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The new FX drama Pose, about the ballroom culture of New York City in 1987, comes from two of the creators of the Fox phenomenon Glee: Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (the third creator of Pose is Steven Canals). Like the original script for Glee, which Murphy and Falchuk created with Ian Brennan, Pose also was quite bleak until Murphy pushed for a more aspirational tone; it’s still hardly Sesame Street.
“Within the first six minutes, you learn that your leading lady has HIV, but you get to see the daily small victories,” explains Murphy. “This community has those victories. Nobody has more joy in their hearts, because they fought hard to be authentic.” Adds Canals: “The thing I learned in working with Ryan is if you want your community to be viewed in a positive light, then put that positivity out there. Infuse the work with the joy that you want to see.”
While Pose doesn’t stray from discussing the darker sides of the ’80s in New York City, like drugs and disease, the series is, at its core, about family. “I think the thing that people are surprised about is that, in many ways, Pose is my most wholesome show,” says Murphy. Falchuk adds, “What I love about the show and what I find so subversive about it is that it’s really not that unusual in terms of the storytelling. It’s not that unusual in terms of the characters. It’s really simple and it’s very straightforward, and it has themes and ideas everyone can relate to—families, communities, wanting attention, getting validation.”
Everett Collection; JoJo Whilden/FX
Pose shares other qualities with Glee, including a fresh-faced cast and elaborate musical numbers. Falchuk and Murphy admit they’ve applied lessons learned from that musical blockbuster, particularly with outside opinions getting in the way of story. Explains Murphy, “My favorite seasons of Glee were 1 and 2. We really created them in a bubble, and we didn’t care what other people thought, and we made it for us. And then what happened with me is, the show became a phenomenon. It was the first time ever that I got sucked into that fan social media stuff. Then, you would read about who people would like, and I think that I lost my way a little bit. And I’m not doing that in this. If I was influenced by those other things, then I don’t think [writer/producers] Steven Canals and Janet Mock and Our Lady J would ever let me, anyway. So I feel like there’s just more checks and balances in place with this show.”
Pose airs Sundays at 9 p.m.