‘Pose’ Actor Jeremy McClain Says Goodbye to Cubby Wintour

“It is such an important, truthful story to tell, and that’s what this show is all about—the truth,' says @jeremy_mcclain.

5/5/2021 11:15:00 PM

“It is such an important, truthful story to tell, and that’s what this show is all about—the truth,' says jeremy_mcclain.

Jeremy McClain talks about Cubby's final goodbye, and why it felt personal for him to get on-screen HIV/AIDS representation right.

, felt that nailing the nuance and subtleties of Cubby’s death scene was of the utmost importance. “It’s such a personal thing for me, as a queer man,” he said.When Cubby first appears in the pilot, the year is 1987. Mostly positioned as a background character, he and his brother Lemar are members of the House of Abundance, led by House Mother Elektra, competing in all of the ball categories and snagging trophies left and right. By 1994, the HIV/AIDS epidemic had killed thousands, and was the

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leading cause of deathin the United States for people aged 25 to 44.The day McClain filmed Cubby’s death scene—in which the ballroom voguer lies in his hospital bed, unable to see clearly due to the ocular complications caused by AIDS—was, of course, “very emotional” for the actor. “I remember Steven [Canals] calling me and telling me they decided to go in this direction and knew I could get there emotionally,” he said. “I just felt really honored. Once the first wave of sadness happened, Dominique Jackson, who plays Elektra, called me and said, ‘Baby, people are going to talk about this. This is going to be a moment.’ That just meant so much to me because she really put the importance of this moment into perspective,” the actor went on.

According to GLAAD’s annual “Where We Are on TV”, representation of people living with HIV dropped “significantly” in the last year. In 2020, three characters on television (compared to nine the previous year) were living with HIV. All of them were on headtopics.com

Pose.Once McClain knew that his character would pass away from complications caused by HIV/AIDS, he immediately went to YouTube in search of any footage he could find of people talking about their experience with HIV/AIDS in the ‘90s, so that he could accurately provide representation of a tragic experience far too many people experienced in that decade, without turning it into a caricature. He spent all day watching what he could find, and thinking about the hours of preparation he had done for the role, which included the makeup department creating a mold of his face so that Cubby’s appearance could be manipulated to seem more gaunt.

Courtesy of Jeremy McClainNaturally, this put the actor in a somber mood. “Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of video out there, because people were afraid to talk to them, to get close enough to people affected by this terrible disease,” he said. “There are pictures, but finding video of real discussions are few and far between, or there are at least not as many as there should be. Through

Pose, we have a lot of amazing people involved who lived during that time and saw it firsthand, and talked about it with me.”Cubby initially resists Blanca’s request to bring his estranged mother in to see him one last time, but eventually acquiesces. “We want to be able to see joy with the trauma,” McClain said. “Just how life is, there’s good and bad.” Cubby’s mother joins his chosen family in saying their final goodbyes. It’s a bittersweet moment that lifts the scene from one of pure trauma to a peaceful goodbye.

Read more: W magazine »

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