Pose’s Jeremy McClain Is Ready

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At the recent premiere for the second season of Pose, Jeremy McClain strutted across the red carpet in a cloud-like, see-through dress from Laurence & Chico and a pair of high heels. The dress’ transformative power allowed the actor to dream of how his newfound power could be harnessed. After spending a season playing baby-faced voguer Cubby Abundance on the FX show about the New York City ballroom scene in the ’90s, he feels like it’s a garment he could wear into one of the event’s category-specific walk-offs.

“I really want to do ‚Butch Queen First Time In Drag At A Ball,’“ he tells CR, referencing a phrase from the legendary 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. “It’s essentially a man dressing up in drag. I feel like I would do very well in that category.”

McClain says this jokingly, with a caveat that he’s still paying his dues. Although having experience in posing thanks to a burgeoning model career, Pose is his first acting gig, one that required him to report to set five days after finding out his brief audition had earned him the role. At the time, he was sure he hadn’t booked it. Obvious learning curve aside, there was another unexpected hurdle: accurately representing a culture he had only ever witnessed in the aforementioned film.

“It’s this weird mental state,” McClain says of the pressure. “But you have to push through it. I got the part! You just have to do it. There’s no point in dwelling in the nerves and anxiety. You’ll be able to see that on the screen. You can see that on the runway when you’re walking in a ball. There are people in the audience at the balls who are actually from the community. It’s like, I need to step my shit up and kill this!”

During filming, McClain also attended his first real-life ball. What he found was that the culture portrayed on Pose, where competitors would form fiercely competitive “houses” and compete against each other, wasn’t far off from reality—even if some of the insults and drama may appear larger than life.

“Throwing shade is just a part of the culture,” McClain reveals. “As an outsider, you’re not sure how to navigate [it] at first. But at the end of the day, despite all of that, the community is a family. They truly truly love each other. Even [when] they were calling each other out. It’s all love in the end.”

[pullquote align=’left‘]“It’s almost shocking how reflective the season is of [our current] time. It’s actually terrifying. It’s going to resonate with so many people around the world. It will save lives.“[/pullquote]

Interestingly, he says, the same thing happened over the course of filming two seasons of Pose. Ryan Murphy workhouse Evan Peters, James Van Der Beek, and Kate Mara were among the few actors with previous credits, but for a few of the cast, this was their first role. McClain recalls that the novelty of creating a one-of-a-kind television show created an environment of instant bonding. He speaks of the other actors in glowing terms, referring to them as siblings.

“We were on this journey while filming last year, and none of us knew what this thing was going to be. We just hoped it was going to go well. My costars are amazing, though. We all love each other, and being each other’s soundboards has been the most amazing experience. I especially love my sister. [They’re] thriving in a world where trans women of color are being killed and assaulted what seems like every other day. They’re breaking ground in Hollywood and being the role models that many like them never had. I look up to them so much.”

The fact that his big break is on a show that’s become an unprecedented repository for trans, gay, and minority talent is not lost on him. Neither is the fact they’ve been granted another season. As McClain sees it, we’re now living in what he calls a “post-Pose world,” where the room to tell these stories is finally being recognized.

“There’s no excuse to say that the talent doesn’t exist, and they can’t produce a story like this,” he muses. “Someone did produce a story like this, and they found the talent to be in it. It’s so transformative. At the heart of the show is love and acceptance and family. That’s what matters. I’ve had messages from people saying it helped them come out or helped their parents to understand them better.”

That’s a promise McClain says carries into the second season—even if his studio-mandated talking points limit him to vague promises about additional dramatic highs and lows and the appearance of Act Up, an advocacy group that protested the government’s lack of funding and support of AIDS research by staging elaborate “die- in” protests. He notes that many storylines run parallel to current culture.

“It almost shocking how reflective the season is of [our current] time,” he says. “It’s actually terrifying. It’s going to resonate with so many people around the world. It will save lives. The things that are going on in our country right now are absolutely disgusting. And in the world in general. Our show is here to give hope to our community, especially those of who are of color. For the first time, they’re seeing themselves on screen. And that just means everything.”


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