The last time Billy Porter appeared at Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival was in the year 2000. He was there in support of one of the first movies he ever appeared in: Greg Berlanti’s The Broken Hearts Club, a romantic comedy about a group of gay best friends living in West Hollywood. Back then, Porter was just turning 30, and he was very unsure of where his career would take him. But 22 years later, he’s back at Outfest — and this time, he’s opening the festival with the world premiere of his directorial debut, Anything’s Possible, about a Black, trans high school girl who actually gets the guy.
“It feels like redemption,” Porter told MovieMaker Thursday night on the Outfest opening night red carpet. “It feels like progress. It feels like hope and change.”
Porter was over the moon that he was able to “tell this story of trans joy” while also “celebrating trans lives and putting that positive energy out into the world.”
The iconic Pose actor and Kinky Boots Broadway star filmed Anything’s Possible, out July 22 on Amazon Prime Video, in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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“I love Pittsburgh. It’s the town that raised me. All of my chosen family who’s still there — and not there — came in and are a part of this. I was able to… just create a love letter to my hometown. And it’s really wonderful,” he said.
Porter also received Outfest’s highest honor on Thursday: the Outfest Annual Achievement Award.
“I was turning 30 at the time of the filming of The Broken Hearts Club, and I was disenchanted with my career, or lack thereof, that I saw before me. There was a glass ceiling for us queers. And that glass ceiling was even thicker for folks of color,” Porter said during his acceptance speech. “After our premieres at Outfest and Sundance with The Broken Hearts Club, I took a leap and moved out here to Los Angeles. I quickly realized that the industry, nor the world, was ready for all this black boy joy.
“I can count on one hand how many auditions I had in all of those three years that I lived here. My pigeonhole was quite severe. If the description of the character didn’t begin with ‘flamboyantly…’ I was not considered. And then after the audition, I would consistently hear feedback that I was ‘too flamboyant,’ and the role will be given to a straight actor,” he continued.
But Porter never gave up on his quest to increase LGBTQ+ representation in Hollywood, and eventually — after an iconic run as Lola in Kinky Boots on Broadway, starring as Pray Tell in Ryan Murphy’s Pose, and now directing a truly inclusive film filled with queerness and actors of color — he has finally achieved his dream.
“We have to choose love. We have to choose hope. We have to choose joy,” he said later on in his speech. “Who will you be? What will you do? This is the moment right now. This is the moment. No more silence.”
Main Image: Billy Porter on the red carpet at Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival’s Opening Night Gala Presents Anything’s Possible. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock for Outfest.