If you couldn’t already tell based on the clips we shared from the episode of Collider Connected with Billy Porter, getting the opportunity to listen to Porter talk about his craft is an absolute dream. Ups, downs, challenges, accomplishments – every memory, every current pursuit and every goal for the future is addressed with the utmost fortitude and passion. Porter’s been racking up the credits and accolades for years now from winning a Tony Award for his work in Kinky Boots, to commanding the spotlight again and again on the red carpet, to scoring the role of Audrey II in the upcoming Little Shop of Horrors movie and then some.
There’s a lot of good coming Porter’s way right now, but there’s no doubt been some especially bumpy roads along the way. While Porter is clearly very dedicated to contributing to smoothing those roads out for others and changing the industry for the better, he was nearly derailed in that endeavor not too long ago because, it turns out, right before Porter got going on the FX series Pose, he nearly opted out. Here’s what he told me:
“One of the things that I have had to combat in my career for a very long time is, you know, that sort of double edged sword of ‘flamboyance.’ ‘Flamboyantly …’ If ‘flamboyantly …’ as an adjective and description wasn’t in the description of a character, nobody would even call me for it. I wouldn’t even be seen. And then I get to these ‘flamboyantly …’ auditions and then be told that I was too flamboyant. It got to the point where I wanted to literally kill people. It was like, I actually can’t do this anymore. Like, I’m done. I am done. Right before Pose happened, I was like, ‘Yeah, I have so many other things I can do, and so many other things I love to do, I cannot continue to put myself in this position and continue to be dismissed.’ Like I have not paid my dues, like I have not been here, like I’m not talented. I can’t do that anymore!”
Of course Porter did find great success with Pose, but when he first started working on the show, some of those ideas and experiences did follow him and they nearly changed what he did with the character:
“When I booked the gig, I started shooting it and the unconscious restriction of, ‘You’re too big, you’re too flamboyant, you’re too much, pull it back, we can’t have that.’ Whatever it is, I started doing my television version of what I thought was acceptable for Pray Tell – ‘the category is, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah …’ – and I started doing it for television. Like, ‘Well, I’m on television so I’m gonna make it smaller. It’s gonna be more intimate. You know, that’s what they want. That’s what the TV people want so I’m not gonna ruin this job. I wanna keep this job and I’m not gonna be too much.’ Ryan Murphy: ‘Cut!’ He comes into the room, comes up on set and he’s like, ‘I need all of you. Don’t worry about being too big, don’t worry about being too much. I’ll take care of that. Do all of it. All of it.’ I’m like, ‘You’re sure? Cause once you unleash the kraken, she ain’t going back.’ He’s like, ‘Please unleash the kraken and let’s get moving.’”
This right here is only one of many inspiring stories Porter shared during our lengthy chat for Collider Connected. We also talked about some early inspirations, why he thinks Mj Rodriguez deserves more awards recognition for her work on Pose, how he approaches being a leader on set, the new season of The Twilight Zone and so much more. You can catch it all in the full episode of Collider Connected at the top of this article. We’ve also got a handy breakdown for you below.
Pose Season 1 and Season 2 are now streaming on Netflix, and I highly recommend giving them a watch if you haven’t already.
- 00:33 – Porter runs through some early moments of inspiration.
- 06:30 – Does Porter still play the saxophone?
- 07:25 – Connecting to the audience is a different process for stage and screen; why Porter was at a breaking point before booking Pose.
- 11:34 – What is it about Ryan Murphy’s leadership that creates great ensembles
- 13:20 – How does Porter approach being a leader on set?
- 15:16 – What’s a seemingly silly question that Porter was afraid to ask when he was first starting out?
- 17:40 – How is Porter approaching directing an episode of Pose for Season 3?
- 18:55 – Porter reveals how far they got into making Season 3 before the pandemic shutdown.
- 19:38 – Porter discusses being approached to play the dance teacher initially and how that changed.
- 21:58 – If Porter had to pick one person from the Pose ensemble who brought more out of their role than he ever could have imagined, who would it be and why?
- 23:20 – Porter highlights something that many do not fully understand about Pose; why Mj Rodriguez needs awards recognition.
- 27:35 – Porter on how awards give power to the powerless.
- 29:19 – Porter recalls when he first realized that he could say just as much on the red carpet through fashion that he can on screen.
- 34:07 – How is Porter approaching his voice work for the new Little Shop of Horrors movie?
- 36:05 – Porter talks about his character in the new season of The Twilight Zone.
- 37:03 – With all the opportunities coming his way now, is there any particular type of role that Porter is being inundated with and is there a particular type of role that he’s not being offered but he wishes he was?