From our friends at PopTonic:
Is it any shock that Billy Porter, the man whose red carpet fashion has challenged our ideas about gender for years, has chosen an LGBTQ+ coming-of-age story for his directorial debut?
What If? will be Porter’s first feature film. Not to be confused with the 2014 movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan, this film focuses on a high school senior pursuing a relationship with the girl of his dreams. The fact that his dream girl is transgender will (hopefully) place What If? in the same circle as Love Simon and Booksmart.
The story follows Khal, a shy and unassertive 17-year-old who gushes about his crush on Reddit’s r/relationship board. Khal’s cheering squad on the message board encourages him to finally ask out Kelsa, and the pair make waves at their high school as they face senior year together as a couple.
“I’m thrilled to be part of this new space in Hollywood for telling all types of stories from all types of people,” Porter said in a statement.
“I am grateful to be in a position to usher some of these stories into the mainstream and I am humbled that heavy hitters like Christine Vachon and Alana Mayo have entrusted and empowered me in this insane time we all find ourselves in.”
The script was written by Alvaro García Lecuona, a nonbinary, bisexual screenwriter. What If? had earned a spot on the GLAAD List of the best unproduced scripts last year before being picked by Porter.
Queer coming-of-age dramas and comedies aren’t quite mainstream–yet–but representation for LGBTQ+ kids has been on the rise in recent years. Rather than being relegated into the “best friend” role, these characters are finally getting to step up into a starring role.
Porter’s own star has risen since his big break in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots in 2013. Thanks to his Emmy-winning performance in Pose, the FX drama about the ballroom culture of the 80s and 90s in New York, Porter had more opportunities to choose projects like What If?
However, Porter’s fashion on the red carpet has made him into an icon. His appearance at the 2019 Oscars in a custom black velvet tuxedo-ballgown hybrid was the biggest story of the awards season. That same year, he was literally carried into the Met Gala by a team of shirtless men, covered in gold and dripping with jewels.
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No word yet on whether Porter will have an onscreen role in his directorial debut. The film will be distributed by the newly revived Orion Pictures, which MGM has earmarked for underrepresented stories and “own voices” features.
“We are at an exciting and critical tipping point in our industry. For years many filmmakers and creators who have been considered and treated as outsiders have nonetheless persisted in creating visionary films that drew audiences across the globe and defined culture,” Alana Mayo, the newly appointed president of Orion Pictures, said. “Many of these films and filmmakers inspired me to pursue storytelling as a career, and to work towards creating a more equitable environment for all creators.”