Back in 2014, Steven Canals wrote a pilot script of what would eventually become FX’s Emmy-nominated drama Pose. As a screenwriting grad student at UCLA, Canals was instructed to write for himself—and as a queer Afro-Latinx, that meant a show centered on characters that looked and moved through the world like him.
Drawing on the seminal documentary Paris Is Burning, Canals set his story in New York City’s ballroom scene in the 1980s, an underground culture where largely black and brown queer and trans women competed for trophies and recognition, but, most importantly, found sanctuary from a world keen on erasing their existence. What seemed like a step in where TV should go was met with no after no—150 no’s to be exact.
“As a very type A, neurotic creative, when I hear no, my brain processes it as ‘work harder,’” Canals says. “I just didn’t ever feel like what I was hearing from these executives was right. In my gut, I was like, this story deserves to be told. There is an audience for it. . .”