Billy Porter On Allyship, Acting, And His New Trans Teen Romance Film, Anything’s Possible

Abubakr Ali in Anything's Possible (Supplied)

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Billy Porter talks about directing, transphobia and the last time he was patronised!

DNA: This is a typical teen romance between a boy and a girl – until we realise the girl was once a boy. How does that recalibrate what would otherwise be a predictable coming-of-age story?

Billy Porter: Oh, yeah! It’s the John Hughes coming-of-age romantic comedy for the new generation. It’s on purpose. And I’m so gobsmacked that we’re here! It’s necessary. Look at what we get to do as artists! I really need to talk about the positive; we lean so much into the negative. The reason for this extreme pushback, this movie, is because the progressive change has already happened. And we’re not going back. That’s what this movie represents.

Eva Reign (left) and Billy Porter (right) on set of Anything’s Possible (Supplied)

Billy, you’re many impressive things, but you’re not trans. What gave you the confidence to enable these trans voices?

You’re right. But I just spent five years with trans women on Pose where I got the education I needed to put me in the position to be the ally who brings these stories to life. I know exactly how to do it because I’ve been listening and I’ve been learning. I’m the ally who understands how to shut up and listen. I shut up and listened for five years with those girls on Pose. And I did the very same thing on the set of this movie.

The writer, Ximena García Lecuona, takes trans issues and turns them on their head. There are beautiful lines, like: “You’re technically not brave if you’re just being who you are.” And: “Cis people don’t talk about gender all the time. They just are. So why do I have to talk about gender all the time?” And: “I’m afraid people won’t date me because I’m trans, or they only wanna date me…

“…because I’m trans.”

Those lines get inside a person’s head and heart real quick. The script must have been a joy to work with.

The actual directing and realising of this story was one of the most blissful times of my life as an artist.

Billy Porter (left) and Eva Reign (right) on set of Anything’s Possible (Supplied)

There’s a short sharp line which goes to something not often appreciated when it comes to trans: “I don’t need you to save me, okay?” That addresses all the hidden layers of wounding often experienced by all us queers, especially trans. It’s the problem of patronising and condescension, however well-meaning.

Yes! That’s where I’m talking about allies. That’s what Kelsa, the trans girl in the movie, is saying in that moment. It’s difficult. There’s nuance. And we’re in the process of figuring out what we need in real time. Sometimes we don’t even know what we need. So give me a second. What I do know I don’t need is for you to try to save me in some way. But I know you’re trying to help. So all these things can exist, and they’re not mutually exclusive.

When was the last time you were patronized, and how did you deal with it with dignity?

That’s a good question. It’s been a long time since anyone dared patronise me! [laughs] It happened a lot when I was a young actor and never considered for roles where the description didn’t begin with “flamboyantly”. I’d go audition and the feedback would be: “No, he’s not right, he’s too flamboyant.” And they’d give the role to a straight person. That was very patronising. That happened to me for decades.

Eva Reign (left) and Abubakr Ali (right) in Anything’s Possible (Supplied)

I love the scene where the boy’s parents are so freaked out he might be trans and so relieved when they discover he’s gay. They say: “Oh, thank God! He’s gay! He’s only gay!”

Right! That’s what’s so wonderful about this script, because it’s coming from such a young writer who’s in it; all the issues being talked about are in the Zeitgeist right now, and it’s from the perspective of the kids who are far beyond where the adults are. They’re far beyond where we are. We need to shut up and listen to them.

Anything’s Possible, directed by Billy Porter and starring Eva Reign and Abubakr Ali, and featuring Billy Porter, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (Pose) and Mika on the soundtrack, is streaming on Prime Video.

Watch the trailer here.

Anything’s Possible (Supplied)

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