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‘Pose’ Star Says Show Is ‘Art Mirroring Reality': ‘I Was Broke’

”I couldn’t pay my rent,“ Ryan Jamaal Swain tells TheWrap

FX’s Ryan Murphy drama “Pose” brought Ryan Jamaal Swain back to his real-life stomping grounds — a circumstance that brought up painful personal memories for the actor, he told TheWrap in a recent interview.

Swain’s real-life story arc isn’t far off from Damon’s — the character he plays who is plucked from the streets during a brush with homelessness to join a house in the New York City ball scene, a self-described “chosen family.”

“Damon is this young man unearthing his purpose,” Swain said, likening his character to his real life. “Me as a young kid that moved from Alabama with 50 dollars in his pocket to New York City with a dream. I didn’t have an agent, didn’t have any type of anything a year-and-a-half ago, and really now being afforded the opportunity to have a voice and have a platform and be a vessel for this incredible story — it’s art mirroring reality,” the 24-year-old actor told TheWrap.

The fictional “Roosevelt Hall,” depicted early in the series in Episode 2, is actually the United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights — where Swain recently lived.

“That day was very very emotional because we were filming in a space where I used to live,” Swain told TheWrap. “I was broke. I couldn’t pay my rent. I was going to through transitions of adulting,” recalled the actor.

However, like his character, Swain found himself living out his dream shortly thereafter.

“Coming full circle just a few months after and just being, like, ‘Wow, I am in a different place. I am one of the leads in a primetime television show with Ryan Murphy, who is my inspiration.’ The power of a dream and the power of determination and discernment, I think that is so beautiful,” he said.

Another moment from the show the actor said mirrored his own life is a dance sequence he performed to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” in the pilot episode. Swain, a trained dancer, had two days to learn the scene and shot it over the course of one eight-hour day.

“What’s so beautiful about that moment was that it definitely was a star-making moment for myself, but then also Damon’s story in particular. It’s a moment where he had to truly prove something to himself and I think that mirrored my space as well,” Swain said.

The season finale of “Pose” airs Sunday on FX at 9 p.m.

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