Pose EP breaks up the series finale, the show’s big “Love Story”, and Diana Ross’ swan song (Plus, rate it!)
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the finale of the pose series on Sunday.
Pose bowed with a big (two-hour!) Series finale on Sunday… and unfortunately we had to say goodbye to an old friend.
In the finals, Blanca and Pray Tell fought hard to be included in a trial with an experimental AIDS drug cocktail, and both made a remarkable recovery. (“I’m getting so old people start calling me grandmother,” joked Pray Tell as he took the medication.) But the flamboyant presenter later succumbed to his illness in a heartbreaking manner – and then we learned he was starting giving his medication to Ricky, who had just discovered a wound on his chest. However, Pray Tell and Blanca got one final moment of fame on the balls when they spoke together to Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” complete with an indoor rainstorm.
At Pray Tell’s request, Blanca put some of his ashes in medallions that all her friends could wear – and threw the rest on the mayor’s front yard in protest at the horrific treatment of AIDS patients in the city. Then the finals jumped into 1998 and Blanca is now a full nurse, still with Christopher, enjoying a chatty, Sex and the City-esque lunch with Elektra, Angel and Lulu. (Elektra has never seen this show, however.) Blanca is still a housemother too, with a new group of LGBTQ youth representing the Evangelista’s house at the balls … and of course winning.
To help us process it all, TVLine reached out to Pose’s co-creator / executive producer, Steven Canals – who co-wrote and directed the series finale – for a post-finale chat. Who was the show’s real “love story”? Was Pray Tell Ready To Die? And could the story live on in a spin-off? Read on to find out.
TVLINE | This show was an ensemble from the start, but we didn’t see much of Angel or Papi or Elektra in the finale. Why did you choose to focus mainly on Blanca and Pray Tell?
Part of it is that we’ve already spent time with Elektra and Angel and Papi, and because they have their ends we felt like we’d told their story. But the other really important reason is that this show was secretly always a love story between Blanca and Pray Tell from the start. We tend to think of romantic love when we are [say that]but the reality is that the show was really a love story between these two characters. My reference for their relationship has always been Beaches, one of my favorite films. I’m obsessed with Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler, and I think that was another part of just honoring their relationship and love story.
TVLINE | Blanca says something about not getting a happy ending, but happy moments. Is that what you tried in the finale: to give the characters happy moments without being afraid of the hard things?
Yes, I think the core of the show has always been that delicate balancing act between light and dark, between hard and soft. The truth is that Blanca’s specific lineage is so ingrained in the truth of what we normally see in film and television for historically marginalized people. Especially with queer or transsexual people, we can never completely lean into our joys. Our stories are always rooted in our traumas. In the case of Pose, we wanted to shift the lens and show that we’re happy too, that we don’t always survive, that we can thrive too. But again, a show that is rooted in truth, in authenticity … we are all things. We are versatile people. We are a multitude of moments and experiences, happy moments and sad moments, and so the show has always been about honoring all of that rather than showing just one side at a time.
TVLINE | Pray Tell’s Death: It wasn’t unexpected, but it hit hard nonetheless. Did you always know he wouldn’t survive the show?
I didn’t do that in season one. In my opinion [co-creator] Ryan Murphy would say he had a flair for it in season one, but we didn’t have a conversation about Pray Tell’s death until season two. The conversation had a lot to do with a couple of things, most importantly, if this is a reality based show, why do we have not one but three characters living with HIV and these are three individuals who all happen to be black or Afro-Latin, live on the poverty line, have no access to high-quality medical care, but still live and are healthy? It feels a bit like a stretch. So we had a lot of conversations during season two about the reality of what happened in the New York community in the 80s and 90s at the height of the epidemic, before the cocktail, for us, how realistic are the decisions? that we do on the show? You see us struggle a little with this in season two because we see Pray Tell get sick and he gets hospitalized in our sixth episode, and then you see Blanca get sick and her in our second Season finale is hospitalized. So obviously we went back and forth on the question of losing one of our characters. Again, we knew we would have to make that decision at some point, and it is an important story for us to tell.
TVLINE | Pray Tell suffered a heroic death, essentially sacrificing himself by giving Ricky his HIV medication. Do you feel like at that point he was ready to die?
[Long pause] It’s interesting because we had that conversation at [writers’] Room pretty much. And when I was working on the finale, Ryan Murphy and I had that conversation quite a bit too. I think the reality is that Pray Tell knew the sacrifice he was making in giving Ricky his medication. Whether I would say Pray Tell was ready or not, I leave that to the audience. I really think that every viewer will have their own opinion about it. I have an opinion on this, but I don’t know if it’s fair to share. Obviously he is saying a lot in his dialogues during the finale … and some of them are contradicting itself. In the scene where he is with Blanca when they are preparing for their performance together, he says, “I feel like I’ve done everything.” But in the scene just before that, where Ricky shows his lesion, he says, “I have a new life and I think I might want to get back into designing and go to France.” He had other plans. That’s interesting because I think it forces us all to ask these really important questions.
But I think the most important question is, why? Why did he make the sacrifice for Ricky? And for me this answer lies particularly in the recognition or recognition of Pray Tell that we always had to stand up for one another. We always had to be our own heroes. No one else will ever appear for us in the face of any need as we do for one another. For me, this sacrifice was so much bigger than Pray Tell, the decision to give his medication to a young black gay man living with HIV. It is a reminder to this community and to our audience that as queer and transgender people we will always stand one behind the other at the end of the day.
TVLINE | However, the Diana Ross number was a great night out note. How did you come up with the swan song of Blanca and Pray Tell?
It’s arguably one of my favorite moments on the show. [Laughs] That moment was really organic and very collaborative. We were in the room talking about Blanca and Pray Tell having one last moment together that really felt special before he died. I think I was the one who suggested we should do something other than a song because we’ve seen them sing and I don’t know if they’ll ever trump anything when they sing Home on season one . So I thought, “What else can we do?” I don’t know if it was me or Ryan, but I know we basically thought this way: We have this category, Candy’s Sweet Refrain, and we didn’t see her perform in the ballroom together, so it feels like it would be a very special moment for the finale. We have never seen that before.
That got the wheels going, and then Ryan said, “If we’re going to do this, then we need a really iconic duet. It has to be something great. ”And then Janet Mock said,“ What about ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’? ” and Ryan said, “I love that.” Because we used “Home” sung by Diana Ross on season one … Much of that last season was a series of booking moments from season one. You’ll see that again when you end the series with Whitney Houston’s singing and we end the pilot with Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Similarly, Ryan says, “What if we did the Diana Ross version?” And immediately a light bulb went out and I thought, “Oh my god, we have to do this as a reference to your gig in Central Park, and what if it rains in the ballroom?” And Ryan just started laughing. He just laughed out loud. He said, “This is perfect. We have to do that. ”Really, that’s what happened. It really was that simple. Obviously, knowing I was going to direct, I panicked thinking, “How are we going to get rain into the room? I don’t know if that will work! “But we made it work.
TVLINE | The finale ends with Blanca reviving the Evangelista house with a new generation of children. I know you quit the show on your own terms, but did you think of continuing the story from there, almost like Pose: The Next Generation?
No … I think there is certainly room for us to return. I’ve always loved the Marvel movies and one of the things I’ve always loved is that at the end of the movie they have these little teasers that whet your appetite for the next movie. So I think this moment to see the new family feels like a wink to me. It’s like, oh yeah, there’s always the possibility that another story will happen. But it wasn’t made with the explicit intention of saying, “Yes, there will be a spin-off.”
I think the reason for this was really all to do with showing our audience that our cycle goes on, and life goes on, and this community will continue to exist and continue to bring in new crops of children and continue to support one another and stand up for one another on. In the first season I was repeatedly asked by fans who didn’t know Ballroom: “Does it still exist? Is the ballroom still blooming? ”Or fans come up to me and say,“ I really wish I could have attended a ball then. ”And it’s like,“ You can still go to a ball now! ” The ballroom community is still thriving. It’s still going really well. It’s global. In fact, there is a wonderful show on HBO Max called Legendary, and many of our pose actors and family members work in front of and behind the camera on this show. So the reality is that that moment of seeing a new house and seeing new kids, and specifically seeing Ricky as the house father, was really important because I wanted the audience to have this understanding that the fellowship wasn’t ending. Just because the show ends doesn’t mean this community is over. It still exists. It’s still thriving. It’s still a really important safety net for queer and transgender people.
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