Pose star Angel Bismark Curiel has captured hearts as the lovable Lil Papi Evangelista, and on this week’s episode of Shadow And Act’s Opening Act, Managing Editor Trey Mangum spoke with the actor about his time on Pose, becoming a season regular, and how fame has affected him so far.

When Curiel first booked Pose, he was hired as a recurring character, he said. He didn’t expect to become as integral to the series as he is now.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to make it this long…I didn’t think I was supposed to make it past season 1,” he said. “I remember around episode 3 or something like that, I was in [costar Mj Rodriguez]’s trailer and I was just crying, ’cause I was like, ‘I want to do more, I want to be a bigger part of this,'” he continued. “I think that was just coming from a place of ‘I love it here, I feel safe here, these are my people.’ I can’t imagine being on another set because I feel so at home with y’all, I don’t want to go.

He eventually got a call from his representation that co-creator and EP Ryan Murphy was impressed and wanted to upgrade him to a series regular. Coincidentally, Curiel was with Rodriguez in a car headed to set when he told her the good news. Co-creator/EP Steven Canals also assured Curiel that he would have chances to show his acting muscle, particularly with the seventh episode of the first season when Papi is kicked out of the House of Evangelista. That work cemented Bismark as an ongoing member of the cast for seasons to come.

His newfound fame has earned him tons of fans, particularly because of Papi’s relationship with Evangelista house member Angel (Indya Moore). But he was also able to reconnect with his father, a director of photography in the Dominican Republic.

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Curiel called reconnecting with his father “the most enriching experience I have ever encountered,” saying that he hopes more Black and Brown men are able to reconnect with their estranged parents as well.

“I feel like often, because of history and the cards that we’ve been dealt, with we’re the ones left without fathers or parents in general,” he said. “I found it so healing to be able to go home and look my father in the eye as a grown man and in turn get to know myself and what I’m capable of doing as far as forgiving and loving an individual who I feel like should have been there for me growing up.”

He revealed that his father told him a story of what Curiel was like as a young child before he and his mother left the Dominican Republic for America.

“He told me this beautiful thing that as a 7-year old kid, I was saying, ‘Daddy, Daddy, don’t worry, don’t worry, you don’t have to cry, I’m going to be a big actor…and I’m gonna come find you,'” he said. “And sure enough, I stumbled upon his Instagram page a year or two ago by clicking on my own hashtag.”

Curiel hopes that Black and Brown viewers, particularly male viewers, take away the idea that toxic masculinity isn’t what’s needed to survive.

“The show Pose is very Black, very Brown, very queer and very trans,” he said. “For me, growing up in Liberty City and not knowing what the vocabulary word of what being trans means, let alone the trauma of being trans or queer or Black or Brown…I hope the legacy it leaves is where a young man like myself who was very uninformed about these stories and about these lives [is] clicking the TV on, going through channels, stopping on FX, seeing themselves in Papi…and then turns the TV off, and now he just has this different insight.

“When he goes to his friends, and his friends start cracking on a girl just because he’s trans, he [can] say, ‘Nah, man, I don’t know about that, bro. You should watch this show,'” he continued. “I hope that Papi and Angel’s storyline is just the gateway for these young men just like me to go then from that storyline and fixing their lives on the story that matters, which is these five Black and Brown trans women and femmes and hearing their stories and hearing their traumas and understanding that we all need be and play a part in uplifting these women, because nobody can do that s— by themselves.”

“When these women are being harmed, when these women are being murdered, it’s oftentimes at the hands of men too ashamed to say that they’re with them…And because we have this concept of toxic masculinity…I hope that watching Angel and Papi’s storyline can bring somebody who’s open-minded enough to look at that story, reassess some things in their own method of thinking, and then share that love with his friends and his family,” he said.

Pose‘s final season is currently airing on FX.