While every episode of Pose, creators Ryan Murphy and Steven Canal’s groundbreaking series about the LGBTQ community of color and the ballroom scene set in early-’90s New York City, is a reminder of why transgender lives matter, season 2’s “Never Knew Love Like This Before” really drives that message home in a powerful and emotional way. “It was one of the hardest scripts I have written,” Janet Mock, the Emmy-nominated producer behind the FX drama, tells ET about the episode, which served as a tragic representation of the real-life horrors of transgender women of color being murdered all around the country.
(Spoilers for the episode, which first premiered on July 9, 2019 on FX, and is now streaming on Netflix.)
In the series’ most shocking moment yet, the story of Candy, the fiercely competitive co-founder of the House of Ferocity played by the scene-stealing Angelica Ross, comes to an abrupt end. It’s discovered early in the episode that she was murdered; a victim of a sexual encounter gone bad with her body carelessly left inside the closet of a sleazy motel.
“Ryan Murphy and I wrote the script together, and it really was to bring a spotlight on the epidemic of violence that surrounds the lives of black and brown trans women,” Mock says, explaining that in order to do that they “had to lose a character that was so special and so dynamic.”
In fact, Candy’s death is strikingly familiar to what happened to Paris Is Burning subject Venus Extravaganza, who was killed in 1988. It is also a reflection of the many transgender people who have lost their lives in the decades since. In 2019, in the wake of the increasing numbers of deaths, the American Medical Association even called the violence against the transgender community an epidemic, stating that transgender women were most at risk.
Ross says that when she first found out about her character’s fate, “I was like, ‘Why Candy?’ And as I began asking a lot of these questions, it was sadly just a reflection of all the questions I ask when a black trans woman is killed.”
Even though saying goodbye to Candy was extremely hard to do for Mock, Ross and the rest of the Pose family, the episode gave her the justice of being able to speak from the other side. “To speak her truth, to right the wrongs done against her and to also forgive. Forgive her parents who may not have always made the right choices -- and I know for a lot of LGBTQ people, the scene with Candy and her parents was cathartic for so many of us who had to struggle with that, had to struggle with who we knew ourselves to be and the people we came from,” Mock explains.