Billy Porter isn’t holding back his thoughts about casting straight actors for gay roles. The 49-year-old Pose star sat down to discuss his career for The Hollywood Reporter‘s latest Drama Actor Roundtable, which also featured Sam Rockwell, Richard Madden, Hugh Grant, Diego Luna, and Stephan James. A total mic-drop moment happened when Porter was asked how close he was to quitting his Hollywood dream when he kept getting passed up for roles. The biggest reason he cites as the cause of his early difficulties in the industry is his identity as a person of color and a gay man.
“It’s a double layer. The layer of actually being a person of color in this industry and then the other layer of being a queen,” he said. “Nobody can see you as anything else. If ‘flamboyantly . . . ‘ wasn’t in the description of the character, no one would see me ever for anything.” He went on to say that if nonmarginalized actors had the same experience, it wouldn’t “be so enraging” that underrepresented actors faced certain discriminatory obstacles in the casting process.
“But it doesn’t [happen], because straight men playing gay — everyone wants to give them an award. ‘Thank you for gracing us with your straight presence!'” he said. “That gets tiresome. So here I sit — I can’t get the gay parts, I can’t get the straight parts, I can’t get nothing.”
Aside from the fact that Porter’s response is so powerful and important for everyone to hear, what makes this even more enjoyable is that he addresses this issue in front of Madden and Grant — two straight men who have portrayed gay men on screen. In 2018, Grant played a gay lover in the BBC series Very English Scandal, and Madden played John Reid — the love interest of Elton John — in this year’s biopic Rocketman. Interestingly, the camera even pans to Madden right when Porter begins to discuss how straight men are often cast for gay roles.
Thankfully, Porter’s breakthrough moment finally came, which he further discusses during the interview. And hopefully, he’ll continue to use his influence to bring more representation to Hollywood.
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