‘Pose’s Billy Porter First Openly Gay Black Man Nominated For Lead Actor Drama Emmy, Said He Was “Able To Breathe” After News

A deadpan “Really?” was Pose actor and red carpet sartorial king Billy Porter’s initial reaction to his Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role as the no-nonsense ballroom emcee Pray Tell on the FX series about the New York City ball scene in the ’80s.

Porter, who was on vacation when he learned of the news, talked to Deadline about his limited oxygen intake since he realized Tuesday was Emmy nomination day. “I just haven’t been breathing for the past day,” he said in anticipation for today’s announcements of nominees. “So today, I was able to breathe — that was my first reaction!”

When Pose premiered, it made TV history with the largest transgender cast and broke ground with LGBTQ storytelling. As Porter points out, his nomination marks one of the first — if not the first — time an openly gay Black actor has been nominated in the Lead Actor category. In addition, the show’s nom for Outstanding Drama Series continues to blaze that trail for the queer community and other marginalized groups.

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“It really opens up and creates a different kind of conversation in a different space,” said Porter. “It’s about representation. It’s about all people’s stories being told. It’s about the art. We creative people have the power to transform hearts and minds doing the work that we do and I am just thrilled to be able to do that. It feels like a calling. I’ve lived in that ministry, came up in the ’80s and lived through the plague — and I’m here for a reason. I’m here so I can be on this other side to tell this story about this world. We’re here. We’ve always been here and we’re not going anywhere — get used to it.”

Porter said that he never imagined that a show about LGBTQ counterculture like Pose would be recognized by the mainstream let alone the Television Academy. “There was no context for this,” he comments. “I said the same thing about marriage equality. When we were growing up, there was no context because you could never see it. I’ve always had huge dreams but I realized now that my dreams have been springboarded off of things I have already seen. They weren’t about dreaming the impossible. They weren’t about dreaming things that didn’t exist. Ryan Murphy, Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk, FX  — everybody involved in the show taught me how to dream the impossible. The sky is the limit now, honey!”

Pose is currently in its second season and Porter’s character continues to develop and he gave a little bit of a tease in regards to what we can expect in Pray Tell’s future.

“There’s a lot of gag-worthy things,” he teases. “One of which is Pray Tell gets a little bit of a love interest so that’s nice. They’re not cutting our dicks off anymore — they keep gay people neutered very often so Pray Tell is no longer neutered! Which is good for me.”

He adds, “I have been in this industry for 30 years and have never been the object of anyone’s affection or love interest. I have always been the gay best friend, the clown so it’s really interesting to move this space. It’s very humbling.”

Porter said that his 50th birthday is the day before the Emmy ceremony — and a win would be a good gift for him.

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