Remember when we first saw Mj Rodriguez strut onto our screens with Pose‘s first season? In her first major starring television role, Rodriguez easily captured our hearts as a young woman determined to make a name for herself on her own terms. She had so much love to give that it needed a house full of children to help them succeed in the paths they selected for themselves. With Pose coming to a triumphant close this season, Rodriguez now stands at a tipping point to become the first transgender woman to be nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category. It needs to happen.
Rodriguez needs to be nominated not just for the history–trust me, that would be an incredible moment on nomination morning–but simply for the fact that Rodriguez has been one of the most consistently solid performers in any drama series since Pose debuted. She oozes charisma and she commands your attention all the while not making Blanca an obnoxious saint.
Trans actors don’t typically get the love interest storyline, but Blanca is in a healthy relationship with Jeremy Pope’s Christopher throughout season three. We are so used to seeing trans characters deal with men who can’t handle publicly dating trans women (hello, season one), but Pope makes Christopher a man worthy of Blanca’s love. When she is slighted by his mother at dinner, Blanca demands respect and Chris backs her up. You know when you are worried that your friends aren’t going to like your new boyfriend and you wonder how they are all going to interact with one another? Christopher connects with the group with such ease.
“For Blanca, she never thought that love was possible. That has been shown all through every season of Pose. Even with the second season where we are left on a cliffhanger as to what’s going to happen with that relationship. We see this time that we don’t know about that until Christopher comes on the scene. I think because Blanca never thought she would have the opportunity or be seen as the woman she is due to her insecurities and the world pushing these ideas of how she should be perceived as a woman. The cherry on top of the cake is him showing up for her and seeing what it feels like when someone really cares for you. It felt so beautiful to see it because it was so much like my relationship with my boyfriend. It’s achievable. It’s possible.”
The episode that everyone keeps talking about is when Angel and Papi tied the knot. We have never seen a wedding like this on television, and the history is not lost on Rodriguez. Being in that room and surrounded by so much love had to have been an emotional day for the characters and the actors, and there is something truly special about seeing Blanca so proud of not only her daughter but of her entire community. Janet Mock wrote and directed episode six.
“It was like firecrackers. It was the moment we all wanted but never thought we would get and to have it actualized in our heads too. I could see in the scene where Angel and Papi were getting everything they were wanting to achieve. Janet did nothing short of an amazing job. Just to have the family based around them and uplifting them and making the feel protected on the journey that they were about to embark on outside the community. It was a monumental moment in history and it was something that younger generational individuals–who are trans and cis–could finally think it could happen to them. Especially for trans audiences. It takes place in 1996 and we are now in 2021 and the sky is limitless. That is what episode six meant to me.”
Pray Tell and Blanca’s bond is singular and special because of how they hold each other responsibly and how they keep each other in line. Pray and Blanca are like brother and sister, but she is also like a mother figure to him–in the finale, Pray’s mother even tells Blanca that she is more of a mother figure to her son. In one of the highlights of the season, Blanca and Pray perform to Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on the ballroom floor. We don’t get a lot of the ballroom this season thanks to how the pandemic shifted the shooting schedule, and it makes the moment all the more special every time you watch it. Listen to the lyrics as they lip sync to one another. Rodriguez got emotional as she described what that moment would mean to her.
“It was so beautiful and heartwarming and touching. It was heartbreaking at the same time because I don’t think anything like this might happen again. It’s emotional to think about but it’s happy. It’s the moment that I realized that we had taken center stage and all the work leading up to the finale was well worth it. It paid off. We may never, ever have a moment like this again, so, honey, why not take it and live it and turn it. I was so, so happy. Every single thing that the actors and the characters have wanted…we all received them. What a way to receive them. Keep it going.”
If we look at the entire series, Blanca and Dominique Jackson’s Elektra will always be connected because the bond between a mother and daughter can never be truly broken. They can say the harshest things to one another because they know that love pulses deeply within both of them. Season three introduces a glimpse into Elektra’s relationship with her mother (an astonishingly savage performance from Noma Dumezweni), and we realize that Blanca has always been there for Elektra. Blanca is Elektra’s daughter, but she can also be affectionate enough to act as mother to Elektra. It’s bond that always evolves but the love stay’s constant. They are both strong enough to give love but they are stronger because they can accept it.
“It taught her to have tough skin. Getting a glimpse to what happened between Elektra and her mother was the best gem that Blanca could’ve received. Even with Blanca being like Mother Theresa all the time. There is no convincing her to love Elektra. Blanca took all the strife that Elektra went through and feeling that a little bit. I love that Elektra could be the centerfold for Blanca to be present. In the first season, a lot of people didn’t realize the connection between them because they didn’t have a back story, and I would always tell them is that with mother and daughters, especially when a daughter is moving out of the house. It can come through as sadness or anger as they see their child growing. Seeing that love that Elektra gives Blanca is really beautiful.”