Although he's been acting for over 30 years, it wasn't until FX's Pose that Billy Porter got the widespread notice he deserves. In the groundbreaking, critically-acclaimed series set in the late '80s New York ball scene of vogueing and strutting, Porter slays as Pray Tell, a resident emcee and father figure who will slap you with the truth and hug you after. The show proved so popular it was remembered by the Academy despite premiering last summer—a long time ago for an Emmy campaign. Renewed for a third season, with its second airing now, surely Porter's star can only continue to rise.
What most excited you when you heard there was a show about the ball scene in New York?
I was the most excited that finally, LGBT queer people of color were going to be at the forefront of the storytelling, because as a black gay man in this business, that has never been the case in the mainstream. I was also really excited that Ryan Murphy was doing it, because he's the man that has the power to actually make it happen. I was truly excited by those two things. I just think he's a genius and I've been trying to work with him for decades.
Did you have any concerns or reservations about the series?
No, I don't have reservations about the choices that I make. Once I make them, I make them. I knew we were in good hands. It's Ryan f*cking Murphy. What reservations are you going to have? He knows what he's doing, he knows how to do it, and he knows how to create the team and the space to do it properly, as the whole world has seen. I saw who he was surrounding himself with. Steven Canals created the show. [Ryan] took it and said, “OK, now I have the power to make this happen.” That already relinquishes any reservations I would have.
I really don't know. I mean, my hope is that it creates empathy, and it creates a conversation that moves us forward. That's my hope. From what I see and hear on the ground, people seem to really be responding positively to it. I'm not sure if we're not just simply preaching to the choir still. I don't really have control over that. I would hope that we would be able to maybe affect some people who never heard of this before and create a space for change. That would be my hope.
Have you seen any movement of the inclusion needle since the show?
I don't have time to look around. That's not my business. My business is to just show up and be a representative of what's going on and do my part to make the change. I don't mean to sound flippant about that but trying to figure all of that out slows me down; it slows my work down.
What I do know is that the industry masquerades as being inclusive. There's a lot of talk about it, but there's very little that's done until they can see the money. It's all about money. It's all about commerce. If you're going to bring in the coins, then we're going to be diverse, period. That's just how it works.
Ryan Murphy has assisted our community; his presence and his muscle has assisted our community and it's beginning to generate the possibility of being bankable. When we can be bankable, then it changes. So many times, I've heard there are no stars to do this. It's like, “We need a star, we need a star, we need a star.” So, we've got to start making stars out of the people whose stories then need to be told. That's a part of the vicious circle. That's a part of the Catch-22. You're not giving the black queen a job so that I can become a star, so that I can then tell my story in this major playing field. So, you're stuck.
I was stuck for so long. Now all of a sudden, I can make some money. My name can greenlight queer projects because everybody knows it now. That took me 30 years in this business. I'm going to be 50 in September. No complaints, but just we have to be honest with the business part of it. I'm not blaming anybody—I'm not. That's the reality of it. It's happened with every marginalized culture, from black people to Latinos to Asian people.
When Crazy Rich Asians was released, they kept saying that this was the first major studio film with an all-Asian cast in 25 years. I was like, “Has it really been that long?”
Right. It's interesting because every white person I talked to who are allies are like, “Oh right.” You don't even have to think about it. Even in your support for me you don't have to think about it. You see me and you think it's all happening. I have never been on a television show as a series regular until now. I'm 50.
Was there a particular scene, show, episode or moment in Pose that made you realize you were part of something amazing?
I would have to say it was the first two episodes that we shot in the fall of 2017, and Ryan Murphy directed both of them because he was setting the tone. We were finding the language. We were just finding all of that stuff, and he was helping to set that so that he could then pass it on to different directors to continue the vision. I just knew at that point. I was like, “Right, this ain't some low budget, we're going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks bullsh*t. This is the white people coming in and going, 'We doing this like we do it for the white people.'” Sorry, but that's the truth. Tell the truth, shame the devil. That's when I knew. I was like, “Oh, they're spending money on us like they spend it on the white people.”
You lived through this defining era of queer culture. Was there a scene or episode that hit way too close to home?
All of the intense sickness stuff can be hard. Episode 6 in both seasons were both very hard for me because they were both at the hospital. My boyfriend is sick in Season 1 and then myself being sick in Season 2. The HIV diagnosis things are really hard. It's so real for me because I lived it.
This past week when we did the condom on the house [protest]. there were young queer people that were like, “That's ridiculous!” It's like, no, it actually happened; it's an actual thing that happened and the reason why we can't get gun control, and the reason why we can't get these children away from the borders, and the reason why we're losing all of our rights, is because nobody's engaged in the way that we used to be.
We're in this middle space of trying to figure out how social media and activism unite. Where do they come together for modern, real activism, not just likes on Instagram? I don't know what the answer is. I'm trying to figure it out, but until you get out on the streets, nothing changes. Until the people get out on the street, nothing changes.
Has Pose changed you as an actor?
I think that the change came, for me, 20 years ago when I looked at what I was doing, and I looked at my future, and I chose myself. I chose my authenticity over the possibility of whatever masculine version of myself could have garnered. Therefore, I believe that Pose came to me as a result of those choices. Everything that's come to me since, came to me as a result of those choices. I came into this situation as the changed person, which is why it came to me, if that makes sense.
Had I not made those choices all those years ago to be authentic… I'm one of five black men in the business who are working consistently who can say, “I chose this 25 years ago. I've been gay. I didn't just get gay.” I didn't just come out. I've been out. I took all the hits that came with that because you all weren't coming for me for decades. I think the change is Pose has made me bankable. Pose has made me see how people see the money.
Now that Pose has two seasons under its belt, what do you hope happens with Pray Tell in future seasons?
Oh God, I haven't even thought about that. I'm trying to be in the minute that I'm in. I've just got the first Emmy nomination and you all asking me about next year [laughs].
I would hope that he would find a space to explore relationships so that we can show how difficult that is. I think those of us who are my age who lived through it, we still have PTSD and we're still trying to figure out what that means. What does it mean to be in a same-sex relationship, let alone marriage? That wasn't stuff that we even had any context to begin dreaming about. There was no dream about it because there was no context to even think about the possibility of that. I always talk about this a lot. How Ryan, this company, this show, and all these people have taught me to dream the impossible.
I've never dreamed that the kind of success that I wanted in this industry could look like this, could be this version. I was trying to create some masculine er ego so I could work. To meet some standard so that I could literally just get a job. It's all so fresh and new and all so unbelievable to me that I'm trying to just stay present and walk through with a little grace and style.
WGA West presidential candidate Phyllis Nagy says the guild's ongoing standoff with the Association of Talent Agents threatens to “permanently destroy the primacy writers have enjoyed in television” and will lead to a strike.
In her latest campaign statement, posted on her slate’s WGA Forward Together site, she also says that a weakened guild will find itself on strike next year against the major studios. In a nightmare scenario, she imagines what's to come on May 1, when the guild's current film and TV contract expires and the WGA still doesn't have an agreement with the talent agencies for a new franchise agreement — and three-quarters of the guild’s members have been without agents for more than a year.
On April 13, the WGA invoked its Working Rule 23 and ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign its new Agency Code of Conduct, which bans packaging fees and agency affiliations with related production entities. At last count, more than 7,000 writers have done so. The ATA and the WGA haven’t met face-to-face since June 7, when the guild rejected the agencies’ offer to share 2% of their backend packaging fees with writers.
Here is Nagy’s statement in full:
“It's 12:01 AM on May 1, 2020. We'll have been in compliance with Working Rule 23 for over a year. This means that about 75% of us will have been without agents for well over one year. And with no agreement in place for new MBA terms, we'll also be on strike.
“Our Executive Director has made it clear that as a Guild, we don't make the best deals because we don't stay out long enough. How long is enough? A year. Maybe more. Are we prepared to wake up on May 1, 2021 without reps and without work?
“Do you think this scenario is unreasonable? Do you think we can't find ourselves there? If you think it unreasonable, ask yourself this question: Did you ever imagine our Guild would take action against our chosen representatives in the manner that we have and with leadership admitting, 4 months in, that they didn't expect an action of this length?
“Because that's exactly where we are. For over four months, we've been engaged in a divide and conquer strategy, actually negotiating with agencies who do not, by and large, engage in packaging, benefit from it, or have ownership stakes in affiliate production companies. In other words: we are successfully negotiating with people who can't solve our problems.
“While it's wonderful that some writers can return to work with agents, it's unacceptable that the burden of 'suffering' leadership has asked of us is not borne equally — as it would be in a strike.
“Do the math. In the next eight months, we might expect the divide and conquer strategy to work with how many more agencies? Four? Six? Perhaps all the remaining ATA mid-level agencies will come to separate franchise agreements with the Guild.
“While I'd be the first to congratulate and cheer on the roughly 25% of membership who would benefit from those agreements, the vast majority of us would continue to unequally bear the burden of this action.
“As long as we refuse to counter the formal offer presented by the ATA in June, we will not begin to resolve the very practices leadership has given us for the basis of the current action —abuses of packaging, packaging fees and affiliate production companies.
“As long as we refuse to acknowledge that a divide and conquer strategy employed only against agencies who, by and large, are and always have been ten percenters does not hurt the Big 4, we will remain in stasis, harming 75% of our membership in the process.
“As long as we refuse to acknowledge that packaging continues to exist in our absence, with stars, directors, producers and intellectual property at the center, we will find ourselves on the other end of this action as writers-for-hire in a system that will permanently destroy the primacy writers have enjoyed in television.
“We have two choices in this election: Stay the course with current leadership. Refuse to engage the Big 4 — who create the vast majority of packages and all affiliate production deals — in favor of negotiating franchise agreements with non-affiliate productions and non-packaging agencies. Rely on lawsuits whose eventual costs can't be calculated or covered by the Guild's surplus.
“Or choose new leadership who will counter aggressively to the ATA's last offer. Leadership who will fight to ensure that any gain from revenue sharing finds its way into the pockets of low and mid-level writers. It's a binary. And always has been.”
strong>EXCLUSIVE: Erich Bergen, who co-stars opposite Téa Leoni on CBS’ Madam Secretary, has signed with Industry Entertainment for management.
Bergen has portrayed Blake Moran on Madam Secretary since the launch of the CBS series, which premieres its sixth and final season this fall.
Bergen received praise for his portrayal of legendary Bob Gaudio in the Warner Brothers feature Jersey Boys, directed by Clint Eastwood and produced by Graham King, and was previously seen co-starring in the independent feature Humor Me alongside Jemaine Clement and Elliott Gould.
In addition, Bergen was recently seen on Broadway in the leading male role of Dr. Pomodor in Waitress, opposite both Katherine McPhee and Shoshana Bean.
When Billy Porter first started to receive industry accolades for his acclaimed performance as the exuberant emcee and fashion designer Pray Tell in Ryan Murphy's groundbreaking FX drama Pose, he was taken aback.
"At the Golden Globes, I saw that I was nominated in the leading actor category and I actually told Ryan, 'I'm not the lead. It's an ensemble show,'" Porter, 49, told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of a Tuesday night talk with Murphy at New York's 92Y. "But he insisted, 'You're the lead.' And then he explained to me that it's about positioning — positioning me as a loud, out, black and gay actor who is the leading man. That is Ryan's vision for me."
Though Porter didn't take home the Globe at this year's awards ceremony, his star power has increased at an exponential rate. Not only has he cemented himself as a style icon — serving unforgettable fashion moments on a multitude of red carpets, including his gilded display at the most recent Met Gala — but Porter, a previous Tony and Grammy winner, made history last month as the first openly gay black man to be nominated for an Emmy in the outstanding lead actor in a drama series category. In total, Pose is up for seven noms this year, including best drama series.
During Tuesday's discussion, Murphy also recalled when he made it clear to Porter that the entertainer was one of Pose's central forces. "I said, 'No, you're motherfucking not,'" Murphy said, causing laughter from the audience. ", 'You are the male lead of this show. This story line revolves around you being the male lead of this show.'"
Murphy went on to say that the conversation was "a breakthrough moment" for Porter's performance in the series centered on New York's queer ball scene of the 1980s and early '90s, and the HIV/AIDS crisis that impacted its originators, LGBTQ people of color. It was during this era that Porter, himself, was finishing up drama school at Carnegie Mellon, where he once doubted his potential as an actor.
"While they were casting me as Romeo, while they had an idea that I might possibly grow up to be a leading man, I was the queen going, 'For who? When's that going to happen?'" said the 1991 graduate. "Because the archetypes that I had seen didn't look like me. They were James Earl Jones, who's the black patriarch, there is Denzel Washington, who is the sex symbol, and there's Eddie Murphy, who's the genius clown. They are all straight, some of them violently straight."
Added Porter, "I abandoned all ideas of that — of being a leading man because all we saw was traditional. I am not traditional, so I couldn't see it."
Part of "redefining what a leading man looks like," as Porter puts in, includes his recent love scene with Pose co-star Dyllon Burnside, who plays Pray Tell's mentee and unsuspecting lover, Ricky. Season two's eighth episode, "Revelations" — written and directed by co-creator Steven Canals — opens with Pray Tell and Ricky, both of whom are HIV-positive, stripping down before passionately making love.
"The intention is to create a space where we have this conversation and it's no longer taboo, and the stigmais taken away and we get to tell these stories more often," Porter told THR earlier on Tuesday evening. "I hope it has that impact."
On stage, Murphy revealed that the scene incited an unexpectedly emotional response from the intimacy coordinator who was helping out on set. "We were shooting Billy's scene, which is sort of a first, I think, for network TV in its vision and its boldness and its beauty. But at one point, the intimacy coordinator was very quiet, and a producer walked up to her and said, 'Are you OK?'" Murphy told Porter. "And she burst out into tears. And she said, 'I cannot believe for the first time that I'm seeing these images.' It was so beautiful, and you did that. Congratulations."
Toward the end of their chat, Murphy and Porter teased what's next for Pray Tell on season three of Pose, for which production is set to begin in March. According to Porter, who plans to direct an episode, he hopes to see his character "find love and hold on to it," as well as bring Jesus into the ballroom.
"I would love for Pray Tell to crack open the conversation between the LGBTQ community and the black church. We're not having it. It's the same thing. Somebody just called my mother the other day, last week, talking about, 'Oh, I'm so sorry. It must be so hard that your son is gay,'" he said, rolling his eyes. "Still, today. That was last week. That's the shit we're still dealing with. You've got to be kidding me. With all of the things that are happening in this world, that's still the thing."
Asked Murphy, "And what did she say?"
"She said, 'Don't worry about me. Get off my phone. You're ridiculous.' And my mama has come a mighty long way," said Porter. In response, Murphy later confirmed, "We're going to have Pray Tell go to church."
The season two finale of Pose airs Tuesday on FX at 10 p.m.
Both casting directors and actors hailed the move, Richard E. Grant saying it was a "long time coming."
The British Academy's decision to include a casting honor at next year's BAFTA film and TV awards has been met with near universal praise from across the industry.
The news was unveiled Wednesday, making BAFTA the first major film awards ceremony to honor the casting community.
“We are thrilled at the news that BAFTA has introduced a category for casting in both their film and television Awards in 2020," said Victor Jenkins, chair of the Casting Directors' Guild. "The overwhelming industry support since the announcement alone shows just how important this news is to so many of us. We do what we do because we love actors, we love being part of the story telling process, and above all else we are creative people."
Elsewhere, various casting directors, including Jen Euston Glow, Orange is the New Black, Girls, Shaheen Baig Fighting With My Family, Hanna, Peaky Blinders, Priscilla John Red Sparrow, Logan, Krypton, Simone Pereira Hind Elizabeth, Erica S. Bream Star Trek: Into Darkness, Jina Jay Black Mirror, Bird Box, Star Wars: Rogue One, Sophie Holland The Witcher, Kelly Valentine Hendry Broadchurch, Harlots, Gangs of London and Lucy Rands World War Z, Ready Player One, tweeted their appreciation.
Some of the biggest messages of support came from the those in front of the camera, including Richard Armitage The Hobbit and Richard E. Grant, who picked up his first Academy nomination this year for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
"Finally! - I owe my career to the late, great casting director Mary Selway, who changed my life in 1986, when she cast me in 'WITHNAIL & I'," he tweeted. "Recognition for Casting Directors has been a long time coming."
Finally! - I owe my career to the late, great casting director Mary Selway, who changed my life in 1986, when she cast me in 'WITHNAIL & I'. Recognition for Casting Directors has been a long time coming. https://t.co/0LL1IO1lMu
Nearly every major Hong Kong studio has agreed to march along with Beijing's heavy-handed crackdown on the Taiwanese awards show, widely known as the "Chinese Oscars."
Hong Kong film studios have found themselves in a perilous position following Beijing's boycott order of Taiwan's Golden Horse Film Awards, often referred to as the "Chinese Oscars."
China's film regulators put out a statement last week suspending "mainland films and personnel from participating" in this year's Golden Horse Awards, set to be held Nov. 23. The ban was a characteristically disproportionate reaction to last year's glitzy Golden Horse ceremony, during which a young local filmmaker made a brief statement saying she hoped Taiwan would one day be recognized as an independent country.
Many citizens of democratic and self-governed Taiwan hold passionate convictions about the territory's independence, whereas Beijing views the island as a renegade province that ultimately belongs to China. The topic of Taiwan's independence is one of the ruling Communist Party's most sensitive political concerns.
The Golden Horse Awards were established in 1962 and are considered the most prestigious honors in the Chinese-speaking movie business, with submissions mostly coming from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China. For decades, the event has been a civil and glamorous gathering place for the three region's increasingly intertwined industries.
Hong Kong studios are not legally bound by the boycott order, but the business implications of flouting Beijing's marching orders could present serious business risks for the entertainment firms that have grown reliant on mainland China's vastly larger markets. The dilemma also comes at a fraught political moment within Hong Kong, as city-wide protests over a controversial extradition bill and police brutality continue after more than 60 days.
Taiwanese news website Line Today reported over the weekend that Hong Kong film companies were warned by Beijing that films submitted to the Golden Horse Awards will not be eligible for release in China. Hong Kong stars who attend the event also would be put on a watch list, the news source said.
Most major Hong Kong studios appear to be bowing to the pressure, but the range of reactions also can be taken as a reflection of the current political spectrum in the city state — the pro-Beijing "blue camp," the anti-extradition "yellow camp," and the so-called "silent majority," which tries to stay clear of politics and focuses on making a living.
Alex Wong, founder of Hong Kong studio Filmko, which co-produced the The Monkey King 1 & 2 which collectively earned $375 million in China, told the pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Wenweipo that his company "is supporting the decision of China's film bureau, so none of our films or filmmakers will participate in the Golden Horse Awards this year."
Universe Entertainment, whose action thriller The White Storm 2: Drug Lords has earned about $190 million in China and would be a likely contender for Golden Horse honors, has said they won't participate. Leading studios Edko Films and Mei Ah said they are not participating because they do not have films ready for release this year — despite both Edko's biopic Anita and Mei Ah's thriller Where the Wind Blows previously being listed with 2019 release dates which may or may not materialize in time for the Golden Horse Awards. Hong Kong company Media Asia told Wenweipo that its office in China was responsible for applying for the Golden Horse Awards and that no applications were made this year.
Conversely, Golden Scene, a smaller Hong Kong company, will continue to submit applications for the Golden Horse Awards. The company previously repped the controversial 2015 political dystopian film Ten Years as its international sales agent, and produced the subsequent Ten Years films for Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan, the latter of which counted Cannes Palme D'or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda as its producer. Golden Scene founder and managing director Winnie Tsang told The Hollywood Reporter the company will continue to apply for the Golden Horse Awards on behalf of its slate, "as we have done in previous years." Although she declined to disclose which films are being submitted, she said the applications will go ahead because "it is an honor and an encouragement for the filmmakers to be up for an award."
Tsang added that her company had not received any direct order from China's film bureau not to participate in Taiwan.
A rep for veteran studio Emperor Motion Pictures, meanwhile, told THR that they are "waiting for guidelines" about whether or not they will participate.
Eyes are now on Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To, who was announced in June as the Golden Horse Awards' 2019 jury president. To has not responded to inquiries from THR about whether he will continue in the position.
Representatives for Ang Lee, who is serving as the Golden Horse Awards Committee's chairman for 2018 and 2019, also have not responded to requests for comment on the matter.
Golden Horse Awards organizers declined to comment on the latest developments. Instead, they repeated a statement released last week: "The Committee regrets to learn about this news, if confirmed. The jury process of Golden Horse Awards is ongoing and will continue as planned, and all Golden Horse events will take place as usual."
The Hong Kong studios' snub of the Taiwan awards comes after a meeting called by China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office last Wednesday to rally over 500 Hong Kong pro-Beijing business leaders and politicians in response to the escalating protests in the territory.
Soon after the meeting was held, the city's leader Carrie Lam doubled down her support for the Hong Kong police, which international human rights groups allege has repeatedly displayed excessive use of force when confronting the protesters, such as firing over 1,800 tear gas canisters within the city since June 12. In addition to demanding a full withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill — which would allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China's politically non-independent courts, eroding Hong Kong's judicial independence — protestors are demanding an independent investigation of alleged police brutality.
Frontpage advertisements from the pro-Beijing Hong Kong business sector calling for the demonstrations to end began to appear in local newspapers late last week, while members of China's armed police were reportedly turning up on duty as Hong Kong police officers.
A bloody crackdown took place on Sunday night when police fired rubber bullets and pepperball rounds at retreating protesters at close range indoors, and undercover cops masquerading as protesters began making arrests within their ranks. Video footage showing police officers planting weapons in arrested student protesters' backpacks became an incendiary cause of outcry on social media. Over 100 protestors were arrested, some seriously injured.
Seeds of China's Golden Horse Awards ban were planted at last year's awards ceremony, when director Fu Yue of the best documentary winner Our Youth in Taiwan, made a few brief remarks about her hopes for Taiwan's independence during her acceptance speech on stage. Some filmmakers from China subsequently refused to get on stage, and they were later absent en masse from a post-show gala dinner.
After the anti-extradition bill protests gained momentum in Hong Kong in June, Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen cited the potential collapse of the former British colony's “One Country Two Systems" political and economic framework under the rule of China's Communist Party as a warning to the Taiwanese people about possible reunification with China. China then ordered a ban of its citizens from traveling to Taiwan in late July.