Mj Rodriguez feared ‘Pose’ might provoke hatred. Instead, she was ‘fooled completely’

'Pose' actor Mj Rodriguez in an orange top with her hand on her head, pictured outdoors
Mj Rodriguez is nominated for an Emmy for her performance as Blanca, the nurturing mother of the House of Evangelista, in “Pose.”
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

If you’re starting to feel like the world is a depot of FYC ads and you’re just living in it, you’re right. But the final round of Emmy voting ends next week, so we’re that much closer to experiencing yet another pandemic-adjusted awards show. And this week we’re bringing you one last crossover between “The Envelope” and “The Times” podcasts.

If you haven’t checked it out yet and by the way, what are you waiting for? — “The Times” is hosted by Gustavo Arellano and it aims to bring you the world through the eyes of the West Coast with audio stories across all subjects: sports, food, politics, culture and more. From conversations with victims of China’s police state, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and car chase pioneers to coverage of Hollywood, drought, disasters and kink, it’s a must-follow delivered with a diversity of voices and a bunch of drama and desmadre.

In today’s episode, “The Envelope” co-host Yvonne Villarreal speaks with Rodriguez about her Emmy-nominated performance in FX’s groundbreaking period drama, “Pose,” which explores the lives of New York’s ball culture during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. For three seasons, Rodriguez has brought heart to her performance as Blanca, the nurturing mother of the House of Evangelista determined to not let society’s hang-ups keep her from a fulfilling life.

Rodriguez’s performance in the final season, which found Blanca finding love and pursuing a career in nursing, earned her an Emmy nomination for lead actress in a drama series. It’s her first Emmy nomination — and a historic one. Rodriguez became the first transgender performer to land an Emmy nomination in a lead acting category.

“What I think most surprised me about being on this journey and being nominated as — it’s kind of crazy to hear myself say it — an outstanding leading actress in a drama series, was being received as an actress, being taken seriously within my craft and actually being accepted,” Rodriguez told The Times. “And the awareness of myself as a Afro-Latina trans woman. It’s kind of astounding to me because for so long I had my own insecurities, but I was also subjected to a lot of discrimination, obviously, as a trans woman. So to see the change happen over time and quicker than I expected, I’ve just been so flabbergasted by it and I’m really proud of myself, but I’m also proud of the human race — and actually getting it together and knowing that we as trans women are humans, too, and that we walk this earth just like how they do and that we love like how they do. We have hearts, how they do. We believe, like any other human does. They’re starting to see it and understand it.”

It’s the sort of windfall Rodriguez always hoped for in her career. But she admits, in those early days, she feared “Pose’s” promise held a different fate.

Two friends laughing together on a couch
Mj Rodriguez as Blanca and Billy Porter as Pray Tell in a scene from “Pose.”

“I was scared because at the time when all of this was happening with auditions, there were still dreadful things that were happening to trans individuals across the globe — murders and just a lot of discrimination that was happening against us,” Rodriguez said. “And I was worried that when this show came out, we were going to get the full onslaught of that. We were going to be told that this show does not need to be on television screens.”

She continued: “I was fooled completely ... the love that I got from the people has wowed me... I’m so thankful I was fooled because if it did go the other way, I don’t know how I would have mentally dealt with that.”

In addition to our conversation with Rodriguez, be sure to check out our past episodes with Hannah Waddingham for “Ted Lasso,” Steven Canals for “Pose,” Kate Winslet for “Mare of Easttown,” Elizabeth Olsen for “WandaVision” and Josh O’Connor for “The Crown.”

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