From his Tony-winning role as “Lola” in the hit musical “Kinky Boots,” to his Emmy-winning character Pray Tell in the pioneering series “Pose,” Billy Porter knows how to bring the drama, glamour and show-stopping realness to every part he plays.
Porter is set to star as Fab G (previously known as the Fairy Godmother) in Amazon's “Cinderella,” a musically driven new take on the traditional story premiering on the streaming site on Sept. 3, 2021. The heroine, played by pop star Camila Cabello, is an ambitious young woman whose dreams are bigger than the world will allow. The highly-anticipated remake also stars Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, James Corden and Pierce Brosnan.
Porter told TODAY this version of the beloved story is modern and inclusive.
“Very often our old fairytales can be slightly problematic for modern day consumption," Porter said via telephone. “This version speaks to that as it is very much about the empowerment of women. As a result of the need and necessity to tell diverse stories that are inclusive.”
Porter’s Fab G character is Cinderella’s genderless, fairygod parent, fashioned in a stunning orange and gold sequined dress, in true Billy Porter style, who is tasked with helping Cinderella to make her dreams come true.
The actor says he’s honored to be part of director Kay Cannon’s vision for a fresh new take on the classic story. “Kay looked at the Fairy Godmother and said, ‘It’s time to shake it up,’” Porter said. “And I get to benefit and portray a character for today’s generation to look up to and be entertained and inspired by.”
Porter, 51, is no stranger to breaking new ground with his acting roles. In 2019, he won an Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for his role on the FX series “Pose,” becoming the first openly gay Black man to be nominated and win in any lead acting category.
“Pose” boasted the largest transgender cast ever for a scripted series, but with the show ending earlier this year, Porter believes its impact shows the entertainment industry and the LGBTQ community what is possible.
“We’ve come a long way and I am grateful that I was able to live long enough and stay in the game long enough to experience this life the way it is,” he said. “Anything is possible. I love that there’s a world where all of the queer artists can exist. When I got into this business in the 80s, it was impossible to dream, but now we can dream the impossible.”
Earlier this year, Porter blazed another path and made headlines by opening about being HIV-positive for the first time since being diagnosed in 2007. In his exclusive interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he said, “Yes, I am the statistic, but I’ve transcended it. This is what HIV-positive looks like now."
When interviewed by TODAY for LGBTQ Pride Month, Porter's "Pose" co-star Dyllón Burnside said he was "happy for Billy and proud of him,”
“Billy is showing the world that people can live a full, beautiful, happy and successful life and live the lives of their dreams while being HIV-positive and that is so important to see," Burnside added. "So many of the stores we’ve been told about HIV/AIDS has shown the pain, death and despair. We have needed for a long time to change the narrative of living with HIV. People have been living full lives despite being diagnosed with HIV for a long time. I’m grateful for Billy’s bravery to allow his story to shift the paradigm.”
From the continued accomplishments of “Pose,” Leyna Bloom becoming the first transgender model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated, and the groundbreaking success of Lil’ Nas X, Porter says he’s proud to see the fruits of his generation’s labor paying off.
“It’s about time we see a modern-day representation of 'Cinderella.'"
“You’re welcome” he said, followed by a laugh. “The generation that came before fought so hard to have space and agency and resources and a voice for these breakthrough moments we’re seeing today and I couldn’t be happier.”
“Lil Nas X is my wildest dreams come true simply because he’s literally being celebrated for being himself,” he continued. “That’s a major change. Sure, he gets push back, but there was a time when his imagery and art was not going to fly. I’m excited for him as an artist and what he represents.”
As part of its efforts to be a vehicle to empower young girls, “Cinderella” is partnering with Mercedes-Benz to launch a campaign that celebrates strong individuals and promotes female empowerment.
Mercedes-Benz will support this initiative by amplifying powerful stories and creating support systems with exclusive online content and a livestream event called “Dressed for a Dream'' on Aug. 28, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. EST hosted by Porter and actor Jamie Chung. The show will feature individuals who come from diverse backgrounds and have inspiring success stories.
Also inspired by the movie and his Fab G character, Porter worked with Mercedes-Benz to design a custom orange and gold glitter “chariot” influenced by his stylish inspiring character both on and off the screen. A Mercedes-Maybach S560, the "chariot" boasts massage chairs, first-of-its-kind technology, a sparkling customized wrap to showcase Fab G’s vibrant color palette and other unique elements.
“It’s about time we see a modern-day representation of 'Cinderella,'' Porter said in a statement shared with TODAY. “I want to change the world and encourage people to believe that they can be whoever and whatever they want to be, as long as they stay true to themselves."
He added, "Any time I get to sign on a project that helps push for inclusivity and representation and show people that anything is possible, I'm on board."