About 10 minutes into the Season 2 premiere of Pose, the thumping house piano of Madonna's "Vogue" rings out. Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), the caring house mother who pushes her children to succeed, is overjoyed. "Mark my words, 'Vogue' will make us stars," she tells some naysayers at a ball. "Madonna lives on the edge for what's next, and what's newer than an entire world undiscovered brimming to the rim with guts, gorgeousness, and raw talent?"
There are a couple of historical events that frame the second season of FX's breakout series, which picks up in 1990. The episode opens on Hart Island, where unknown numbers of AIDS patients were buried in unmarked graves. Later it stages its own version of activist organization ACT UP'S die-in at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York's midtown. (In real life, the protest occurred December 1989; Pose messes with the timeline a bit.) And then there's "Vogue."
"The season isn't specifically about 'Vogue' as much as that song and the video and her Blond Ambition tour are just a jumping off point to dig into a more nuanced conversation around what it means to go from being a subculture that's underground to suddenly being thrust onto a mainstream stage... what are the exciting pieces of that, but also all the complications that come out of that as well," creator Steven Canals told a group of reporters gathered in May at the Bronx-based studio where Pose shoots. A little while later, we'd enter the cavernous ballroom set where cast and crew were gathered to shoot the opening of episode four, directed by co-creator Ryan Murphy. Dancers practiced. Choreographer Leiomy Maldonado sang bars of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Impossible" from Cinderella. And we all awaited a special guest to enter the scene: It was a character, who will go nameless now due to spoilers, dressed in full Madonna regalia.