'Pose': Inside Elektra's Heartbreaking Origin Story in Season 3 (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
As Pose continues to draw to a close with its third and final season, Dominique Jackson took center stage in episode three, “The Trunk,” as the FX series finally explored Elektra’s backstory and dealt with what was stuffed in the back of her closet since season 2.
“We get to finally see her backstory. We get to learn about the creation or the formation of the House of Abundance, which is really exciting,” co-creator Steven Canals tells ET. For him, it was important to give Elektra this moment, especially after so many people wrote her off as a villain in season 1. “We’ve really shown so much development and growth with that character,” he adds.
And as the story jumped to three distinct time periods -- 1978, 1983, and 1984 -- leading up to when the series kicked off in 1987, audiences learned Elektra’s heartbreaking origin story, which involves her abusive mother, Tasha (Noma Dumezweni), and how she became such a resilient force in the ballroom world.
In those scenes, they see someone full of fear as this deeply cruel woman denies her daughter her true identity and eventually kicks her out of the house. This ultimately shapes who Elektra is as a mother and leader of the House of Abundance.
Understanding the weight and intensity of those moments, Dumezweni says “to get scenes playing Ma to Mother -- it’s good for me to not always be sympathetic in parts -- I can hold the space with safety and love doing the ‘work’ we needed to do with Tina Mabry as director.”
“Just that I am a fan of the seismic shift in the collective consciousness that Pose has achieved,” The Undoing breakout star continues, “I had to be ‘chill’ when meeting Janet and Dominique, especially as I see them as part of a bigger discussion of respect and nonjudgment for each individual one gets to meet in life.”
Meanwhile, in present time in 1994, Elektra’s been unjustly arrested during a shakedown and it’s only a matter of time before the police learn of the trunk -- the show’s reference to the 1994 New York magazine article “The Drag Queen Had a Mummy in her Closet” -- and the body of a former client stuffed inside it. But she’s able to convince Blanca (Mj Rodriguez) to dispose of it before anyone finds out.
Producer and co-writer of the episode, Janet Mock, reveals that many of those flashbacks with Elektra’s mother came out of conversations she had with Jackson, who is originally from Tobago, about the actress’ own past. “We got to pour some of that into our script because we felt like she was an actress worthy of that kind of work, that deep work,” she says, adding that writing it “was a journey and a joyride and a roller coaster.”
For Jackson, who delivers another standout performance reminding audiences why she’s such a fan-favorite despite being thought of as the antagonist, it was a tough episode to film. “I was very much afraid of it,” she says. “I was not ready to face my truth in that sense because for a trans woman, especially for a Black trans immigrant, it wasn’t easy to look back and see what it is like for us to come out, to be ourselves, to find our truth.”
In fact, during a visit to the set in season 2, Jackson opened up about her life in Tobago, where she was objectified as a transgender woman and abused. “I’m a person that has gone through a lot of trauma,” she shared at the time.
“And so, in working with Janet and working with Tina Mabry, it was like, ‘It’s my truth and I have to do it,’” Jackson says now. “It was at times devastating. It was, at times, a reflection of what I needed to see in order to move forward in my life. But in that episode, I put my soul, I put my heart, I put all of me, too much of me into it.”
New episodes of Pose air Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.