|Janet Mock (via Instagram)|
Janet Mock made history earlier this week as the first transgender woman of color to write and direct an episode of TV with the recent Pose episode, “Love is the Message.”
The series, which explores the lives of LGBTQ people in the underground ‘ball scene’ alongside the emerging Donald Trump era in the go-go 1980s, artfully brings not only sexual orientation and gender identity to a mainstream TV audience, but also factors in the intersectionality of race.
In an interview with website them, Mock shared:
“The ballroom is a black and brown space before it’s a trans and queer space. So you can’t just say we have this great trans and queer show, you have to add in the layer of the race stuff… had to be very clear that a white trans girl’s experience is very different than a black trans girl’s experience — especially a black trans girl that’s struggling with economic resources in 1980’s New York City.”
“So we gave Elektra (Dominique Jackson’s character) more pointed lines about whiteness, or Angel (Indya Moore) started calling Stan (Evan Peters) a white suburban boy. We had to put that stuff in there.”
This was taken under the amber light of the #posefx ballroom on my first shoot as a Director. Don’t let the smile fool you: I was nervous af about doing something I had never done before, a job that seemed to be reserved for white men, a position in the industry that rarely invited women and/or people of color to sit in the director’s chair. I doubted whether I had the skills and experience to be a director. But I was pushed by @mrrpmurphy who told me I could (“you’re naturally bossy…like me”) and used his Half Initiative to make it happen. But still I had to talk myself through self-doubt (like so many “firsts” have done before me) by saying, “You wrote this script. You know these characters. You helped shape them, make them, move them. You got this, and your whole life as a black trans girl with all your experiences have prepared you for so many unknowns — from being the first in your family to go to college, to get a masters, to work as a journalist, to leave the safety of telling others stories to actually tell your own story, to write two memoirs that centered #girlslikeus, to be the first trans woman of color to be hired in a writer’s room…and yes, the first to write and direct an episode of television. You can do this, will do this and are deserving.” I couldn’t do it alone — no director can. I thank my mentors @mrrpmurphy & @gwynethhorderpayton for pushing, nurturing and supporting me, my DP @simondennis_dop for making it all seem so easy, my first AD Deanna Leslie Kelly, my production designer @jame03, HMU @wigorama @barryleemoe @sherrilaurence, @eriberryk and @tanasepopa for being architects, my editor Shelly Westerman, the marvelous @alexisvmw, my ❤️ @svcanals and the entire crew and the cast especially @theebillyporter, @katemara, @indyamoore, @mjrodriguez7, @evanpeters, and our guest star @johnnysibilly who gave all of themselves to episode 6. LOVE IS THE MESSAGE — and there was no way to write, prep and shoot this script without that LOVE. I hope you enjoy “Love Is the Message” tonight on @fxnetworks. @poseonfx airs at 9PM.
At this year’s VH1 Trailblazer Honors, Ryan Murphy spoke with love and deep respect regarding his experience working with Mock. He also shared that he pushed the trans icon into her first directing gig.
“I said, ’No, Janet, you have to direct. You have to!’ And she wasn’t sure, and I pushed her and pushed her. She did it. And I’m so honored and thrilled to say that it is perhaps the best hour of television in my entire career that I have been associated with.”
“And I say, to Janet, thank you and I’m in awe of you.”
The series has really captured my attention not only for its subject matter but for the quality of the series. The writing, the performances, the production – it all adds up to very powerful, revealing story-telling.
Watch the trailer for Mock’s episode below.