Mj Rodriguez made history on Tuesday, becoming the first transgender performer to be nominated in a major category for her portrayal of nurse Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista in FX’s highly lauded Pose. Through tears, Rodriguez talks of the impact of the accolade with Deadline.
“I’m feeling so many emotions. I’m feeling joy, and I’m feeling accomplished. I finally feel seen,” the Afro-Latinx star said during a phone call from France. “My uncle passed away, and I feel like I am celebrating him because I feel like he had his hands on me and the cast of Pose. I’m a girl hailing from Northern New Jersey who had dreams and aspirations like Whitney Houston, child. I never thought this could happen for me. I told myself no matter what happens, I’m going to keep going and never stop.”
She continued: “I’m grateful that people can really see my human existence and they can see what I have to offer the world through art. I love what I do and that I represent every intersectionality of my being a trans artist who identifies as a woman and being Black and Latina. That goes to show what the human condition can do and what having fight looks like. A piece of that fight has been won finally for a whole new generation who are of many colors and from different walks of life. I hope through my win they see that they can do it too.”
Rodriguez is celebrating large as the final season of the drama from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals earned 10 Emmy nominations including Outstanding Drama Series, Best Actress (Rodriguez), Best Actor (Billy Porter) and Best Director (Canals). But she’s not surprised, however. She knew how special the show and Blanca were from Day 1.
“When I read the first breakdown, I saw so many similarities between me and this woman like how we love, how we care, and how we fight,” Rodriguez explained. “But she had a very different fight than I had as someone with HIV and as a woman who came from nothing and still managed to be a great mother. The words on the script came alive and I knew I had to do her justice because these are more than people in a story. I wanted to key into all of the women in the trans community and outside of it, too. I wanted to show what resilience and womanhood look like no matter what type of womanhood you represent.”
If the pairing of Rodriguez and Porter was particularly impactful, it might be in part due to their many years of friendship predating the series.
“It was pure joy to work with Billy, who I’ve know since I was 19 years old. I loved sharing the stage with him this season though it was extremely difficult because of his character’s journey,” she said. “He lifted me up in moments where I needed it like a few times when I was holding back. He would tell me, ‘Girl, you have to let that go,’ because that’s what the scene needed. If he wasn’t the fairy godmother in my ear, honey, I don’t think it would’ve happened. We did it together!”
Rodriguez feels that no matter the outcome on Emmy night, she’s already a winner. Following in the footsteps of trans talent who were nominated before her — Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox and Razor Tongue‘s Rain Valez — she too hopes to play a role in shattering that glass ceiling for those waiting in the wings.
“Never stop, keep going no matter what anyone says,” she began her message to trans artists with Hollywood dreams. “Keep your head held high. If anyone tries to tell you your existence isn’t worthy, look at the girl from North New Jersey who had nothing and worked hard and is here now. Look to her and she’ll always be there telling you everything you’ve ever dreamed of is possible. You deserve it and you are worthy.”