As a society, our connection to celebrities can be pretty weird. They are strangers to us, yet we invest in them as though we know them. I want good things for Channing Tatum! I’m deeply invested in the continued success of Andre Braugher! Sandra Oh hosted the Golden Globes and then won one and I felt involved somehow! But the kind of irrational celebrity investment that feels best—and the kind that’s the easiest to justify—is when someone who’s been doing the work for a long time experiences some kind of career high or breakout. The perfect role. The perfect vehicle. The perfect song, book, or performance. Maybe even the perfect Pose.
And that’s my graceful transition to discussing Billy Porter’s career-high, rightly lauded performance in Pose. Irrational investment in Porter’s recent success doesn’t actually feel that irrational, because it’s insanely well-deserved, and because he’s been at it for a good long time.
Porter was also nominated for a Golden Globe this month, and there are more such nominations in his future. He’s not new to the world of trophies—he snagged a Tony and a Drama Desk award for his role in Kinky Boots in 2013, and a Grammy for the original cast recording of that show. He’s halfway to an EGOT, for crying out loud. And as you can see above, he’s got the whole red carpet thing down cold.
But the real victory is the performance itself—a fantastic turn in a great role in a remarkable show. Pose, FX’s groundbreaking series about the ballroom scene in New York City in the 1980s. Porter plays Pray Tell, the master of ceremonies, and his performance garnered buzz from the day the pilot aired, thanks to his lively performance and loads of witty, larger-than-life banter.
But Pray Tell, and Porter, have depth.
Over the course of Pose’s excellent, eight-episode first season, Porter peels back layer after layer, revealing the complex character behind the buoyant onstage persona, and the reasons for it. It’s a thoughtful, nuanced portrayal, and one we can’t wait to see when Pose returns later this year.
It’s moving. It’s profound. We asked him if a hot dog is a sandwich.
The Takeout: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Billy Porter: Yes.
TO: Why is it a sandwich?
BP: Because it’s meat between two pieces of bread!
TO: Works for me.