Billy Porter, born in Pittsburgh in 1969, struggled with moderate success as an actor and singer for many years, appearing in musical roles in New York and occasional television roles. But after her breakthrough into the stage with the lead role in “Kinky Boots” (for which she won a Tony Award in 2013), Hollywood finally pricked her ears. Although a few spectacular red carpet outfits certainly did not attract attention.
Meanwhile, Porter, who has been married to his husband Adam Smith since 2017 and made his HIV diagnosis public last year, was awarded Best Actor for the series “Outside” and has appeared in films such as “Lady Business” and “Cinderella.” Now he presents his first film as a director with “Everything is Possible” (from July 22 on Prime Video) (Fabian Schfer’s film review) We managed to have a video interview with him while he struggled with hunger and the heat with a sandwich and air conditioning at home.
The movie poster: Everything is Possible is available on Amazon Prime Video on July 22, 2022.
Mr. Porter, you’ve been in front of the camera for over 25 years, now backstage for the first time in the movie Anything is Possible. Have you always dreamed of directing?
I’ve always been producing in the theater for 20 years and I always planned to do the same in film at some point. So I manifested what the saying goes. After all, “Everything is possible” was not a project that I developed, but one that was suggested to me.
How did this happen?
Incredible producer Christine Vachon and her team at Killer Films got the script and they immediately thought of me as a possible director. It paid off that I had made a decision long ago that I would always be authentic and that I was very consciously celebrating my strangeness instead of hiding it. So today, when the spirit of the times finally comes into our hands in the LBGTQIA community, I am firmly anchored among people as someone who knows how it works when it comes to these issues.
A film about a trans college student naturally stands and falls with the right main actress. How difficult was it to find the right one?
Initially, the producers decided on another girl (Yasim Finney, whose work visa to the US was not granted on time and who then played a role in “Heartstopper”; editor’s note). But when we needed to quickly change our schedule, my first pick, the gorgeous Eva Reign, got back into the game. During casting, she had such wonderfully down-to-earth energy that I found it stunning. Thought it was good that she might seem a little more mature than a high school student of that age. Because I felt that our hero should be a teenager, but also someone who would lead the viewer through this story with determination.
Khal (Abubakr Ali) and trans girlfriend Kelsa (Eva Reign) fall in love (Image: Amazon Studios)
You made a movie in your home Pittsburgh or even your old school, right?
That’s only half the truth about the school, I actually attended Pittsburgh High School of Creative and Performing Arts called CAPA. But that was in the 1980s and the school was in a different building than the one we’re shooting in now. Either way, it meant a lot to me to shoot in the city where I was born and raised.
Pittsburgh is a very special place, even if the city doesn’t always have the best reputation. The steel industry used to have a huge presence there, but politicians understood sooner than in other parts of the US that it wouldn’t last forever and that a change had to be made. Today, the medical industry is strongly represented here, as well as many companies such as Google and Uber. Pittsburgh is the East Coast Silicon Valley! We are resilient and flexible, therefore we survive crises better than others. I wanted to pay tribute to this romantic comedy.
Speaking of romantic comedy: you could also describe the movie as a fairy tale or a utopia!
Yes, I wanted to show what we can and should be as a society. Precisely because at the moment there is a conservative reaction and only 24 hours a day we are hearing bad news about the rights of so-called minorities. Which is logical as horror reports are the ones editors open from. But the reason the backlash and resistance are so great now is because progress and change have already been made. You can recall it instead of always just painting it black. In the meantime, you need to take a deep breath and be happy. In that sense, Anything is Possible is something like an oxygen mask that allows you to turn off and have fun before the fight continues.
You also tried your hand at singing R&B in the 90s and released an album that wasn’t a huge hit. Now you sang, wrote and produced some songs for Anything’s Possible. Has your love for music revived?
You could say for the mainstream, even if the music never disappeared from my life. When my first album came out in 1997, people in the industry didn’t want to have much to do with a gay like me. But I didn’t let it stop me, and I went my own way anyway. As time went on, the music industry snuck back in because suddenly my queer became my superpower. Suddenly you want more of it. So soon there will be new music for me. Again in collaboration with Justin Tranter, who also collaborates with Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Imagine Dragons. We also co-wrote and produced the songs for the Anything’s Possible soundtrack which I think is the perfect mix of my love for musical theater, 70’s black disco and 90’s R&B.
Everything is possible. romantic comedy USA 2022. Director: Billy Porter. Cast: Rene Elise Goldsberry, Eva Reign, Abubakr Ali, Kelly Lamor Wilson. Duration: 98 minutes. Language: German dubbed version, English original version. Subtitles: German (optional). On Amazon Prime Video from July 22, 2022.