The show follows New York City's African American and Latino LGBTQ+ community during the drag ball scene of the 1980s and 1990s. Detailing how much of his original pitch actually made it on screen, Canals revealed that he and co-creator Ryan Murphy "wrote four or five different versions" of the pilot before they eventually filmed it.
"I'm a perpetual rewriter," Canals admitted. "So that pilot, I was always going back in and tinkering and changing. But the core journey was the same, which is that there's a young Black boy, named Damon, who gets kicked out of his house for being gay. He moves to New York, then gets enmeshed in the ball scene, and gets caught in a war between two house mothers.
"But in that original draft, Damon becomes a sex worker. So he's out in the Piers surviving, and he has a pimp. That pimp gets murdered in the pilot. And so the core narrative of the first season was much darker than what the show became.
"By the end of the pilot, you know who's responsible for the murder. But it sort of becomes a cat-and-mouse narrative where you're like, 'Oh, no, are they going to get caught? Are they going to get arrested for this murder?'"
Stating where real-life inspiration came for some of the characters, he explained that a project Murphy was working on fed into the rewrites.
"When I met with Ryan, we started reworking it. Not a lot of people know this, but he had the rights to Paris Is Burning, Jennie Livingston's documentary. So when I met with him, he was like, 'I think we should try a version on the page where it's an adaptation of the documentary'. So people from the documentary like Dorian Corey, Pepper LaBeija and Venus Xtravaganza were going to be real characters in the show.
"And then in the midst of working on it, we thought something felt a little off. From my perspective, the challenge of that version was that we were rooting the story in real people. And so there wasn't as much freedom in terms of the narrative. What were the lives of these very real people?"
Crediting Murphy for the 'lightbulb moment' that led to the final version, Canals revealed that it was the need to bring more of his "happiness and love" for his identity into the script that would be the pivotal shift.
"At that point, Ryan was like, 'Let's just go back to your original draft'. We started rewriting it, and it was still dark. And then I got a note from Ryan that changed everything. He just said, 'You have a real joy about being a queer person of colour. I want to feel that joy. That happiness and love you have for your identity and your community… it needs to be on the page.
"And that changed everything. That's where the whole entire show shifted, and it became what it is now, which is just rooted in love and family. Truth be told, I think we wrote four or five different versions of the Pose pilot before the one that you see that we filmed."
Pose season three airs on FX in the US, whilst a UK air date has not yet been confirmed.
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