The actor, who already scored one Emmy for playing Pray Tell, says he wanted the groundbreaking series to "go out with a bang."

By Lynette Rice
July 13, 2021 at 02:16 PM EDT
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Now this is how you say farewell to Billy Porter and his Pose character, Pray Tell: reward him with yet another Emmy nomination.

The 51-year-old star of the FX drama, which wrapped its third and final season in June, was back in a reflective mood Tuesday after earning his fourth nod for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for portraying the inimitable ball emcee (he won his first Emmy for Pose in 2019). Here, the actor reveals which episode he will submit for consideration and why it was time to say goodbye to the groundbreaking show.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations on the nomination, Billy! So, which episode are you going to submit? 

BILLY PORTER: I would probably choose episode 4, the "Take Me to Church" episode. That's a conversation and dialogue I'm trying to have with my community and the Black church in particular. It's something I have been talking about as a non-famous person for a very long time. It's not about disrespect. It's about holding our religious communities accountable for what they say. Actions speak louder than words. And the actions I'm receiving right now are not of God. They don't have anything to do with God.

Please stop weaponizing the Bible to justify your hate. We must stop doing that. That's the conversation I'm trying to have. I think we succeeded with episode 4 by cracking that conversation open. It's one I want to continue to have in real time. 

POSE
Mj Rodriguez and Billy Porter on 'Pose'
| Credit: Eric Liebowitz/FX

When did you find out Pray Tell was going to die?

I knew Pray Tell wasn't going to make it as early as season 1. I was having a conversation with [executive producer] Ryan Murphy and he said, 'I'm not sure where Pray Tell goes, but I know the tragedy is that he doesn't make it."

What I find so profound about his journey is that Pray Tell missed the antiretroviral drugs by about a year. So many of my friends and colleagues missed the antiretroviral drugs that would have saved their lives. I can't even put words to how grateful I am to have been able, as an HIV-positive man, to get the antiretroviral drugs. They saved my life so that I can be here right now, doing what I'm doing. It's very profound and… moving to me. 

What reason were you given for the show ending on FX?

The story is done. The initial arc of this story has been told. It's now time to tell a different story. Sometimes we stay too long at the fair. We didn't want to stay too long. We wanted to go out with a bang, go out with audiences craving more — as opposed to, you know, the work turning into filler. This story is too important to become filler.

The 73rd annual Emmy Awards airs Sunday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS and will stream live on Paramount+.

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