A Moment With 'Pose' Star Jeremy McClain

A Moment With 'Pose' Star Jeremy McClain

Find out how the new television darling is making history.

Find out how the new television darling is making history.

Text: MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG

Ryan Murphy might not be a millennial or a member of Generation Z, but he sure knows how to captivate them. The creator of hits like Glee and American Horror Story debuted his new show Pose on Sunday, which has already broken records with a cast featuring the most transgender regulars and LGBTQ+ actors and actresses in television history. The series will focus on the ballrooms of the 1980’s, showing an earlier side to a subcultural sensation that still lives on to this day. I couldn’t think of a better time for this to be on the air, premiering just one day before the Supreme Court ruled against a same-sex couple that was discriminated against when trying to purchase a wedding cake. Ryan Murphy is setting out to provide something for our queer youth, who are living through an unbearably dismal administration.

I spoke to my dear friend Jeremy McClain, who is also one of the show's stars, about his experience filming a series that’s already made history. While he might be a new face, it’s an important one to become familiar with. Read our conversation below, and follow him here for more.

Tell me about when you moved to New York City, and why.

I moved to go to school—I was studying Fashion Marketing. At the time I was also sort of a DJ. Then I worked at Ford Models for a couple of years, and that’s it. I was also modeling part-time, and I’ve shot with [Mario] Sorrenti and had a few other amazing opportunities…traveled to Africa. All that kind of bullshit [laughs].

Pose really focuses on New York’s voguing scene. Is that something you actually encountered in New York?

Sadly, I haven't been a part of that scene until now. I think my full extent of that was actually watching Paris is Burning. You know, it was an iconic film that I loved watching for years. It’s just so funny that this opportunity fell onto my lap because it’s something that I have always been obsessed with, but I’ve never gotten into that community. This has been my door opening into something I’ve been obsessed with for so many years.

So it’s been a learning experience for you.

Yeah. It’s been so transformative, really. You know, especially working with such amazing, talented people, really seeing the actual community involved in the show. The people from Paris is Burning, you know, the surviving members, are the judges on the show.  They’re consultants on the show and everyone that’s in the background of the scenes, they’re all actual community people. They are trans, they are POC, they’re gay.

Can you tell how you got onto the show or what you were doing before?

I got on the show because a friend of mine had DMed me and was like, “Hey, I’m not sure if you’re into acting but I think you’d be great for this." He gave me all the info for it and I reached out, set up an audition, and it was literally like a five-minute thing. I found out a few weeks later on, like on a Friday, and by Wednesday I was on set with Ryan Murphy, vogueing on camera.

Did you even have to do a callback?

No, that was it.

That’s so crazy.

Oh my god, I just thought about that. That is crazy!

What was it like adjusting to a set—having to wake up very early and meeting a new family of people that you’re with all day? What was that transition like?

That first day was so terrifying because I felt like I was sort of a fish out of water. You know, it being my first acting role. I put a lot of pressure on myself to portray this correctly, because this is such a strong, cultural thing, and there were so many people that had died within this scene. And for this scene. So my biggest thing was making sure I was being respectful and making that community proud. Not fucking it up for the first representation on a major TV show for this thing that has been around for decades. Once we met everybody, we immediately became a family. Obviously, we spent so much time together in rehearsals and filming and they’ve truly become my brothers and sisters. I love them so much. Even though the House of Abundance isn’t a real house, we feel very much like we are a family.

Can you tell me about the casting for the show? I know it’s breaking records.

It has the largest amount of trans series regulars. There are five trans girls and they’re all people of color. And it’s the biggest LGBTQ+ cast ever.

Is everyone on the show fairly new to TV, like yourself?

Yeah, everyone is pretty much new with a few exceptions. We all are feeling so lucky to be getting our break with such a historic TV moment.

Can you tell me about your character on the show?

Yeah, of course. I play Cubby, who is kind of the baby of the house. I’m kind of like a son to my house mother, Elektra. I think I'm definitely the baby of the group. I get called “Mama’s Boy” and I’m always by her side, always defending her. Even though she kind of treats me like shit a lot of the time, she does love me. You’ll see in the first episode I get hit in the face. It’s a tough love sort of situation.

Can you tell me about what a house is, in this culture? 

A house is a family you get to choose. Which is actually a tagline from the show. It's obviously mostly LGBTQ people who just need to find their own community. Especially in the ’80s, a lot of them were getting kicked out of their houses, and they had to turn to sex work. The ballroom scene was something that made them feel like stars. That night, they could be a star. Obviously, a lot of them didn’t have the funds to live this fantasy, so a lot of them stole stuff. But everything was about living the fantasy for that one night. It was about a group of people coming together, just celebrating each other and getting to have a moment because their lives, in general, were not great.

You mentioned a house mother. What's the dynamic there? 

A mother is sort of the guardian of the house. She looks over all of the children of the house—she’s the protector, the provider—but also a very stern, rule enforcer. Like a literal mother. She looks over the lost kids of the city who can’t find somewhere to be or are looking to find themselves. They find themselves in the ballroom. For queer people of color back in the day, who are all looking at these '80s magazines and seeing these supermodels, this is the closest they can get to that existence. This was their moment to sort of feel that for a while, because obviously most of them were low income. Kids would come to the ball starving because they hadn't eaten anything. They saved their money because they wanted to be there so badly. For that one night, they got to live out a fantasy and just escape from their world. Which is obviously heartbreaking. I think this show, even though it's essentially coming 30 years later, we're finally getting the chance to show that story, and to bring this amazing community to life in the mainstream in a way that hasn't been seen before.

How active is the scene today?

Oh, it’s still very active. There are balls everywhere. I mean the biggest one is the Latex Ball that’s the one everyone is crazy for.

What do you feel is at the heart of this show, beyond the vogueing?

I feel like it’s about bringing acceptance in a dark time. The Trump Era…there’s never been a more important time for this show to exist because it’s going to open up so many people’s eyes. It’s a story about humanity and wanting to be wanted, and wanting to fit in, and feel special. That’s what the show at its heart is really about.

Photos by Monet Lucki

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