Entertainment TV Billy Porter Says 'Pose' Role Was a 'Proxy for My Healing' amid His Own Experience with HIV "I really had to learn how to take care of myself in the process," the actor says of shooting the final season of the FX series By Dory Jackson Dory Jackson Instagram Twitter Website Dory Jackson is an Associate Editor for PEOPLE's digital TV team. While at the brand, she's had the opportunity to interview a long list of celebrities, from Kate Hudson to Pierce Brosnan to Billy Porter. She also recaps popular TV shows like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Vanderpump Rules.The New York-based Maryland native graduated from Randolph-Macon College in May 2016 with a focus in Communication Studies and Journalism. She came to PEOPLE in March 2021 after working at a number of major news companies, including Newsweek and Us Weekly. She also previously co-hosted a podcast called "Idol Nation." People Editorial Guidelines Published on June 7, 2021 03:58 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Pari Dukovic/FX This article contains spoilers from Sunday's Pose series finale. Billy Porter's experience playing Pray Tell on Pose has been both therapeutic and transformative amid the actor's own experience with HIV. Porter's character first learned of his HIV diagnosis in the FX drama's first season, but he later discovered he had AIDS-related lymphoma in the show's third and final season. Porter, meanwhile, openly addressed his own HIV-positive diagnosis for the first time last month. "Pose and Pray Tell have been a proxy for my healing," Porter, 51, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "The trauma was so difficult. The grief was so heavy." "The antiretroviral drugs [for HIV] came, and everybody moved on. There's a whole generation of us that really never got a chance to process having lived through the AIDS crisis [and] having lived through an epidemic," he adds. In season 3 of Pose alone, Pray Tell battled alcoholism alongside AIDS before ultimately succumbing to the disease during Sunday's series finale. Viewers also got a glimpse at his character's family backstory, and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather. Billy Porter's Pose Character's Fate Was Decided in Season 2, Series Co-Creator Says Eric Liebowitz/FX Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. Porter — who helped provide input on the storyline based on his own abusive childhood — says practicing self-care is what helped him get through filming the more emotionally charged scenes this season. "I really had to learn how to take care of myself in the process [through] self-care [and figuring out how to] balance boundaries," he explains. "I really had to take care of myself. But it really just came down to how long I was inside of something. I couldn't be in it for too long." Eric Liebowitz/FX Pose Stars and Fans React to Series Finale — 'Legacy, Longevity and Life' Since its premiere in 2018, Pose has received critical acclaim for its focus on New York City's Black and Latino LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming drag ball culture scene amid the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and early 1990s. It also made history for having the largest-ever cast of transgender actors on a mainstream network. In addition to Porter, the cast included Mj Rodriguez (Blanca Rodriguez), Dominique Jackson (Elektra), Indya Moore (Angel), Hailie Sahar (Lulu), Dyllón Burnside (Ricky), Angel Bismark Curiel (Lil Papi), Ryan Jamaal Swain (Damon) and Angelica Ross (Candy). Saying goodbye to the series after three short seasons is "bittersweet," Porter tells PEOPLE. "We really had a chance to say what we needed to say," he says. "And that makes me happy." Pose's first two seasons are currently available on Netflix.