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Indya Moore talks about her journey from foster care to breakaway success on FX’s “Pose”

During the formative days of high school, math class seemed like the only thing keeping Indya Moore from a career in acting.

“I wanted to go to LaGuardia High School for acting, but my math grades weren’t high enough,” Moore says. “So I didn’t get to go to a school that was geared toward the art that I was interested in because I wasn’t good enough at math.”

Fast-forward nine years and algebra couldn’t be more irrelevant. The 23-year-old’s breakout TV show “Pose” was just renewed for a second season, less than a week after she returned home from a film shoot in Tokyo.

Moore, a native of the Bronx, stars as Angel on the hit Ryan Murphy FX series, which examines the Eighties underground ballroom scene in New York. Angel is a transgender sex worker and ballroom competitor with the House of Evangalista who finds herself tangled in a secret relationship with a Wall Street financier.

“What I loved about Angel, what I instantly connected to her from, was I think her pursuit to find love and to be loved and to find someone who would reciprocate her love for them also,” Moore says. “But also her yearning to be seen as an authentic person — as a real human being. As a real woman.”

The show is groundbreaking for its casting of a number of trans women and its depiction of the lives of trans people, something that drew Moore to the experience.

“Seeing so many trans women acting and performing was something that was major and amazing to me,” Moore says. “Knowing that we have a trans writer also made me feel safe about the stories that I would portray. I didn’t have to worry about recycling stigmatic ideas through the stories that I was telling, because there were people who shared the experiences that the stories were about writing them.”


George Chinsee/WWD
Moore began her career as a model at age 15, while she was moving through foster homes and enduring bullying at school. After dropping out in the 10th grade, she worked various shoots for the likes of Dior and Gucci, but never felt comfortable signing with an agency.

“These agencies, they saw me as a risk to take, as opposed to ‘oh wow, let’s build this human,’” she says. It’s not her only quarrel with representation in the industry. “I always believed that clothes should be designed to conform to our bodies, and not our bodies to conform to the clothing. And I think that’s what I think the fashion world had projected a lot of times,” she adds.

Moore soon found a more nurturing environment through the acting community. One day she met legendary dancer and ballroom veteran José “Xtravaganza” Gutierez while she was doing background for “The Get Down,” who brought her on to the House of Xtravaganza and later sent her to an audition that he heard about for “Saturday Church,” the 2017 indie film that gave her that first major role. Later that year, Moore stumbled upon an audition for “Pose.”

Moore believes the series highlights a shift in viewers’ openness and reception to familiar themes that are being told through voices they aren’t used to. “I think ‘Pose’ is really a groundbreaking television show because we’re telling stories about family and love through people that society has always believed were incapable of having that, or being a part of that,” she says.


George Chinsee/WWD

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Indya Moore on ‘Pose,’ Working With Evan Peters and Angel’s Red Pumps

On the third episode of Pose, FX’s scripted drama about the 1980s New York ballroom culture told through the lens of transgender women — primarily Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), Elektra (Dominique Jackson) and Angel (Indya Moore) — and LGBT youth living under the banner of two houses, a story about a pair of red patent pumps unfolds. It’s Christmas time, and a sullen Angel, a ballroom performer and sex worker who has fallen for one of her clients, Stan (Evan Peters), explains why she doesn’t celebrate the holiday.

“I had never seen anything quite so beautiful,” Angel recalls, growing emotional, about a pair of shoes she had seen at a store, before revealing that she stole a single pump and hid it in her room. “My father slapped me across the face for stealing — but more so for what I chose to steal.” By the end of the episode, Blanca, mother of the House of Evangelista, gifts her daughter a pair of red patent pumps for Christmas.

While the episode was co-written by Janet Mock and Our Lady J, the story comes from co-creator and executive producer Ryan Murphy’s childhood, when he got into trouble for doing the same exact thing.

But the moment was not an isolated experience, Moore tells ET, recalling a story about trying to sneak out of her home to go to school with a tighter pair of pants in her backpack. Just as she was about to leave, her mom stopped her and found the jeans. “I had chosen to take them even though she told me not to and I got in big trouble for it,” she says, adding that it helped her connect with what unfolded in the episode.

It turns out those are just a couple of the many personal details of the cast and crew that have been channeled into the groundbreaking series, which features five transgender actresses in series regular roles — the most for any prime-time TV series — while also having the largest LGBT recurring cast in TV history. Not only that, Pose is largely written and produced by gay and transgender people, including co-creator Steven Canals, executive producer Nina Jacobson and director Silas Howard.

Angel’s relationship with Stan, which is both romantic and sexual, is a major element of season one and part of Mock’s effort to rewrite the narrative for transgender women seen onscreen, especially when it comes to love, romance and sex. “She touched on the issues that trans women experience around desirability,” Moore says. “She really touched on the reality of how affected we are by people who are afraid of being ostracized just by being in proximity to us.”

It’s something that a lot of transgender women are still navigating today, especially the idea of “settling for less … for what little they give us,” Moore says, adding: “This is something that I felt recently through Angel and it was an experience I also had. Learning to want more myself is something that Janet, Our Lady J and I experienced growing up to who we are as adults.”


Indya Moore and Evan Peters in a scene from the pilot episode of ‘Pose.’ | FX
When it comes to Angel and Stan in particular, their relationship — which starts after he picks her up at the pier and takes her to a hotel and progresses to the two playing house in an Upper West Side apartment Stan has rented for Angel — plays out in the opposite way it might have on a show like Law & Order or other ‘90s police procedurals, where transgender women were often victims of violence or ridicule by cisgender men. (Only recently has that portrayal evolved on shows like Orange Is the New Black, Sense8,Transparent, the short-lived Doubt, and now, Pose.) However, an overwhelmed Stan freaks out before the end of season one, which concludes on Sunday, July 22, and runs back to his wife and kids.

“We deserve the same things that cis women do, the same things that other humans do, from our social lives to our families to love,” Moore says.

When it came to the casting of Peters, who is known for his darker, more violent roles on Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology series, Moore was initially unsure what it would mean for Angel. “Just knowing I would be playing opposite of him, I had fears my character was going to be killed,” she says. “I just felt like, ‘Wow, it wouldn’t be far off at all. It would actually be very parallel to the reality of what life is like for Angel.’” Ultimately, though, Moore says Peters’ character helps humanize Angel, and she’s incredibly thankful to have worked with a screen partner like him. “His comfort level was really affirming for me and helped me to perform better.”

Still relatively new to acting, Pose is a career-making moment for Moore. The 23-year-old performer born and raised in the Bronx, New York, only recently made a splash as a budding model — she made her debut at 2017’s New York Fashion Week, was photographed for Vogue España and served face in Katy Perry’s Saturday Night Live performance of “Swish Swish” — and actress, appearing in her first screen role as Dijon in the 2017 independent film Saturday Church.

“She was a total natural,” director Damon Cardasis recalls of Moore’s Saturday Church audition — her first ever — during which she wore an “amazing” purple wig. She even pretended to put lipstick on the casting director. “You hear people tell stories about someone walking in the room and you know instantly that they are the part. It was that way with Indya.”

In the musical film about young LGBT outcasts who find solace and support at a church that opens its doors to them every Saturday evening, Dijon and others, including Ebony (played by her Pose co-star Rodriguez), encourage their new friend Ulysses (Luka Kain) to explore his budding passion for vogueing.

A standout, Cardasis says Moore is “funny, gives amazing reactions, draws the camera to her and has a natural charisma and rawness that can’t be learned. That ‘it’ factor. Sounds clichéd, but there’s no other way to describe it.”

It’s also what draws audiences in to Pose. As Angel, Moore is almost hypnotic, capturing not only Stan’s attention but the show’s dedicated fans with mere looks. “I’ve always been impressed by her presence, confidence and intelligence. She has a special ability to portray equal parts strength and heartbreak — sometimes without ever speaking a word,” says Mock, who also directed her in episode six. Referencing a scene in which Angel is confronted by Stan’s wife, Patty (Kate Mara), Mock says, “She makes choices that elevate the words we write, which is all you wish and hope for in an actor.”


Kate Mara and Indya Moore in a scene from episode six, which was directed by Janet Mock. | FX
If it weren’t for Saturday Church, Moore says, she would have never gotten Pose, which she first learned about through Lisa Kain, mother of her co-star Luka. She was brought in to audition for the roles of both Angel and Blanca, a ballroom performer who breaks away from Elektra to form her own house. As a former member of the real-life (and legendary) House of Xtravaganza — members of which have appeared in the documentaries Paris Is Burning and Strike a Pose and serve as consultants on Pose — Moore could appreciate the family dynamics and what it’s like to want things to be different. But it was after reading for the former that she won over the room, including Canals, with whom she instantly bonded after they realized they’d grown up near each other and went to the same middle school. “It was really dope to feel a sense of home in that audition room.”

Now that she’s made her mark on the series, which was recently renewed for a second season, Moore is not only appearing in the likes of Vogue and W magazine, but also expanding her acting résumé with Magic Hour, a gender-bending retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein she recently shot in Tokyo with filmmaker Che Grayson. It’s her first sci-fi role, which happens to be one of her favorite genres.

With a penchant for connecting the dots between one project to the next, Moore says “it was all written in the stars.”

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‘Frankenstein’ Retelling to Star ‘Pose’ Actress Indya Moore

The anthology series pilot is a passion project of up-and-coming filmmaker Che Grayson.

In the film industry, new minds are necessary to keep the ball rolling and to foster innovation in storytelling. Magic Hour, the first installment in a new sci-fi anthology series in the vein of Twilight Zone, is a perfect example. The production’s website describes it as such:

On the 200th year anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘Magic Hour’ is a gender-bending retelling of the classic story with a modern twist; in this psychedelic-macabre portrait of a mysterious young woman who wakes up one morning without a soul, and roams the streets of Tokyo in search of one.

This intriguing story comes from the mind of a young, black filmmaker who already has award-winning shorts and a comic book series under her belt. Brooklyn-based writer, director, and TED Talk speaker Che Grayson is delivering exciting new approaches to familiar ideas, as Magic Hour, her NYU thesis project, promises to be. This is the most ambitious production of her career so far and hopefully will be the first of many ingenious stories coming from her.

Grayson provided me with further clarification on the nature of the project by phone, saying the thesis project comes from a 30-page script meant to serve as a concept for a television show. Magic Hour is the intended pilot for this anthology series, which she says will center around the “strange and magical things that happen” during what is known as the “Golden Hour” in her universe. Each episode will feature its own contained story, meaning the events and characters seen in Magic Hour will be the only ones based on “Frankenstein.”

In recent news, Magic Hour added Indya Moore from the FX series Pose to its cast and crew. Moore will play the character Bella as well as serve as executive producer. She is another on-the-rise talent, and as a trans actress of color could be an especially inspiring force in the industry. Future roles in film could help open the door for Moore’s career as well as the careers of other LGBTQ entertainers.

Grayson confirms that Moore’s character is meant to parallel the pseudo-Frankenstein’s monster of the story, but not in the way one would think based on Mary Shelley’s source material. When asked how true to the novel the short would be, Grayson explains how her feelings towards the dynamic between monster and creator affected her adaptation.

She says Magic Hour has a great deal of respect for both the story and for Shelley, describing it as “a huge, pivotal piece of literature.” At the same time, she’s always found the plight of Frankenstein’s monster sad and says she believes the monster to be more human than the doctor, in fact. Grayson wants the monster to finally get that chance to show this side, and firmly says that “humanity comes from not being born a human but through actions.” A powerful sentiment indeed, and one which appears to be the guiding principle throughout the project.

By saying Moore’s character will be discovering her soul, Grayson actually means that she will be discovering her humanity. Bella, in the shoes of Frankenstein’s monster, will set out to “break free of the man who created her” and will thus become empowered throughout the tale. Grayson hints at Bella’s fateful meeting with another woman, and the love she will find with her.

Another actress credited alongside Moore is Yuka Taga, who will play a character named Eiko. She is likely the mysterious woman Grayson mentions — a source of salvation and life-changing romance for the wayward Bella. Of course, the filmmaker didn’t want to give away too much concerning the plot, but Bella’s journey feels as if it will be a beautiful look at self-discovery and first love.

Besides wanting to give a voice and humanity to Shelley’s creature, Grayson says she also wanted to avoid the trope of making the woman a monster in the horror sense. Frankenstein’s creation’s 200-year-old existential crisis feels still-appropriate in a modern film setting as well, made all the more inviting with the added supernatural elements. Moore’s Bella searching for purpose in Magic Hour perfectly reflects the confused and tortured journey of the original creature. As for the mad scientist trying to control their creation, and later reconcile their actions, this would also play out uniquely against the neon background of Tokyo’s city streets.

For years we’ve seen the original, infamous gothic horror replicated and extrapolated upon in film and television. Now, based on what Grayson was able to tell us, Magic Hour seems to be playing just loose enough with the source material to create something that is still able to feel new and engaging.

This first installment in Grayson’s expected anthology is shaping up to be a real knockout of contemporary sci-fi, and it sounds as if we can expect great things to come of the series should it get picked up. Netflix seems like a great place for the series. Or FX, home of Pose. No matter where the project takes Grayson’s career, she describes Magic Hour as a labor of love. “A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this,” she says.

Magic Hour was set to finish filming in Tokyo last week. Once we know, we’ll be sure to tell you how to check it out.

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Indya Moore Hopes Pose Will Help Trump’s White House ‘See Our Humanity’

Indya Moore has been striking poses well before landing her role on Ryan Murphy‘s new show. The New York City native (she attended the same Bronx high school as rapper Cardi B!) got her start as an independent model.

“I’m grateful for the experience,” Pose‘s Moore, who identifies as transgender, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands now. “I have often been many companies’ first experience with a gender variant model. I am proud of that because I think I have broadened their horizons in my own way. I would love to see all agencies connect to models more for who they are and can be as opposed to what they’ve done.”

Joining the Pose cast, which boasts the most transgender actors ever on one show, allowed Moore to continue exploring her identity. “Pose has basically been a trip for everyone,” she says. “We’re all in different phases of our individual evolutions, but we’ve embarked on the journey together.”

Moore plays streetwalker Angel, who falls in love with both her client Stan (Evan Peters) and New York City’s ballroom scene — something the Pose star can relate to. “As a black person of non-gender-conforming experience, my first existentially reciprocal and affirming experiences were in the New York ballrooms,” the 23-year-old says.

Moore dedicated her performance in the ’80s-based drama to Naomi Hersi, a Somali trans woman who was murdered in London in March at age 36.

“Naomi’s murder in that London hotel this year could have been Angel’s story,” Moore explains. “No one wants to be alone and everyone wants to be loved. Her favorite thing to do was watching television. It pains me to know that Naomi is no longer here and that she will not get to see herself represented in Pose.”

The actress does hope that the series will help change “people’s idea of love and family” to encompass “the existences of communities they would not have normally considered.”

“Our current administration is the biggest threat to LGBTQ rights that I’ve seen in my lifetime,” she says. “Non-gender-conforming people already struggle with having the personal support of the cisgender community and family members. Having policymakers in Washington attack our right to exist by law is frightening on a level that is difficult to describe. Pose will hopefully help them see our humanity if they truly want to see it.”

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