Billy Porter has learned to lean into joy, and he has another queer icon to thank.
Porter talked to Page Six about his upcoming directorial debut, and also revealed how his movie will be different from most films about trans people.
"The working title of my movie is What If. I went back home to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to film it," he told the publication.
"It’s a coming-of-age romantic comedy inspired by the old John Hughes films," he continued. "Populated with what the world looks like today. The lead protagonist character is a Black transgender high school girl."
He also added that he decided to focus on a different part of the trans experience than most media does. "It’s about trans joy, not trans drama," he said.
In a previous profile this year with The Hollywood Reporter, Porter said that working with Ryan Murphy on Pose helped him find ways to lean into showing queer joy on screen.
"I’m trying to be joyful," Porter told THR in May. "And one of the effects of trauma is not being able to feel joy. Ryan [Murphy] actually called me out season one. I was summoned to Fred's on Wilshire Boulevard, and he sat down and said, 'I’m going to need you to lean in to the joy.'"
That was hard for Porter to hear, but ultimately good. "I’m very adept at hiding that side of my struggle, and he called me out," he said. "Then we had this wonderful conversation about the work that I had done in my life, and how this is my moment — time for me to sit on my throne, the leading man."
Now, it seems Porter has fully embraced leaning into his joy, both in real life, and in the media he creates.
What If?, which will be Porter’s directorial debut, is set to star writer, artist, and up-and-coming actor Eva Reign. It will be her first starring role, and she’ll appear alongside Abubakr Ali and Hamilton’s Renee Elise Goldsberry.
The film is based on an adorably viral Reddit post from 2018, where a cis high school boy asked for advice on how to ask out a trans girl at his high school who was "absolutely and painfully beautiful" and who made him feel like "my eyes would turn into hearts and leap from their sockets whenever I see her."