For Dyllón Burnside, There's Life After 'Pose'

Sunday June 6, 2021
Originally published on June 5, 2021

With "Pose" coming to an end, break-out actor Dyllón Burnside looks forward with numerous projects. he explained in an interview as part of Yahoo Life's "The Unwind" series.

On June 11, he releases a new single, "Heaven," a follow-up to his 2020 song "Silence." Last month it was announced he was headed to Broadway (where he appeared in 2014 in the Tupac-inspired musical "Holler if Ya Hear Me") this fall in "Thoughts of a Colored Man." And on June 2 Ryan Murphy posted an IG that announced Burnside will be one of the four actors to appear in his upcoming anthology series "American Horror Stories," a spin-off from "American Horror Story." Dubbed by Murphy "The Fantastic Four," Burnside is joined by Glee' veteran Kevin McHale, 'Riverdale' actor Charles Melton, and 'The Prom's' Nico Greetham.

On "Pose" Burnside plays Ricky Evangelista, whom Yahoo describes as "the scrappy, handsome dancer who turns his life around through the queer ballroom scene of 1980s New York."

While Ricky has been Burnside's breakout role, he's been a show business veteran for some 20 years. At the age of 12 he was lead singer for the boy band 3D along with two of his cousins. The band toured with such A-list music stars as Stevie Wonder and Rihanna. But according to his Wikipedia entry, after a decade with the band he moved to New York City, studied acting and danced, and pursued a bachelor's degree in media studies and writing. In 2014 he starred on Broadway in the Tupac-inspired musical "Holler if Ya Hear Me," as well as appearing on such television shows as "High Maintenance" and the live broadcast of "Peter Pan."

For Burnside, who has long been public about his sexuality, "Pose" looked like a natural fit, but when the project was pitched to him, he had his doubts about being the right fit for the show; partly because he would be one of the few cis actors on the show. But his agent convinced him and after a personal screen test for the series producer Ryan Murphy, he was hired, but not for the part he auditioned for. Instead Murphy created the role of Ricky for him.

But he realized immediately he didn't know much about ballroom culture.
"I didn't have a lot of personal experience with the culture, so for me, in preparing the for role, there was a lot of digging through archival footage, trips to the library, and trying to find things online," he told the website Chill in a 2018 interview. "One thing about the ball community and the history is that there is not a lot of documentation, so you have to piece things together to get a full comprehensive picture."

The show, which has done more to advance trans visibility than any other television program, concludes its third and final season on Sunday night. Looking back at the experience, Burnside told Yahoo: "It's been really transformative for me ... and eye-opening, in the sense that it has awakened me to my own power, awakened me to the power of authenticity."

Asked about how he described himself sexuality as being "beyond the binary" of gay or straight," he said, "It's not important for other people to understand about me. I have to understand it, because — news flash! — I sleep with who I want." Adding that since we view the world through a heterosexual lens, "(I)t's important for us to talk about sexual identity... And if folks who are not heterosexual do not speak up about their identity, then it's assumed to be other and to be abnormal when in fact it is incredibly normal. I think most people exist on the spectrum. They just don't accept it or realize it."

Discussing how he keeps himself physically and mentally fit, Burnside said that meditation and Yoga help, as does therapy; and music plays a big part in his well-being. "Music is my first love, and also something that is a necessity for me. ... It's the way that I process feeling. It's the way that I process a heartbreak. It's the way that I process confusion. It's the way that I processed joy. Of all of the ways that I express as an artist, I think music is perhaps the most deeply personal in terms of how much of myself I put into it. Singing is a very vulnerable thing..."