On the Set of 'Pose' as Janet Mock, Indya Moore Film a "Nerve-Racking" Ballroom Scene

Photographed by Matthew Salacuse
"Personality, sex appeal and beauty — Indya’s got it all," Mj Rodriguez (center, arms up) raves of her co-star (hugging Ryan Jamaal Swain). "I’m so proud to play Indya’s house mother."

The Hollywood Reporter visits the New York production of FX's drama during its second season, which takes the series into 1990, the year Madonna released her hit single "Vogue."

Janet Mock made history in 2018 as the first transgender woman of color to direct an episode of TV with Pose's season one standout "Love Is the Message."

This year, Mock — who's also a writer and producer on the groundbreaking FX drama set in New York City's 1980s underground ballroom subculture — is back in the director's chair, helming the third episode of season two, which takes the series into 1990, the year Madonna released her hit single "Vogue." Though Mock, 36, is comfortable leading a set these days — she has also directed for Netflix's The Politician — she is constantly thinking of new ways to challenge herself. During the April 24 shoot, for instance, she found herself orchestrating a labyrinthine one-shot of Indya Moore's character, Angel, entering the ballroom for the cold open of the episode (which will air June 25). "Angel's coming straight from the streets, entering that hallway and walking right onto the runway," Mock tells THR of the complex but impactful scene, which was filmed on a Bronx soundstage made to match the downtown theater where Pose's other balls took place. "We've never done a one-er before with 200-something extras. It's nerve-racking, but I know it'll be worth it."

Mock's instincts were right; 24-year-old Moore delivers, seamlessly navigating the tight space while interacting with background actors — members of the real-life ballroom community — before Angel's win for walking in the "femme queen runway" category. Dressed in a custom denim ensemble, Angel revels in her victory with celebratory twirls across the floor as Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" reverberates throughout the room and blue glitter rains down from the ceiling. Members of the fictional House of Evangelista — Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) and Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) — rush to Angel's side to congratulate her.

According to Moore — who, in recent years, has participated in real-life "raw, nitty-gritty" balls with the legendary House of Xtravaganza — Pose's nostalgic renderings have a bit more sheen. "But that's how it should be," says Moore. "They add drama and sparkle to everything else on TV. Why can't we do it within this context? The over-the-top glamour and beauty we see on this show is what the people who actually attended these balls imagined them to be like back in the day. It's always been a fantasy, a means of escape, for LGBTQ people of color who have been marginalized."

For her part, Mock hopes Pose's glossy interpretations inspire trans youth to dream big. "We want it to be aspirational," she says. "We want young people watching today, who may be stuck in small, close-minded towns, to say, 'I dream of being at that ball. I dream of going to a place where I can feel safe, where I can be celebrated, where I can just be myself.' That's the goal here."

 

This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.