Pose on FX has proven to be one of the most innovative shows on TV right now. In addition to casting the largest group of transgender actors for a series, Janet Mock has made history on the show by becoming the first trans woman of color to write and direct a television episode.
Mock, New York Times-bestselling author and transgender rights activist, debuts her directorial skills with the sixth episode of Pose titled "Love Is The Message." She shared with Entertainment Weekly that she had no clue she would one day be directing an episode when she first started on the Pose team.
"Because our room is so small there’s a great sense of intimacy and a closeness to Ryan (Murphy) and because the show’s so personal to him, I think eventually I earned my keep and the trust and he was like, 'So you’re going to be a producer.' Then a couple months went by and he was like, 'Janet you’re going to direct.' And I was just stunned. It wasn’t something I was pursuing," Mock shared. "It wasn’t ever something I thought I would do. I always thought I would write for television and for the screen. But he was right. He just has instincts. He gets a hunch and he’s brave enough and courageous enough and powerful enough to go and make it happen. He pushed me into it with resources and it felt very natural to me — to tell people what to do, to say exactly how I want something done, to have a vision about a scene… I realized being raised on television and film, I kinda had it all in me."
Shortly after the episode aired on July 8th, it was announced on July 12th that the hit dance musical drama would be renewed for a second season. Mock discovered the news of the sophomore season from co-creator Ryan Murphy through an exciting phone call.
"It’s funny, Ryan called me yesterday and he said, 'Girl, we did it, we got a season two!' and I just kind of screamed," Mock revealed to Billboard. "I'm just really excited, number one for the actors and the rest of the cast and crew, because it means that we get to continue to tell these stories. We get to continue to keep them employed. The show is a vehicle not only to tell these stories, but it deeply impacts the lives of all of these artists and technicians and cast and crew who often are never invited into these spaces, right?"
PHOTO: The New York Times
According to Mock and Murphy’s post on social media, he has been a big supporter of Mock’s growth and creative hand in the show. On the night her episode aired, Murphy tweeted this:
I’m more proud of tonight's ep of POSE co-written with the extraordinary Janet Mock than almost anything I’ve ever done. Janet directed this episode with class & heart. Again she breaks down walls & barriers & makes history as the first trans woman of color to direct an ep of TV.
— Ryan Murphy (@MrRPMurphy) July 8, 2018
When Entertainment Weekly asked Mock what it felt like to receive such a heartfelt message from extraordinary screenwriter and director, she compared it to a coronation.
"(It’s like) the king is giving me a crown. This show was the greatest surprise of my life but also probably one of the most challenging things I’ve had to do career-wise. It was a gamble for me. I had never done it before. I was afraid. I was made to be uncomfortable. I had to work with people again because as a writer of books I could just work with my editor and myself and I’m good to go. It’s such a different thing to be part of a writers’ room and a whole team — then to be pushed and nurtured to be a director. So it just all felt very organic and now to see that our partnership/mentor/friendship/co-workership and love and admiration has produced this piece and that it’s being so well-received and it means so much to him and so many people, it’s deeply affirming. And career-wise, my world has opened up in this way where I’m saying, 'Wow, I am a director.' I was always so bad at group projects as a kid. I’ve learned I’ve grown up now and I can work with people and be made better by the talented people that surround me."
And Murphy was not the only one who gave Mock a sparkling review on her directorial debut; Mock shared it has been wave of enlightening energy and excitement surrounding her work on the series.
"Television is such an immediate platform: people have it in their homes and they immediately talk to you about it, and so for me it was a lot of energy. It was overwhelming, but it was also deeply affirming," Mock tells Billboard.
Looking towards next season, Mock said she is expected to be back in the director’s chair for season two but in terms of what those episodes may look like, she said a rule in the writers’ room is they never discuss what they are going to do. However, she foresees more origin stories from characters that may have not been heard from a lot this season and just a general push to go deeper with every episode.
In regards to the reaction from the transgender community, Mock said has been fulfilling for her to hear that the characters on Pose are speaking to their stories and bringing them to mainstream media.
"… I think a lot of people were surprised by the deep feeling and heart of our show. That’s always been so fulfilling to me — to hear from a lot of trans women, specifically, who had never heard their stories and conversations we have with one another be put on a mainstream platform and for people from all walks of life to receive it and feel it and [have it] resonate and sink in deep with them. (There’s also) the educational and inspiring piece of it too. A lot of people have also said, ‘I have to prepare myself to watch these episodes.’ This is a family drama about these people who have chosen to be part of one another’s world and to feel their way through this. Someone compared it to This Is Us in that same way where you’re ready to have a cathartic moment and you’re ready to cry and you know you’re going to get it this week and it’s your little therapy session."
Before returning to the writers’ room this fall to work on season 2 of Pose, she shared with Billboard that she is directing an episode of one of Murphy’s other shows and she is also working on the adaptation of her memoir, Redefining Realness. At the moment, she is writing the adaptation as a feature but she said Murphy suggested it become a mini-series.
"It depends on where I decide to make a home for it, but I see it as a feature. I’d like to write and also direct it."
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