When Billy Porter signed on to star in Pose, he knew there was a nudity clause in his contract — but he figured it was a moot point. “I never in a million years thought that they would make me get nude,” Porter tells EW’s The Awardist podcast. “In my 30-year career, I’ve never been the object of anybody’s affection in anything.” So when he saw the script for the Aug. 6 episode, in which Porter’s Pray Tell spends a romantic night in bed with former House Evangelista dancer Ricky (Dyllon Burnside), the actor says the first thing he felt was panic.
“I’m not used to people seeing me as a leading man, I’m not used to people seeing me as a romantic lead in anything,” says Porter, who earned his first Emmy nomination last month for his commanding performance as Pose’s outspoken designer and emcee. “You have to have a certain kind of confidence. I had to get that confidence quick so I could tell the story.”
The new romance with Ricky is a welcome development for Pray, who this season is learning to live with his HIV status while also encouraging his community to speak out about the AIDS epidemic. And Porter believes the story is an important turning point for television, as well. “We get a lot of airtime as African-American men killing each other. We get a lot of stories about that,” he says. “But we get very few where we see black men trying to figure out how to love each other. And that is really thrilling.”
For more with Porter — including a preview of what lewk he’ll bring to the Emmys red carpet — listen to the full interview below. (The conversation starts at 36:18.) You can also listen and subscribe to The Awardist podcast at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Radio.com, or wherever you get your podcasts.
The Emmys will air Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on Fox.