Billy Porter recently had a round table with The Hollywood Reporter and spoke about the “double layer” of discrimination he feels he’s faced in Hollywood. In a nutshell, even with all his talents, creativity, critical acclaim and awards for his theater career; he was/is being passed over for roles in Hollywood not only because he’s Black but because he is gay.

When it comes to race, it’s not that I don’t understand where he and many actors of color in Hollywood are coming from as it relates to “being passed over for roles”. Think about it from this perspective; the family in A Quiet Place could have easily been played by Black or Latino actors and the film could have possibly been more successful and had a greater cultural impact. The same goes for Bird Box on Netflix.

As you saw, Porter states ‘they’ (Hollywood casting directors), “can’t see you as anything else other than flamboyant.” Rumor is his reaction came about after he got passed over for the role of Don Shirley in Green Book which was given to Mahershala Ali who subsequently won an Oscar for the role. Porter continues with, “These gay roles go to straight actors who get accolades for playing gay.”

While I don’t fully disagree with him, Porter is a consequence of his own making.

Porter has successfully built his brand and image of that of an empowered, sassy, effeminate, flamboyant Queen. His self-branding and promotion is the reason audiences can’t see past the image he has built for himself. Every pic of this dude on the red carpet, he’s in drag. One’s brand can open and close doors.

There’s nothing wrong with the image or brand he has built but he can’t cry foul when his brand doesn’t fit a perspective role. His brand and disposition is a package deal. I can’t see him playing a hetero / bisexual anything. This isn’t any different from audiences having a difficult time seeing RuPaul as anything other than a (multimillionaire) drag queen and no more so than audiences not seeing Tituss Burgess as anything other than a comedic sassy fem. One shouldn’t be mad at the house they purposely built. This is truth we live in. 

Personally it would be hard for me to see Porter playing anything other than a flamboyant effeminate role. The illusion would not be believable much like believing Andrew Caldwell loves “women, women, women”.

Also as a rebuttal to Porter’s comment, unless masculine leaning actors publically profess their sexuality, one can’t assume “straight actors are taking gay roles” simply because they’re discreet and don’t wear their sexuality on their sleeves.

If you look at other Black male actors like; Trevante Rhodes, Anthony Mackie, Mahershala Ali, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Rockmond Dunbar, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ving Rhames, Michael K. Williams, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje,  Mathew St Patrick, Andre Holland, and Andre Braugher; all have played non-heterosexual characters in television or film and can easily be believed when they are cast as heterosexual characters.

Film and television (Hollywood) is in the business of selling illusions. The audiences’ mind has to be willing to accept those illusions and unfortunately Porter’s flamboyancy prevents the sell of a particular illusion. I think Billy should embrace the niche he created for himself and campaign heavily to get Barry Jenkins, Ava Duvernay or Jordan Peele to create, write or produce a James Baldwin biopic and cast him as the lead…which in my opinion is the role he was born to play. Not only that, if Little Richard unfortunately passes away soon, it would be another biopic role he could have in the bag.