Billy Porter is known for being in front of the camera — most famously as Pray Tell on “Pose” and recently delivering a gender-bending twist on everyone’s favorite fairy godmother in Amazon’s musical movie “Cinderella.”
Now, the Emmy-winning actor is stepping behind the camera to make his feature film directorial debut with “Anything’s Possible,” a John Hughes-esque coming-of-age dramedy about trans high school senior Kelsa (trans newcomer Eva Reign), who is navigating her first boyfriend, Khal (“Katy Keene” actor Abubakr Ali), friendship and family life with her single mom (Renée Elise Goldsberry).
“I ain’t Barbra Streisand yet,” Porter tells me, laughing. “It’s like, let me do one thing at a time. Let me direct something first. Then I’ll direct something and be in it too.”
In “Anything’s Possible,” the spotlight is on Reign, seen here in an exclusive first look at the film. A native of Missouri, Reign was working as a journalist in New York City before she pursued acting. “It felt kind of strange walking into all of this because everyone else in the cast, they’ve all gone to like Carnegie Mellon or Yale, and they’ve been on Broadway,” Reign tells me. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I took classes in the Village.’”
Like Netflix’s much buzzed about “Heartstopper,” “Anything’s Possible” is about LGBTQ joy. The trauma often portrayed on film and television when it comes to trans stories is nowhere to be found in this world.
“This is an aspirational story. It’s almost like a fairytale,” Porter says. “We know that. It’s a look at what we can be. That’s what we as artists get to do — look at what we can be and what we should be.”
Reign recalls the lack of support she had in high school. When I suggest she host an “Anything’s Possible” screening in her hometown, she says, “I never thought about that. I have not been back to my high school since I graduated. I was like, ‘Peace. I’m out. You know, it’s been real, but I’m a little tired.’ But yeah, that’s definitely something to think about.”
“The only things that are doing well in movie theaters right now are Marvel movies and blockbusters,” says Porter, who is also set to direct an episode of Fox’s upcoming true-crime anthology series “Accused.” “‘Cinderella’ was a hit because they didn’t try to put it in theaters. This is going to have a similar trajectory. Eyeballs will be on it because you can watch it from your house. Honey, you can watch it from your phone if you want to. And that’s the audience that it’s for.”
While it’s not seen in the movie, Reign has a big, colorful sunflower tattoo on her left shoulder. “When I think about any flower that’s thought of as a weed, it’s something that people want to yank out of gardens. They want to throw it away, but there’s this beauty to it,” she explains. “I thought of it as a metaphor for being trans. People try to act as if we aren’t there. They try to erase us, but there’s beauty to all of us.”