I have yet to watch Pose but I’ve heard it’s very good. I do know that Billy Porter, who plays Pray Tell on the show, is everywhere these days. And I couldn’t be happier because he’s the highlight of any Red Carpet he’s on. Billy’s turning 50 next month and is relishing his time in the spotlight. But just because a lot of people hadn’t heard of him until Pose, doesn’t mean he hasn’t been around. Billy’s been treading the boards since 1985. He took Broadway by storm when he originated the role of Lola in Kinky Boots in 2013, a role for which he won two Tonys. But Billy told People that he was often overlooked for roles because he lived openly as a gay, black man.
Billy Porter is experiencing a career breakthrough at 49.
The Broadway veteran and Tony Award winner was at a low before being cast in FX’s Pose, in which he plays Pray Tell, the outspoken and outrageous emcee of the New York City house balls the ’80s-set show centers on. The series features the largest cast of transgender actors and LGBTQ actors in television history.
“I really had a hard time as an out, black, gay actor making any headway. I wasn’t having a great time living up to the heteronormative masculinity standard to get the straight male work,” he tells PEOPLE. “So I wasn’t really working in film and television. And it was just frustrating, you know? It was just frustrating to sort of feel ignored and feel dismissed, and dismissed for even the flamboyant things.”
He adds, “So to have this come around and to have it come around in this way is really profound and really special, and I do not take it lightly.”
“The stories that get green-lit with black men are generally stories about us killing each other very often,” says Porter. “And so it’s nice, it’s beautiful, and it’s time. It’s time to see a different story. It’s time for the world to understand that there are all types of people on the planet, and we do different things, and we can honor each other’s humanity inside of that.”
The part that warms my heart the most from these quotes is Billy’s gratitude for Pose. Billy holds a B.F.A. from the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University and holds a certificate from UCLA’s graduate-level Professional Program In Screenwriting. The man has talent in droves. If anything he should be out there shouting, “it’s about f—king time!” But he isn’t, he’s graciously acknowledging this opportunity while emphasizing the need for better roles. I agree that it’s time to stop only highlighting tragedy for marginalized groups on film. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we found a way to celebrate everyone for who they are? As I said, I could not be happier to see Billy “break through.” I hope with his newfound clout, we see a lot more from him.
Speaking of other firsts for Billy, Pose provided the chance for his first love scene at the age of 49. Billy has been married to his husband, Adam Smith, since 2017 and said he “took a Valium to watch it.” However, it went over so well that Billy promises us, “I’ll probably be getting naked again some time soon because it worked.”
Photo credit: WENN Photos
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