Groundbreaking ‘Pose’ stars ‘will be wielding that power’ as show ends

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The category is … the end.

Ryan Murphy’s “Pose” will start shutting down its runway when the third and final season kicks off at 10 p.m. Sunday on FX. Since it premiered to acclaim in 2018, the series has shined a spotlight on the underground ballroom scene of the 1980s and ’90s. It also has served as a springboard for its groundbreaking cast, which includes rising transgender and nonbinary performers, some of whom were part of that movement in real life. 

Sandra Bernhard, who was upped to a series regular as nurse Judy Kubrak in Season 2, both lamented the unique show’s end and lauded its impact on the performers — and the oft-unseen culture — it showcased.

“I’m sad that it’s over,” Bernhard, 65, told The Post. “I don’t think there will ever be another show like ‘Pose.’ I don’t think anything will ever capture the time, the way it was, and use the talent and the people that were from that time, you know? And then they give them jobs! 

“It’s just been a blossoming time for everybody,” she said.

‘The little, black church sissy from Pittsburgh is now in a position of power in Hollywood in a way that never existed before.’

Billy Porter on his Emmy-winning “Pose” role’s cultural impact

Those “blossoming” in front of the camera have included 46-year-old Dominique Jackson — a real-life ballroom legend who plays Elektra Abundance Evangelista — and Mj Rodriguez, 30, who portrays house mother Blanca Evangelista and is herself a ballroom vet since she was 14. And it’s safe to say the cast members will keep blooming in heartwarming — as well as heartbreaking — storylines this season.  

The show has followed the lives of New Yorkers making their mark in ballroom at a time when HIV/AIDS was devastating the LGBTQ community, which already was immersed in a bitter, ongoing battle for equality and civil rights. Now, the packed seven-episode season — which started filming in March 2020 but hit pause until last fall due to the coronavirus pandemic — will continue to magnify that era as Blanca, now a nurse aide working with Bernhard’s nurse Judy, and ballroom emcee Pray Tell (Billy Porter) both navigate the challenges of living with HIV, while Elektra tackles new business ventures and Angel (Indya Moore) contemplates her future with fiancé Lil Papi (Angel Bismark Curiel). 

Working on the show was also a game changer for Porter.

“The idea that the little, black church sissy from Pittsburgh is now in a position of power in Hollywood in a way that never existed before,” the 51-year-old Emmy-, Grammy- and Tony-winning Pennsylvania native said during a recent virtual press conference, noting that he got “very emotional” while screening an early version of the series finale.

“You can damn sure believe that I will be wielding that power and there will be a difference and a change in how things go from here on out,” Porter added.

Rodriguez weighed in that the show’s impact has hopefully reached — and inspired — those in the LGBTQ community who recognize themselves on-screen.

“Now I can sit here and say I’ve actually solidified my roots — actually being a leading lady next to the leading man [Porter] of a great show. It’s possible, it’s obtainable, and you can achieve it simply by all of our stories right here, watching us right now,” she said. “And I just hope that it carries through.”

And Bernhard, who called the final season an “emotional roller coaster,” said working with Rodriguez had been a “highlight” of her own time throughout the three seasons and that she felt like a “mentor” to her — and even like a parent figure, perhaps not unlike a ballroom house mother.

“I have gotten very close to her. I really just adore her. She is a wonderful person. She is just so open,” Bernhard shared with The Post. “I felt mothering towards Mj. I felt like I can give her support and love; that was meaningful for me. I hope it was meaningful for her.”

Bernhard — who will return to Joe’s Pub in December for another series of acclaimed holiday shows, her first there since December 2019 — also saw and appreciated, firsthand, how Rodriguez blossomed on her “Pose” journey.

“She’s just smart and hip and groovy and just an incredible talent. And so it’s just fun to, like, absorb some of that energy,” she said. “It’s knowing that she’s really just leaped off the ledge into the deep end — and she’s just swimming beautifully.”

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