‘Pose’ Team Talks Expanding Exploration of AIDS Epidemic in Season 2

When “Pose” returns for its second season on FX, it will jump forward in time a year.

“Season 2 will begin in 1989 and end in March of 1990 when Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ is released,” executive producer Ryan Murphy revealed at the Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the show Friday.

“That song took something that was unknown in the culture and made it mainstream, and this season will be about our characters, how their community was made known to the world.”

While Murphy says he has had “a good relationship with Madonna thus far” and “she was lovely enough this season to give us a couple of her tracks,” he doesn’t know that he wants to bring her on in a guest role.

“Stunt casting is not what the show is about,” he noted. And “I don’t know how she’d feel about playing 1990 Madonna.”

The writers’ room for the second season of “Pose” will start up again in the second week of September. Creator Steven Canals shared that he loves “that our show is grounded socio-politically in the late-’80s” and would love to “dig deeper into AIDS activism” in the second season.

The characters of Blanca (MJ Rodriguez) and Pray Tell (Billy Porter) both received HIV-positive diagnoses in the first season of the show, which is not a story they will shy away from in the new episodes.

“There is a responsibility to a cold, hard truth, and I think we will see it on the show,” Murphy said. “We haven’t gotten there yet, but the second season will very much be Blanca and Pray Tell’s HIV experience.”

Sandra Bernard, who plays Nurse Judy, will return for the second season, Murphy revealed. Although he admitted they don’t yet know how they would handle a steep decline of either Blanca or Pray Tell’s character, he said they “want to be truthful about it because it was a very dark time.”

Producer, writer and director Janet Mock added that although the show is a “great homage” to the issues the transgender community was grappling with three decades ago, it is also reflective of hurdles many in the community still face, including hostile environments in their homes, schools and places of worship, as well as a “society that isn’t centering them.”

“There are certain people who can tell all kinds of stories and others who don’t have access to even get in those rooms, so what I love about our show and our show getting a second season [is] we have new life to be able to show that a series can cast five trans women playing trans women and there are hundreds of others who come on for smaller roles or background roles,” Mock said.

“I think our show is proof that trans people can play trans people on screen and you don’t need a star name to tell a story that is powerful and impactful and deeply affirming.”

Murphy noted that when they first started casting the show, they were told “it was probably going to be really hard.

“But it was the easiest because the talent pool was so vast and so wide,” Murphy said. “People who didn’t get some of the roles in the pilot were so beautiful and so talented and so eager we wrote roles for them. We kept doing that as the season progressed. Someone who came in for a one-liner or two lines would suddenly get a huge scene.”

This moves storytelling to a point where “it’s not special” to showcase a transgender character, star Indya Moore said. “It’s more normalized to see people acting who also happen to be trans.”

“Seeing the interactions between Stan and Angel [and how they] hugged in public, to the ways that Stan speaks about his admiration for Angel that had nothing to do with her sexually, [that] changed forever how trans people are seen and the way our bodies are seen to the world,” Moore said.

“Seeing the way Angel is appreciated and loved … it’s something so many trans women needed to see — so many people needed to see.”

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