Hailie Sahar currently stars in FX’s groundbreaking series ‘Pose.’ HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with the actress about the amazing way she got the role, embodying Lulu, and those costumes!
Pose is changing the TV game. The FX series, created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Steven Canals, features television’s largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles and is the largest LGBTQ cast ever for a scripted series.
Did you always want to be an actress? How did you find your way into the entertainment industry?
Hailie Sahar: Yes, I actually started off dancing. I’m professionally trained in ballet, modern, jazz, and all of that. I was one of those kids that would put on shows at home and make my parents watch me. I had a whole production that I would put on myself. My mom saw that, and she put me in performing arts school, but I started off dancing. And then, you know, I ventured off into doing plays and auditioned for things, and we quickly saw that I had a natural gift for it. I just haven’t lost that passion for it.
When Ryan Murphy calls you and he says that you’ve gotten this role and he wants you to be on this show, what was your reaction?
Hailie Sahar: Okay, so first off let me just tell you I love Ryan Murphy. That particular conversation was so crazy, because Lulu’s character was actually created for me. I auditioned for Blanca’s role, and they said, “We loved that, but you didn’t fit that particular description, but we love you.” Ryan said he loved me so much that he wanted to write you in on the show as a regular and create a character for you. I really cried. I cried, because to me that was even more of an honor than the audition that I originally went out for. To be loved by someone, that I’ve loved for all these years and to believe in me enough to make me a series regular and create a character, I literally cried.
This is a huge ensemble cast. There are a lot of characters to get through, and we’re all already invested, at least for me, emotionally invested in them. Are we going to be peeling back these layers on Lulu over the course of this season? What can fans expect on her end?
Hailie Sahar: Yes, I always love to describe Lulu as a lioness. The reason why, which I don’t know if you watch Discovery Channel, is that a lioness really wants to hunt or have the pack. Before they actually pounce on their prey, they stalk it first. If you watch her very closely, she’s second-in-command to Elektra, and they expect her to run the house, but she’s always there and always there in the group. You should always watch her, she’s just like a lioness. She stalks her prey, but you don’t know what she’s stalking.
The series is very much about family, and that’s what I love. That’s why I’m so invested in these characters because they’re like family, and the chemistry between you and the rest of the cast is amazing, and it’s so crucial to the success of the show. Does the family dynamic carry over offscreen as well?
Hailie Sahar: Yes it does. It’s one of those things that I like to say the universe — I’m such a universe fanatic — I think that the universe directed all of us, individually, for a reason. We all have a common thread. The very first day at our table read, we met each other for the first time. Some of us didn’t even know each other, and we all realized the importance of these positions that we were in. It wasn’t about self, it was about the movement of roles, inequality, especially with the trans, everything in the world that’s happening today, and the generation that’s happened today. We had this common thread, and it’s amazing off camera the love that we have. We’ll call each other. We’ll have heart-to-hearts. We’ll have those moments where we cry to each other, and we just really lean on each other. It’s very crazy, our family, how connected we actually are. All of us are very intelligent, and we know the importance of the position that we’re in now.
Tell me about the costumes and transforming to these epic characters.
Hailie Sahar: Oh, gosh. I love it. This is one of my favorite parts about entertainment. I love playing dress up and doing these elaborate things. When I saw that we were doing that particular scene, I was ecstatic. Where we walked the bow, and I did that turn and get to the floor, that was not rehearsed, that was just freelancing and just spur of the moment. And I love that they allow us to do that. That costume was so heavy, but it was incredible.
How similar is Lulu to the real you, and what have you learned from her and this experience as a whole?
Hailie Sahar: For me, it was about finding a limb between being great, but then being second as my character, and I was not certain how to do that. I had to find a median of how does Lulu become great? How does she just stand out, but still be second next to Elektra? What does that mean for her? Because if she’s that good, why is she second to Elektra? Why would she stay there? I had to find this humbled ground between her and find that medium balance between the crew. And how I relate to her is, in second episode, where’s she meets Blanca in the bar, then Blanca says I want you to be a part of my life. She says, “No. I might wanna stay at my house, you never know.” For me, Lulu had dreams, and I had dreams. To me, Lulu’s working towards something, but you don’t know what it is. And I’m always working towards my goals and my dreams. So I found the connection there. I literally have music for Lulu. I listen to it every morning before going to set. I just tap into some of like what Lulu will listen to, what kind of makeup color would she wear.
What’s it been like for you to be transported to the 80s. I mean the 80s were such a volatile, beautiful time. It was completely different world, and it wasn’t an easy time for anyone, especially the trans community with the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Hailie Sahar: For me, it was a humbling situation at best. I don’t think I appreciated the essence of the 80s before doing this project. And what I mean by that is, you know, I would always see picturesand say, “Oh my, gosh, your hair was so big” Or I’d laugh at the fried out hair. But I didn’t realize that the 80s was really about individuality and being creative and just owning your own self. In doing the project, I love it because it allows me to tap into that. The stories of the AIDS crisis and all of that, it was just, like, wow. It’s such a humbling thing to know the shoulders that you stand on, and to realize that it’s not easy now, but I couldn’t imagine being at that time, and what that meant, or even before that. I was just so humbled, crafting into that timeframe, because it was just like I’m standing on these amazing shoulders, and I felt such a deep honor to get the story right.
What’s the reaction been like from fans since the show premiered? And what’s that been like for you to get in touch with fans on such a personal level?
Hailie Sahar: Well, I love it. It’s something I’m getting used to. I don’t wanna sound cliché, but it’s literally a dream come true. I just pray and hope that every moment that I’m alive to have a platform, and I’m allowed to speak, that I’m speaking acceptance, and I’m actually touching someone in a positive way. That’s what it feels like.
And the show isn’t just a show, it’s breaking barriers for trans people in front of the camera and off the camera. I mean that in of itself is just such a huge moment in TV, and just history.
Hailie Sahar: Yeah, it’s crazy. I’m literally a part of history. But it feels surreal to be. Maybe in a few years, I will understand what that actually means. But it’s very surreal right now.