Pose producer Janet Mock on the finale and that Whitney Houston moment
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the Pose season 2 finale, “In My Heels.”
It’s looking like a whole different world for the next season of Pose.
The second season finale of the FX series found the entire House of Evangelista basically going their separate ways. Angel (Indya Moore) and Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel) got engaged and went off to Berlin for a shoot. Damon (Ryan Jamaal Swain) continued his ever-growing career in dance. Even Ricky (Dyllón Burnside) landed a gig on Paula Abdul’s new tour (LOL).
After facing a health scare, Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) seemed to be on the mend and, by the end of the episode, appeared to rebuild Evangelista by taking in some runaway teens.
EW talked to Pose producer Janet Mock, who also directed the finale, about those twists as well as Blanca’s incredible Whitney Houston lip-synch.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: House of Evangelista basically no longer exists in the way that we knew it. Did you all want to set up a new Pose for season 3?
JANET MOCK: I think, for us, we knew very early on that Blanca is our singular heroine. Everyone else anchors around her but she’s kind of the central force. We knew that the way that she was fighting for her kids very early on, from the second season premiere all the way through, would lead to them having independence. They’re going to grow up and move on. And I think it’s something that most parents do and so we kind of knew that. We didn’t know when in the season we were going to do that but we knew that with Steven Canal’s episode [episode 8] it was going to break and pull at the threads of this family, right? And it ends up with her alone. It’s about her questioning her mortality, her questioning her purpose and dreams. It’s, “My purpose is done. I can move on now because I ain’t got no kids.” And it’s like, “Girl, there’s more kids. There’s many more kids.” With this episode, it really was to reawaken Blanca’s drive to say, “These kids that I love, you know, they’ll always be in my life. They’ll never be in my household again and now I have to figure out what does my new house look like, what does the new Evangelista look like?”
We haven’t talked specifically about season three at all. And so, what will happen is that this will air and we’ll see what everyone feels. We’ll go to the Emmy’s, have a nice celebration, you know, be in a room together. And then we’ll return back to the room and then start fighting each other again about what we want [laughs]. But I think, this set up for this finale, compared to last season, is that we know we have another season so we wanted to do [a finale] where it’s truly about new beginnings.
Was it your idea for Blanca to lip-synch Whitney Houston’s cover of “The Star-Spangled Banner”?
Well, me and Ryan [Murphy, Pose co-creator] were sitting in his home. We broke this [story] over a morning at his home in New York. So we always knew, okay so Blanca’s in the hospital but she’s got to return to the ballroom because it has to end triumphant. And he was like, “But it has to be like a short song.” And then I was just like, “When did Whitney Houston sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’? I think it was in 1991.” He was like, “Oh my God! Can we do that? Is it politically okay for, you know, people of color, to sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’?” And then I was like, “It’s a reclaiming — it’s fine.” We’re reclaiming it in this super subversive way by having black and brown queer and trans characters, like there’s a shot that where she lip-syncs “for the land of the free” and then we pull out to the wider entire ballroom. This is our country as well. We deserve to take up space. This is ours. And then we see her children behind her kneeling and looking at her. It was definitely me and Ryan just kind of like, “Is this ridiculous? Do we do this??” And it’s his favorite thing — he’s watched it like 20 times.
What was it like shooting the men doing the ballroom challenge? I love seeing Billy Porter, who won a Tony for Kinky Boots, pretending not to be able to walk in heels.
I wanted to do “Butch queen first time in drag” from the very beginning and Ryan was like, “Absolutely not. We’re not doing that.” Then for the finale, I think he just was tired. He just let my pitch go. I brought it back out again. Our whole thing this season was about how “Vogue” popularized this space and a lot of looky-loos kinda came into the space. You had half ball-people, half looky-loos and then America moved onto another pop culture craze and the ballroom was thinning out a little bit from HIV/AIDs.
And so we were like, we need to ask the question, “Why aren’t the girls in the ballroom? Why aren’t they there anymore? What’s going on?” Obviously, House of Evangelista’s not together anymore. So they’re not showing up to every ball. Elektra has other things. She has her own family — they’re not really going to the balls. And so we tried to make it a conversation about sexism and misogyny. Then, of course, we want to do it in a fun way. And then the greatest acting that Billy Porter has ever had to do is pretend he doesn’t know how to walk in heels. It’s a fun thing, but it’s also deepening in the sense of now these men kind of understand what these women kind of go through in terms of their performing in that space.
I was so blown away by Mj’s performance in this episode. Is there something you’re particularly proud of as the director of the finale?
It’s Mj’s performance. I took it to heart both times with the Golden Globes and the Emmys with her not being recognized in that way because our show is her. We have all these other great characters and even Billy says it. He was like, “My performance hangs on her. It hangs on Blanca’s story.” And so for me, I think I came in knowing that I wanted to make sure that she as an actor was centered and that she do her best work in it. And she showed up and she did it. And I like the ways in which we reclaimed certain things like recording “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And then also what happens to Angel and then how it inspires Papi, how they get to kind of come together. I love that as well.
So do you imagine season 3 will be Blanca mothering a new House of Evangelista?
I believe there will be a new House of Evangelista. I think that that’s something that we could boldly say that Blanca will likely have new children in season three. It makes sense — her children are grown. They’ll come and go. Family dinner may be bigger. I don’t know if Angel and Papi will have kids of their own. I don’t know what their home lives are going to look like. But I think that they’re also be very tethered to one another even though they go out and branch out and there may be new houses and all that good stuff.