Mj Rodriguez is Blanca iN POSE - Season 2 | ©2019/Pari Dukovic

Mj Rodriguez is Blanca iN POSE – Season 2 | ©2019/Pari Dukovic

POSE returns for its second season on FX on Tuesday, June 11. Season 2 of the drama, created by Steven Canals & Brad Falchuk & Ryan Murphy, jumps ahead several years from the late ‘80s to 1990. The New York ballroom scene, primarily inhabited by trans people of color, is just starting to gain notice from the mainstream, and voguing is coming into vogue. But the AIDS epidemic is raging, tearing away those we love.

House of Evangelista founder and mother Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelistista, played by Mj Rodriguez, continues to nurture and support her found, adult “children.” Since Blanca’s main goal in life is to be a mother and have a family, this helps as she deals with her HIV-positive status (almost always fatal in those years).

In person, Rodriguez, originally from New Jersey, exudes the same warmth as the POSE character does onscreen. In addition to a New York stage career, Rodriguez has previously had TV roles on NURSE JACKIE, THE CARRIE DIARIES, and LUKE CAGE; her film performances include SATURDAY CHURCH and this year’s ADAM.

ASSIGNMENT X: Were you primarily a New York musical performer before POSE?

MJ RODRIGUEZ: So this is the thing. I’ve always been someone who was interested in the arts, just in general. I never really considered myself a musical theatre person, I just considered myself an entertainer. But I was involved for a long time. And RENT [Rodriguez first played the role of Angel while in college, then in the 2011 Off-Broadway revival] was one of the biggest things in my life that changed everything. And I give homage to the musical theatre community, because if that weren’t to happen, then I wouldn’t be in the place I am now.

AX: Did you always want to be an actor?

RODRIGUEZ: I have always wanted to be an actor. I think it’s been my dream, ever since I was about seven years old. And to see it come to full fruition the way I dreamed, and like I said, the responsibility that I have now, it’s great.

Mj Rodriguez is Blanca iN POSE - Season 1 | ©2018/Pari Dukovic

Mj Rodriguez is Blanca iN POSE – Season 1 | ©2018/Pari Dukovic

AX: When you auditioned for POSE, did you audition specifically for the role of Blanca?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah. When I auditioned for POSE, that was the main thing that I auditioned for, because she was the one that resonated with me most. I went in for her, and it kind of just went boom, boom, boom.

AX: Did you know that Blanca was going to be so maternal when you auditioned for POSE, or did they write her that way toward what you were doing with the character?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, first when I read the breakdown, I didn’t know completely about Blanca, but there were some instances in the breakdown saying that she’s someone who is a mother, and someone who is nurturing. But to that capacity of what I know now, I didn’t know. But it’s the best thing that I could have ever received. I’m really happy that we’re still pushing it, and that they took a chance on just me. Because that’s all I wanted to do, was just get my art out there, and pour myself out to people, so that they can be changed. I love playing her. It’s been such a joyride. I never thought any of this would happen.

AX: Are you getting a lot more acting offers since POSE began airing?

RODRIGUEZ: Believe it or not, yes. Because this is all new to me, I’m so fresh to all of this. I mean, yes, I’ve been involved in small things here and there on television, and a little musical theatre, but this dynamic and this huge platform to be around, I’ve never had it, and there have been so many opportunities that have come along, and I’m just really happy about it. I’m just trying to see if I can snap and get my paws on every single one I can, you know? [laughs]

AX: You famously were called in to audition for HAMILTON …

RODRIGUEZ: I did, I did.

AX: Have you auditioned for other cis-gender [non-transgender] characters?

RODRIGUEZ: I’ve actually played cis-gender roles. Of course, it should be happening more, but yes, that [HAMILTON audition] was one of first moments for me, for the world to see, that there were trans women being considered for a cis-gender role, and it was dynamic.

[The interview pauses while Rodriguez says goodnight to POSE costar Angel Bismarck Curiel, who plays Lil Papi.]

RODRIGUEZ: [re Curiel] He’s like my brother.

Mj Rodriguez is Blanca iN POSE - Season 1 | ©2018/Pari Dukovic

Mj Rodriguez is Blanca iN POSE – Season 1 | ©2018/Pari Dukovic

AX: Fashion is a big part of the ballroom scene. What did you think of ‘80s fashion before you got involved in POSE?

RODRIGUEZ: I love ‘80s fashion. My mom is a fashionista. She’s someone who always loves style. She does all aspects of fashion, and she kind of implemented that in my life when I was younger, so I love the fashion, and I love that it’s tackled in this show, but in a very different, unique way.

AX: You’re wearing an amazing skirt right now …

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you. It’s Gucci.

AX: You have a different look in real life than you do as Blanca. Was there a lot of discussion about how Blanca should look, about her big hair?

RODRIGUEZ: They wanted to give her the ‘80s influence. They wanted her to be very specific to the time. It makes sense. There were a lot of women back in the day who had the big hair, and the curly hair, and the big door-knockers, so they wanted to stay true to that.

AX: Besides, next to Indya Moore’s Angel, nobody looks like they have really big hair …

RODRIGUEZ: [laughs] It’s true. I love her. It’s a joy to work with Indya. We worked together before – we did a movie together, SATURDAY CHURCH.

Mj Rodriguez is Blanca iN POSE - Season 1 | ©2018/Pari Dukovic

Mj Rodriguez is Blanca iN POSE – Season 1 | ©2018/Pari Dukovic

AX: What would you most like people to know about POSE?

RODRIGUEZ: I want them to know that it is a show that is pushing the narrative forward, and it’s scratching the surface in the most positive and authentic way, so that people can understand human stories, and that they can just identify with others in the way that I can identify with anybody else, just like on a normal day.

This interview was conducted at FX Networks’s party for the Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour.

Related: Interview with AMERICAN CRIME STORY and POSE executive producer Nina Jackson

Related: POSE: Exclusive Interview with POSE Co-Creator Steven Canals on Season 1

Related: POSE: Exclusive Interview with POSE writer-producer-director Janet Mock

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Article: Exclusive Interview with POSE actress Mj Rodriguez on Season 2 of the ground-breaking FX series


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