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Angelica Ross on the legacy of ‘Pose,’ and her push for representation on set

"From this point forward, I think that we have changed the game when it comes to trans representation,” Ross said.
Angelica Ross as Candy in "Pose" on FX.
Angelica Ross as Candy in "Pose" on FX.Eric Liebowitz / FX

When the groundbreaking drama “Pose” returned for a third season earlier this year, it was also announced that season would be its last. Fans and the cast of the FX series about New York City’s famed ball culture scene of the 1980s and early '90s expressed sadness, since it meant the end of a rare show with a cast of mostly transgender actors. 

Angelica Ross, who played Candy Ferocity and (spoiler alert) died in the second season, wondered if it meant her character might pay viewers one last visit. 

“I honestly did not want the third season to pass by without seeing Candy at least one more time,” Ross said to NBC News.

She got her wish. Candy Ferocity made a two-episode return in flashback scenes showing her days in Elektra’s House of Abundance. Ross said filming the scenes was an emotional experience.

“It was part heartbreaking because you knew you were really saying goodbye this time,” she said. “But also, it was such a celebration to be back in the greenroom with Indya Moore and with Dominique [Jackson] and Mj [Rodriguez] and, you know, just the whole family … just all of us in there singing and listening to music and dancing together. It was so amazing.”

Angelica Ross as Candy in "Pose" on FX.Eric Liebowitz / FX

Reflecting on the impact of a show like "Pose," Ross said she’s hopeful that the days of problematic casting of trans roles are over.

“I don't think that we can go backwards now and start recasting men to play trans women,” Ross said. “All that was doing was reinforcing to our audiences that being trans is some kind of costume that an actor takes off at the end of the day and returns back to being the man that they are. But that's not the truth for trans women.”

“And so when you see Mj Rodriguez and when you see Hailie Sahar and you see real-life trans women playing trans roles, it really makes you see how much of a caricature the other portrayals are,” she added. “So I feel like from this point forward, I think that we have changed the game when it comes to trans representation.”

Ross is set to star in another Ryan Murphy show this year: the 10th season of “American Horror Story,” marking her second time acting in the anthology series after her turn in the season “1984.” When asked about her role for the upcoming season, “Double Feature,” she teased that her character will be much different from her previous “AHS” character, Donna Chambers.

“I can tell you that I am going to be giving!” Ross exclaimed. “My character is going to give another sort of wild performance, which is going to be amazing. It’s a lot of shockers and turns and twists.”

Angelica Ross as Nurse Rita in "American Horror Story: 1984" on FX.Kurt Iswarienko / FX

Ross added that her character will also defy the common horror-genre trope for Black people. 

“I will say that being a Black person in a horror story, I don't die right away again,” she said. “So that's really great in the sense that you get to see Black people live in a horror story or at least live for a little while.”

Defying industry norms for Black people is something Ross said she pushed for in this season of “American Horror Story,” even behind the camera.

“This season Ryan Murphy requested that I wear my short natural hair, so it gave me the opportunity then to request to him that we get someone who's experienced in that. Not someone that just says, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’ with someone who actually has the experience, the portfolio, the work in doing Black natural hair,” she said.

This work is something she said she’s committed to doing in every room she enters.

“I'm building power both for me to take up space as an actor and take on whatever is meant for me to take, but I'm also creating space for people to show up,” Ross said. “A lot of times we don't get to take up space in the crews, especially if the cast is not diversified. So the moment I come in and I diversify a set, you best believe that the people coming in with me are going to diversify it as well.”

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