Billy Porter Believes ‘The Pose’ Leaves a Lasting Mark

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In 2019, Billy Porter cemented his place in history by becoming the first black male to be nominated for and subsequently won a leading acting award at the Primetime Emmy Awards.

On Tuesday, he received his third consecutive nomination for best actor in a drama for his role as Pray Tell in the groundbreaking FX drama “Pose.” (Jremy Strong won the 2020 award for “Succession.”) But this year feels different, he said, and not just because “Pose,” set in the New York ball scene of the 1980s and 1990s, wrapped up its three acclaimed seasons. run in june.

In a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, she discussed why this nomination would make extra sense and what “Pose” means for her career and the future of blacks, queer stories on the screen. These are edited excerpts from our talk.

You won this award in 2019. What could make winning this year different?

There is a consciousness and healing emanating from my journey with “Pose” and Pray Tell. For the first two seasons, I knew I was engaging in a healing conversation. But through quarantine – and coming back after quarantine to finish Season 3 – it really does get better.

The idea of ​​using art as activism, of using my art to heal my trauma, really came to the fore this year. So to win it it would send a different message to the world: It’s not just about the brilliance and splendor of the award. The work we do has a significance that just vibrates above and beyond the surface.

It seems that “Pose” has changed you both as a person and as an actor. Now that it’s over, how do you think it’s changed or shaped your career?

No one cared about my long-time gay Black and “Pose” changed that, period. It changed that and put me in front of something. Put me at this crossroads and raise my platform. I’ve always stood at the intersection of being Black, being queer, and being Christian.

This is important. The change has taken place. And we don’t talk too much about it because I always feel like we’re in some sort of collective trauma, but I want to shed light on the fact that there is so much change in the world. “Pose” taught me to imagine the impossible. What is a pose, something that was impossible until we arrived.

Do you think “Pose” will be a pioneer, the first of many series to give queer and transgender artists, especially artists of color, a prominent platform? Or do you think it will be exceptional in this regard?

You know, I’m not a fortune teller, so I can’t tell. But what I do know is that what Ryan Murphy and FX have done in terms of alliances is to create space for us. I always use the analogy “You teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry”. Thanks to the “Pose” opportunity, they taught us all how to fish. They taught us all to nurture ourselves.

Now I’m directing a movie that’s a romantic comedy that follows a black, transgender, high school girl. A growth story that is now a new conversation. We are ready for a new story to be told. And through that experience, I’ve been given the tools to be at the forefront, especially to move the conversation forward and tell all kinds of different stories through this Black, queer lens.

That said, the industry’s track record with representation isn’t great. Do you think “Pose” will really change things for queer and trans artists on TV?

I think it’s like everything else in life. In particular, I will use politics as an analogy. Frederick Douglass I said More than 150 years ago, “Infinite vigilance is the price of freedom.” It’s up to us. It’s up to people like me to be vigilant; I am an outlaw. I’ll personally make sure that the conversation moves forward – personally that I put Hollywood’s feet on fire.

And everyone who comes after me and is with me, we’re setting Hollywood’s feet on fire. We keep the feet of the world on fire in every field. We should be responsible for this. We cannot expect others to do something for us.

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