Warning: This article containers spoilers for Pose season 2, episode 4, “Never Knew Love Like This Before.”
The episode, directed by series co-creator Ryan Murphy and written by Murphy and producer Janet Mock, was an emotional tour de force, with the ghost of Candy visiting with her friends at the funeral parlor and, most movingly, reuniting with her estranged parents.
EW talked to Ross about Candy’s tragic ending and saying goodbye to Pose.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When did you find out that Candy would be dying this season?
ANGELICA ROSS: I learned kind of early on. I was living in Atlanta and I moved to New York the end of March, and so I was looking for apartments. I know that they sort of had to know as well that as I’m trying to plan and make plans, and get an apartment and do those things that they would probably need to tell me what’s going on just so that I could make better plans. Ryan called me up before I even sort of landed in New York and let me know that this was going to happen, and I was devastated.
I hadn’t seen the script for even episode 1 yet, but I had known before the season had started that Candy would be passing. It was such a bittersweet thing because I felt like we didn’t have enough time to really get to know… I mean we’ve already fell in love with Candy and her antics and all these things, but we just see her antics. We haven’t really seen much behind those antics. I and I’m sure many of the fans wanted to sort of see more Candy.
It was sort of a bittersweet thing to see Candy get this beautiful sendoff and this beautiful spotlight. But I wish that we had more time with Candy, but we don’t. It’s one of those things that I feel like as soon as I heard the information and was devastated and wanted to first ask, “Why? Why me? Why Candy?” It was just such an echo of the same sentiment to any black trans woman that’s been passing week after week. Why them?
You have to spend a huge amount of this episode in a casket. Was that surreal?
Oh, yes. It was just so hard. One of the things is that you don’t realize that a casket is not built for your comfort. You know what I’m saying? So, it’s one of those things where I’m like, “Oh, this is uncomfortable. Okay.” Laying in there for I don’t know how many hours at a time, I had to be in the casket and out of the casket, and ghost Candy. But we had a body double. After a certain while, I was like, “Go get her. Go get the body double.” [Laughs] I was laying in that casket so much. “Go get that body double!”
Candy and Pray Tell obviously have a combative relationship on screen. What was it like working with Billy Porter?
I like to think of Billy Porter as my sister. I like to say that I’m Venus Williams and he’s Serena Williams. I just feel like when you play a good person, just like a good back-and-forth. Like I know your game. Especially some people, like the Williams sisters, they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. With tennis, it’s all about your game, but it’s also when you play with someone who’s a great player, your game gets even stronger. That’s how I felt every time that Billy Porter and I had scenes together. I was playing a great tennis match with my sister.
The moments where Candy confronts her parents are so emotional and raw. Were they as intense to shoot?
Yes. Basically, shooting those scenes was so raw that Ryan Murphy came up to me and [the other actress] and he was like, “Hey, I want you guys to go over your lines so we can get ready to shoot this thing.” I’m like, “No. We’re not gonna rehearse these lines.” He was like, “Okay, let’s shoot it.” It was sitting on our chest. The moment that they said action, it was all real. I didn’t know how I would respond to her, but I just knew that it would be real.
There’s a moment when she says, “I’ve missed you,” and my line is, “I’ve missed you, too.” I didn’t know how I was going to do the lines, but I realized that Candy had been waiting to hear those words forever, and so she couldn’t just tell her, “I missed you, too,” right away. It just hit her so hard at first.
What was your last scene that you shot?
The performance was my last scene. So I was saying goodbye to everyone really in that scene.
So was the funeral set built next to the ballroom set?
Yeah. They knew from the beginning that that was going to be the situation, so they built the funeral to go into the ballroom. In many of those ballroom scenes when we were filming, we were relaxing in the funeral.
Did you pick the song, “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” by Stephanie Mills, or was that Ryan and the producers?
They picked the song. As soon as I heard the first chord for the song, I was in tears. It sounds like an organ at a funeral in the beginning.
How many times did you have to do that performance?
That performance I did a lot. I could not believe how many [times] in those heels. But yeah, this came from my bootcamp training of doing drag in bars for 15 years and doing lip-syncing. That’s why when she’s saying, “Lip-syncing is the future,” me and so many of the girls are ballroom-adjacent in the pageant community, and lip-syncing was our main tool. I knew I had that in my back pocket. So that’s where I knew and I felt very close to Candy because I’m like, “Had y’all created this lip-sync category before I would’ve been mopping the floor with you bitches.” [Laughs]. The Candy slipped out. She just slipped right on out.
In that final performance, you get to say goodbye to everyone. What was that like to film?
It was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking because no one wanted to see me go. That’s the thing. No one. This wasn’t a punitive situation where I’m like a tantrum-type actress that wanted to just get right off the show. No. No one. What was so amazing about that scene is that I knew that everybody wanted a moment with Candy.
As I’m going around, my choreography, I was doing it on the fly in such a way that I wanted to be organic to each person. Whatever they wanted to do, I vibed with them on what they wanted to do. It was just me saying goodbye to them. No one wanted to see me go.
As much as Pose is a celebration, it also showcases the struggles of the trans community. Candy’s murder is obviously shedding a light on the danger trans men and women are put in on a daily basis.
I honestly feel like the phoenix that is sort of rising out of Candy’s ashes. I am Candy. Candy is me, and so the reality is that walking out of my house today, the possibility is that my story could end the same way. My story can end in violence, too. But to see the possibility which I think that people are going to get to see because I’m already working on some amazing projects is that they’re going to see a black trans woman get her life. I feel like in the same similar ways that Candy got her life in the afterlife, you just want to think that somewhere they’re living their life. I feel like we haven’t seen the last of Candy, so I think both of us are going to be able to get our lives.
Looking back now, what has the experience of being a part of Pose been like?
Filming on Pose for me was a process of affirmation. I am someone who, I talk about the fact that many trans people, we all had dreams before becoming activists and advocates just because we had to, and we had to sort of put on all this armor. I always talk about us being able to put down that armor and return back to our sort of field of dreams. Those places and those things that we wanted to be before we had to pick up all of that armor.
For me, being on Pose is like a welcome back to my field of dream in a way. For 13 years, I did musical theater. I had to do tap dance and ballet, and was in jazz choir and swing choir. Learned how to play piano by ear in the fourth grade, then learned how to play guitar. Then, to be in a place where Ryan Murphy, who is known to be someone who works with the best, and him telling you that you’re amazing.
But to also be working with people who are the best at their jobs. What I am doing the whole time is being a sponge because I know as much work as I’ve done and been able to do, as long as I’ve been acting on stage, and now I’m just a little bit on camera, I’m at the beginning of my career. I’m soaking in everything that I possibly can soak in. I’m being also affirmed to say that you belong here. That’s what feels amazing about it.
What’s next for you?
I’m actually going to work right now, yeah. Yes, I am working on some really big projects that I can’t talk about yet but I’m pretty sure that’ll be announced very soon. But yeah, I’m already working on some major projects. I’m executive-producing my web series and I’m working on developing Like a Butterfly, which is a series based off of my time doing sex work and selling real estate.