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Inside Pose, Ryan Murphy’s Evocative New Television Series

Pose, Ryan Murphy’s evocative new eight-episode series (premiering June 3 on FX), weaves a narrative between the worlds of eighties Gordon Gekko–esque high finance and Trumpian conspicuous consumption on one hand and the tragedy, invention, and joy of the competitive Harlem ball scene on the other. A decade ago, following on the success of his series Nip/Tuck, Murphy had been working on Pretty/Handsome, a pilot about a trans character, played by Joseph Fiennes, and was devastated when the studio he was working with decided not to pursue the show because they felt their advertisers wouldn’t support it. A mere month later, though, Murphy’s Glee was green-lit, and then American Horror Story, The Normal Heart, American Crime Story, and Feud, and now, with a decade of phenomenal success under his belt, he finds both himself and the world in a very different place. “I’m at this point in my career where I think I can get pretty much anything I want on the air,” says Murphy, “and I put my money on this.”

After initially deciding to option Paris Is Burning—the electrifying 1991 Jennie Livingston documentary that serves as most people’s entry point to the underground LGBTQ ball culture, where members of various “houses” compete against one another—Murphy was met with resistance from surviving family members of several of its key figures. Meeting the Afro-Latino writer Steven Canals, though, gave him a renewed focus. Canals was working on a script about Damon, a young African-American boy (played here by the endearing newcomer Ryan Jamaal Swain) with dreams of becoming a dancer. After Damon is thrown out of his home by his righteous Christian parents when they discover that he is gay, he is forced to survive on his wits in New York City before joining a kind of surrogate family—an experience that

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