“Pose” co-creator Ryan Murphy revealed that Broadway legend Patti LuPone will guest star on the upcoming second season of the FX drama, and that the series will jump ahead to 1990.
Murphy made the announcement while moderating the “Pose” panel at PaleyFest on Saturday, telling lead actress MJ Rodriguez that she will share many scenes with the double Grammy and double Tony winner.
“We’ve come up with this great role for Patti LuPone. She loves the show and we wrote this part and she said, ‘Yes, I want to do it,’ so she’s coming to play with us in a couple weeks,” Murphy said, to the delight of the cast and fans in the Dolby Theatre.
The sophomore season of the Golden Globe-nominated series will also jump ahead to 1990 on the day that Madonna’s “Vogue” is released, according to Murphy.
“We now get sort of reacquainted with these characters because the year-and-a-half has now passed. It’s fun to explore what has happened in the past two years, and how are they the person that they are presenting now? We were able to research what was happening in 1990 and lean into how New York had changed,” co-creator Steven Canals told Variety ahead of the panel
In its first season, “Pose” drew critical acclaim for examining the African-American and Latinx ball culture in New York City, and it touted the largest cast of transgender actors ever on a scripted network. The premiere season tackled transgender relationships, drag culture and the HIV/AIDS crisis of the late ’80s.
“This second season we are really leaning into the HIV/AIDS epidemic much more so than we did in the first season. Obviously it loomed heavy in the first season, but we see the real-world consequences much more in the second season. We’re also talking about access to medical care and what does that mean to be positive and be black or be Latin and not have access? To explore life and death in that way is exciting as a storyteller and also scary because you know the audience has expectations, and they fall in love with these characters,” Canals told Variety.
Along with Rodriguez and Canals, the panel included Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore, Billy Porter, co-executive producer Janet Mock and writer-producer Our Lady J. HIV/AIDS has impacted several of the cast members and their characters. On-screen Blanca (Rodriguez) and Pray Tell (Porter) received diagnoses, while off-screen Our Lady J is living with HIV.
“In 2004, I was living in an abandoned building in Brooklyn, and I found out I had HIV. I was at rock bottom. One night I was going to throw all of my things out of the window. Instead, I went and ran across the Williamsburg Bridge. I had a mantra as I was running. I said, ‘I’m going to survive, I’m going to thrive,’ and that became, ‘I am surviving, I am thriving.’ Blanca pretty much says that, that’s her energy. I knew there was an authenticity in this piece that never existed outside of what I had felt,” Our Lady J said during the panel.
Porter added, “I lost more friends at the age of 21 than my grandma at 83” due to the disease.
Before the panel, the audience watched the sixth episode of the series, entitled “Love Is the Message,” where Pray Tell loses his boyfriend to complications from HIV. Murphy described how he and the writers had struggled to find for inspiration for the episode, but the idea struck him in an unusual place.
“I was in the shower and suddenly everything that you see in this episode just came to my head, to the point where I was sort of stunned. I turned off the water and ran and got a piece of paper — nude — and I wrote out the whole thing,” he said. “It was a gift. I felt emotional and that all of those that we lost were very involved in the making of this episode spiritually. It was beautiful.”
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