Spoiler alert: Do not read if you are yet to watch the series finale of “Pose”.
“Pose” viewers were left heartbroken during Sunday’s series finale as Billy Porter’s character, Pray Tell, lost his battle to HIV/AIDS.
The show’s co-creator and executive producer Steven Canals has now spoken out about the powerful episode, telling People: “The loss of Pray Tell was something that I landed on in the second season. It was while we were in the midst of writing our second season that I realized our show has always been grounded in truth and authenticity.
“I just felt like we would be lying [and] we would be doing a disservice to the reality of these characters and the truth of what happened in New York in the ’80s and ’90s to queer and trans Black and brown people if we didn’t see loss because of a lack of access to quality care and if we didn’t see some form of sacrifice.”
Canals added, “The truth is that HIV/AIDS, prior to the cocktail and even after the cocktail because you had to have access to it, was really eviscerating the entire queer and trans community. So to have not one but three [main] characters [in season 3] living with HIV and to have them all just do well and never see them struggle with their health, it didn’t completely feel real.”
Canals said that “by the time we got to the middle of the second season, we always knew that we were writing toward the loss of Pray Tell.”
Pray Tell’s AIDS-related death came after Porter opened up about his own battle with HIV for the first time since his diagnosis 14 years ago.
— Billy Porter (@theebillyporter) June 6, 2021
Canals explained how the actor had previously told him about his diagnosis before “Pose”was even picked up to series.
“I never brought it up ever in the writers’ room either, so we didn’t talk about it again until it was halfway through the third season,” he said.
“[Billy] pulled me aside and we had another conversation about how moved he was by the story that we were telling and how it was really helping him to work through his own hurts and his traumas,” Canals recalled. “That was really important for him and for his own healing. Obviously, it was all the more important and really special for me to direct him in the finale to hold space for him and to support him emotionally because I was hyper aware that, both on the page and then on-screen, we were asking Billy to go to these really scary places. I just wanted to make sure that he knew that I was going to be there for him.”
Canals went on to reveal how the only character’s fate he knew from the beginning was Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista, played by Mj Rodriguez, who also battled HIV.
“I always knew right from the onset that Blanca was going to live. I think there was always questions especially on social media from fans of the show, like, ‘I hope Blanca is okay,'” he said. “She’s our lead, she’s our protagonist. I know there are plenty of shows that the protagonists dies, often in the finale, but… there was never a question for me that Blanca was going to live. It’s her show. The story revolves around her and her friends and her family.”
“Pose”, which premiered in 2018, also starred the likes of Dominique Jackson (Elektra), Indya Moore (Angel), Hailie Sahar (Lulu), Dyllón Burnside (Ricky), Angel Bismark Curiel (Lil Papi), Ryan Jamaal Swain (Damon), and Angelica Ross (Candy).
A synopsis read, “While New York witnesses the evolution of the ball culture and the rise of the Trump-era, an LGBTQ ball fixture, Blanca, starts her own house and turns mother to a gifted dancer and a sex worker.”
Despite coming to an end after three seasons, Canals insisted: “‘Pose’ is not a moment, it’s a movement. What we’ve accomplished with our show is so much bigger than just the show, so I hope that our audience knows that. I know that they’re disappointed and they feel like we only got three seasons and we wanted more story, but the thing I’m excited about is on the heels of what we’ve accomplished that we’ll see more ‘Poses’ down the line.”