Poz Roz was included in Shadow and Act’s 10 Black Web Series to watch in December 2019. Creator Carlton Jordan is sharing his thoughts for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
Poz Roz is a labor of love project that I loosely came up with in 2007. I wanted to explore what dating with a stigma in the Black community looked like. And being a queer Black man, who’s dated HIV+ men, I felt that would be a unique story to tell in the rom-com space. I admit, I was afraid of the subject matter because I didn’t want anyone in the Poz community to be offended because my approach to the story was comedic.
As a queer Black man, the conversation around HIV is connected to our sexuality and is something that our community has to be versed on as soon as we come of age/out of the closet. But I felt like the topic from non-LGBTQIAP+ Black America was stuck in 1990. With Poz Roz, I didn’t want to do a PSA; I wanted to do something entertaining and fun, which reflected a sex-positive world that works through stigma instead of demonizing it.
Rozzlyn Mayweather, the actual character in Poz Roz, is inspired by an article I read on XONecole about a young Black woman who contracted HIV at 22. I was expecting a traumatic journey in the article, but it was an inspirational journey of how she thrived in her disease and life – falling in love, getting married, and having kids. That was the lightbulb that made me write the project and would be the tone and entry point. What does a love story look like when dating with a stigma like HIV, and how the Black community deals specifically with the topic. It’s a provocative take because of the rawness of the subject matter and my writing. 100% of the people who have watched it are shocked that it is an entertaining series instead of a sad tale. It let me know I was doing my job – this is a coming of age, rom-com story whose lead character just happens to be HIV+.
The reception for Poz Roz has been overwhelmingly positive. We received 3 pre-Daytime Emmy Nominations and had a screening and panel hosted by Sheryl Lee Ralph. On World Black AIDS Day, an essential part of the message is elevating the conversation to people thriving with HIV and managing the disease. I had consultants on the show who were HIV+ to make sure there weren’t any tone-deaf jokes or scenarios. We wanted this to be a modern-day conversation and feel like Insecure or I May Destroy You in tone.
I’m glad that I trusted my instinct and put together a great team (shout out to my Black investors James and Vanessa McKnight). My advice for content creators is for them to do their content no matter what. Share your work no matter what. I entered the Micheaux Film Festival in 2019, and an assistant at CAA saw Poz Roz and presented it to the TV department, and they signed me for representation. The goal now is to continue the story on a bigger platform as a TV project and hopefully do a Season 2!
Watch season 1 below: