Janet Mock makes history as first trans woman of colour directing a TV show

Janet Mock attends the "Pose" New York Premiere at Hammerstein Ballroom on May 17, 2018 in New York City (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Activist and writer Janet Mock made history on Sunday, when the episode of Pose she wrote and directed aired on FX to virtually unanimous acclaim.

Mock became the first transgender person of colour to direct a TV show. “Love is the Message” was the sixth episode of the show’s inaugural season, for which Mock also worked as a writer—the first trans woman of colour to write for television—and producer. Set in the late 1980s, Pose focuses on life and society in New York City, from its iconic ball culture to the rise of the Donald Trump-like billionaires, against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis.

The musical drama series was created by acclaimed director, screenwriter and producer Ryan Murphy and features the largest transgender cast on television while also featuring trans talent behind the scenes—Transparent writer and producer Our Lady J also wrote and produced for Pose.

Activist Janet Mock attends the TIME 100 Gala celebrating its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People In The World at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 24, 2018 in New York City (Angela Weiss//AFP/Getty)

Mock, who was included in the prestigious Time 100 Most Influential People in the World this year for her work as an advocate for “marginalised communities everywhere,” had no previous experience directing or writing for television. She told Murphy she wanted this opportunity to “tell stories and to create the mirrors that I didn’t have growing up,” as she recalled in a recent article for Variety.

Murphy, who in 2016 launched the “Half” initiative to ensure at least half of the episodes produced by his company would be directed by women, people of colour and members of the LGBT+ community, recently told The New York Times it’s important to give people first chances. “That’s how you change the world,” he said.

He congratulated Mock’s directorial debut in a heartfelt message on Twitter on Sunday.  “I’m more proud of tonight’s episode of POSE co-written with the extraordinary Janet Mock than almost anything I’ve ever done. Janet directed this episode with class & heart. Again she breaks down walls & barriers & makes history as the first trans woman of color to direct an episode of TV,” he wrote, also congratulating the cast on their performances.


Janet Mock attends the FX ‘Pose’ Ball in Harlem on June 2, 2018 in New York City (Andrew Toth/Getty)

“I dedicate this episode to all those we have lost from AIDS. We need to remember, and never forget. Thank you Janet and the cast and crew for making me weep and yet cheer for what is possible when LOVE IS THE MESSAGE,” Murphy added, referencing the episode’s title.

Mock live-tweeted during the episode, sharing insights into her directorial decisions and highlights. “We are deserving of opportunity & more than capable,” she wrote in a post featuring a picture of herself taken on her first night as a director on the set.