Pose star ‘didn’t know what trans meant’ before joining the groundbreaking drama

Lil Papi and Angel

Ahead of Pose season three, Lil’ Papi star Angel Bismark Curiel opened up about the education he received during his time on the show, and how he hopes it can inspire young cis boys like him.

Curiel, who plays Lil’ Papi Evangelista, admitted that he was oblivious about trans lives before he joined Pose, which returns this weekend for its third and final season.

“For me, before I even stepped foot on set, I didn’t know what trans meant,” he said. “I didn’t even know the vocabulary definition of it and let alone the complexities and the traumas that follow very soon after that word.”

At the end of Pose season two, Lil’ Papi became engaged to Angel Evangelista (Indya Moore), and Curiel’s hope is that their story can inspire young cis men to understand that loving a trans woman is a beautiful thing. In real life, Curiel is dating Pose writer, producer and director Janet Mock.

Angel Bismark Curiel and Janet Mock

Angel Bismark Curiel is Janet Mock’s boyfriend. (Getty)

“What I hope to see,” he said, “is a young man sitting on a couch, flipping through his TV, looking for something to watch, and he stumbles upon this show.

“[He] starts watching the show, sees himself reflected in Papi and says, ‘Oh… that looks like Rico over there across the street. And she’s trans? What is he doing over there? I don’t understand, man.’

“But he loves her. He loves her, and he appreciates her. [He says,] ‘I get that. I’ve got my shorty too. I love my mom. That’s the way I see him loving on her.’

“[He turns] the TV off. Goes with the boys. And because he has that already in him… [if] the boys want to be toxic, he can say, ‘No, no, no. Hold back, bro. Hey, I’m going to put you on this show, man. It’s called Pose. Let me tell you something. That boy, he could teach you a thing or two about how to love a woman.'”

“I genuinely see that as a possibility. I know it’s happened a lot for me back home with my friends. I’ve had a lot of interactions with them. They’ve had a lot of questions, and I welcome them. And that’s all because I stepped foot on this set, and now they have some insight.

“They can further develop their own knowledge through watching the show, picking up some books, reading some articles, and then that just spreads like wildfire. That’s what I hope [viewers] will take from this.”

Curiel credited Indya Moore for teaching him about accountability, sharing a time he had a driver who made a transphobic remark.

“I was like, alright, bro. It’s do or die. You’ve got to use your voice right now, because that right there is so harmful and that right there is going to cause so much violence, and if I allow this young man or this individual to continue to think that that is OK, I’m just as accountable.”

Moore thanked Curiel and spoke of their own journey with accountability.

Pose season three final season

Indya Moore as Angel in Pose. (Jojo Whilden/FX)

“When I came into this project,” Moore said, “I came in guns blazing… I knew that I was going to be working within a system where I would have probably the least power that I’d had in a while. But then, ironically, that wasn’t necessarily true. I actually came in having been given a lot of power, and also with my own as well.”

Moore said that by taking “as much space as I possibly could for myself”, they “tuned out many opportunities to be seen for who I was”.

“I learned that accountability isn’t just about holding other people accountable, that it’s also about holding yourself accountable in the ways that we impact and influence how other people feel, the work that they’re able to do, and the safety that they get to experience in space with you.

“We’re accountable to all that individually, how we think about people and the way that we make them feel as well, especially when we don’t know them that well. I learned so much of this from everyone else around me on set, and that’s something that I definitely will take with me to other projects as well, is to not think too much about correcting things, not to be so invested in correcting things outside of myself that I miss opportunities to grow for me and myself.

“But it’s very difficult and complicated, and I think that acknowledging complexity in some cases are really important, because there are multiple truths to every angle. There are multiple perspectives to every object, I think.”

Pose season three premieres with two episodes on Sunday (2 May) on FX in the US. A UK air date has not been confirmed.