Network television has no shortage of crime shows. From “CSI” to “NCIS” and “Law & Order,” procedurals have dominated the TV landscape for quite some time, with a focus on the prosecutors and cops at the center of every show.
Fox’s new series “Accused,” from “Homeland” producer Howard Gordon, is hoping to change that. The anthology series, which premiered on Jan. 22, features the story of a different defendant every episode, with a new director at the helm every time. Each episode begins with a defendant on trial, and spends the rest of its time telling that person’s story, with little focus on the prosecution.
At the Abbey Food & Bar in West Hollywood on Monday night, guests celebrated an upcoming episode that marks Billy Porter’s television directing debut.T he episode stars J. Harrison Ghee (currently starring in “Some Like it Hot” on Broadway) as a drag queen wrapped up in a legal mess after getting involved with a closeted man from Southie.
Porter told Variety on the red carpet that he felt called to direct the episode, titled “Robyn’s Story” because he “wanted to make sure that the nuances inside of this story were elevated.”
“It’s an unapologetically queer story on Fox primetime,” Porter said. “I don’t need to see it. My friends don’t need to see it. My colleagues don’t need to see it. It’s like going to church and preaching to the choir. We need to get it in front of other people who don’t see it, because that’s the point.”
Gordon said his show has made a point of bringing in directors suited to the needs of each episode’s story — from Marlee Matlin, who directed the most recent episode that features a deaf character, to Tazbah Chavez, a director of Indigenous descent who will direct an episode later this season.
“Billy was the first call we made,” Gordon told Variety. “He’s just the most infectious, optimistic, cool person. When I look at it, the better question is, who else could have done this?”
After a Q&A conversation with Porter, Gordon, Ghee and former Advocate editor-in-chief Tracy E. Gilchrist, audience members were treated to a series of drag performances from “Legendary” Season 1 winner Calypso Jetè Balmain, her sister Kyra Jeté and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 8 star Naysha Lopez.
Porter himself has a lot of experience portraying drag queens, as he did in his Tony-winning turn as Lola in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway, while Ghee is currently performing in drag on Broadway. The two had met when Ghee joined the national tour of “Kinky Boots” a few years ago, but “Accused” marked their first time working together.
“When I read this, [J.] was the only person that came to my mind,” Porter said. “You know, she comes with this skill set to slay in the performance side, which is very important because that’s how we all fall in love with her … but then you also have to see the human being when the makeup comes off.”
“I have fought for a really long time to help the world understand that fabulous and serious can coexist and do often,” Porter continued. “And I am one of those people who can do that. And so is J. And like Kamala said, you know, I may be the first, but I definitely ain’t gonna be the last, honey. So I need to bring the other queens, you know, I’m not the only queen.”