Before Ryan Murphy jumps ship to Netflix, he’s leaving FX with one more jewel to add to its crown, with the upcoming ballroom drama Pose. The network just debuted the trailer, and it looks unlike anything Murphy has done before. In fact, it looks unlike anything else on television. Taking a page from Paris Is Burning, Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary about New York City ball culture, the series is shot in vérité style, incorporating several filming techniques, from lush, saturated colors, to black and white, to grainy 16 millimeter. And while it only teases the ballroom dancing side of things, Pose will explore various facets of ‘80s New York (it’s set in 1986), including the opulence and wealth defined by the rise of Donald Trump. Before the show’s June 3rd premiere, here’s a primer for everything you need to know about this groundbreaking show.
Pose is making history.
From the moment Pose was announced, Murphy made it clear that he intended to break barriers with the show’s casting, and he delivered on that promise. Pose features the largest cast of transgender actors in series-regular roles, and the largest recurring LGBTQ cast for a scripted U.S. TV series ever. In an industry where cis actors are routinely cast as trans characters, and straight actors play gay characters on a regular basis, this is a big deal. MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar and Angelica Ross are the five trans actors leading the series, and Murphy described casting them as an emotional experience. “When I got to call the actors on the stage and say ‘Hey you got the part,’ that was a very fulfilling, emotional experience,” Murphy told Variety earlier this year. “There were times when I felt that I was never going to be allowed to show the best of who I am. Me getting to help people do that now—it’s very powerful.”
Ryan Murphy is reuniting with old friends.
While Pose will introduce viewers to some new faces, Murphy has surrounded himself with familiar ones both in front of and behind the camera. Murphy conceived of the show with Brad Falchuk who worked with him on Glee and American Horror Story, and executive producers include Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson, who work on the American Crime Story franchise, as well as Alexis Martin Woodall, who worked with Murphy on The Normal Heart, Feud, and American Horror Story. Evan Peters, who is contractually obliged to appear in every Ryan Murphy joint in existence, will star alongside Kate Mara, who appeared in season one of American Horror Story, as “New Jersey couple ‘Stan’ and ‘Patty,’ who get sucked into the glamour and intrigue of New York City.”
And he’s making some new ones.
To accurately capture the transgender experience, Murphy recruited trans activist Janet Mock to write and produce on the show. “This is an opportunity to have these people sitting with one another, having problematic relationships, exploring class and gender and sexuality in a way that is accessible but also unique enough and personal enough,” Mock said during a panel at the Television Critics Association earlier this year. Also on board is Our Lady J, the trans musician and writer who writes and produces for Transparent, Amazon’s barrier-breaking show and consultants who were around during the drag ball heyday, such as Victor Xtravaganza of the House of Xtravaganza.
Rounding out this cast that is said to total about 50 actors is James Van der Beek, playing the kind of financial hotshot that came to embody the rise of Wall Street, and the greed and corruption that came along with it. Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany was initially cast as a dance instructor, before Murphy reimagined the role as an older character, and recast it with Charlayne Woodard, who you might remember as Aunt Janice on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Will there be a second season?
When it was first announced, Pose was described as an anthology series, so it is unclear if the story will continue after the eight episode first season with the same characters, or if the producers and writers will look to explore a different aspect of dance culture in another part of the world. And while Murphy’s various anthologies will continue to exists on FX, where he’s had a 15-year relationship, Murphy recently signed an historic $300 million dollar deal to produce content for Netflix, making Pose his final new show for FX.