Billy Porter on How 'Pose' Turned Around His Career as an 'Out, Black, Gay Actor'

Billy Porter is Emmy nominated for his performance as Pray Tell, the outspoken and outrageous emcee of the New York City house balls

Billy Porter is experiencing a career breakthrough at 49.

The Broadway veteran and Tony Award winner was at a low before being cast in FX’s Pose, in which he plays Pray Tell, the outspoken and outrageous emcee of the New York City house balls the ’80s-set show centers on. The series features the largest cast of transgender actors and LGBTQ actors in television history.

“I really had a hard time as an out, black, gay actor making any headway. I wasn’t having a great time living up to the heteronormative masculinity standard to get the straight male work,” he tells PEOPLE. “So I wasn’t really working in film and television. And it was just frustrating, you know? It was just frustrating to sort of feel ignored and feel dismissed, and dismissed for even the flamboyant things.”

He adds, “So to have this come around and to have it come around in this way is really profound and really special, and I do not take it lightly.”

After netting a Golden Globe nomination for his work in Pose, Porter, who married his husband Adam Smith in 2017, now finds himself in the running for this year’s outstanding lead actor in a drama series Emmy Award.

Billy Porter
Ruven Afanador
Billy Porter
Billy Porter as Pray Tell on Pose. Macall Polay/FX

“The stories that get green-lit with black men are generally stories about us killing each other very often,” says Porter. “And so it’s nice, it’s beautiful, and it’s time. It’s time to see a different story. It’s time for the world to understand that there are all types of people on the planet, and we do different things, and we can honor each other’s humanity inside of that.”

Pose just concluded its second season on FX. It was recently renewed for a third season.

Related Articles