During a FYC screening of the finale of FX’s groundbreaking series “Pose,” Ryan Murphy surprised attendees with a special appearance by two very significant fans of the three-season sensation: Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish.
John and Furnish joined Murphy, co-creator Steven Canals and stars Mj Rodriguez and Billy Porter onstage at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday during a post-screening Q&A. John and Furnish have been tireless advocates for LGTBQ rights and HIV-AIDS medical advances for decades through their Elton John AIDS Foundation, and expressed their deep admiration for the way the series authentically chronicled the ’80s-era New York ballroom scene and the HIV epidemic while dramatically increasing the visibility of trans characters on television.
“I lived the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s,” said John, who revealed how profoundly taken he’s been by the authenticity of the show’s storylines and characters. “This series touched me more than any other series because of the journey that these people are on…They’re real people, and they’re trans people who’ve made their life possible, but by god, they had to fight for it — and they still have to fight for it. And they shouldn’t have to fight for it. They should never have to fight for it.”
Furnish noted that he also felt the series offered a valuable education for generations that are unaware of the history of HIV-AIDS, paving the way for a further destigmatization of the disease and greater awareness of medical advances now used to combat and control it.
“With the medicines that we have today, if everybody knew about HIV, knew they were at risk and had access to testing and treatment, we could stop this disease dead in its tracks,” said Furnish. “It’s really important that we don’t forget, and ‘Pose’ just brings it to life so, so magnificently.”
It was then revealed that the couple rescheduled their vacation plans to be able to attend the event because of their passion for “Pose.” “A lot of praise should be given and a lot of credit to Ryan for making sure this program got made because it’s true. It never rings false,” John said. “And those outfits – my dear!”
John expressed feeling a particular kinship to one “Pose” persona in particular. “I am Elektra,” he proclaimed. “I am totally Elektra.”
Murphy unspooled an anecdote from his childhood that he’d long wanted to share with John, recalling being a gay 7-year-old with a traditional, hetero-masculine father he’d never quite connected to – until one day while riding with his father in the car, John’s 1975 hit “Philadelphia Freedom” came on the radio.
“I was like, ‘You know what, I’m just going to be me,’ and I performed the shit out of ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ in the back seat of that car, and my father saw me for the first time, thanks to Elton John,” Murphy recalled. ‘We pulled into my driveway and he looked at me and he goes, ‘You have a good voice,’ and it was the first time he had ever said anything kind to me. So you’re so a part of my life, Elton, in a way that you’ll never know.”
Speaking to Variety prior to the Q&A, Porter, who recently publicly revealed his HIV-positive status, reflected on the outreach he received in the wake of his announcement. “There have been so many DMs,” he said. “People have sent me texts, photos of people who have posted online and have thanked me for the whole situation. And it’s the people who I don’t know that have the most powerful impact on me, because we can never know who we touch. We can never know the magnitude of the reach. My hope is that I just can keep reaching folks.”
Canals told Variety that Porter privately informed him during production on “Pose’s” pilot. “I believe I was one of only a handful of people that he had disclosed this to,” he said. “It wasn’t a conversation that we ever had again throughout the season, and I never shared his private information with anyone that was part of the production, nor the writer’s room.
“So when it came up again at the end of this season, what was the most important for me was just to let him know that he had a support network and that he had a safe space,” Canals continued. “For anyone who watches the finale, you know that we were asking him to go to very deep, very emotional places and having to really face his own mortality as a person, so I just wanted to make sure that I was sensitive to that.”
“It meant so much to me,” Rodriguez said of Porter’s reveal. “I had known about it for a very long time. I was entrusted with that information and knew that was something that you just don’t talk about until the person themselves take that moment to do it, and what a beautiful way to do it to the world… He was the only person that can do that and I was just so happy that he did it.”