Billy Porter is fired up.
The Tony- and Emmy-winning singer, actor, LGBTQ activist and style savant is always outspoken, of course, whether he’s weighing in about the importance of wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic or calling for New York City to defund the NYPD following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May.
But with the COVID-19 crisis still ravaging the globe and the fast-approaching presidential election bolstering a red-blue political divide, he’s not about to hold back now.
“You know, if I’m being honest, it’s horrifying. It’s terrifying. It’s terrorizing. It’s enraging,” he said of his current level of unease during a recent Zoom call with The Post. “It’s hard for me to talk about without the back of my head blown off. But this is where we are. Yeah, this is where we are. This is not a drill.”
Porter, 51, was promoting a timely project: the HBO Max series “Equal,” which he narrates and premieres Thursday. The four-part program drops a year after the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and looks at LGBTQ pioneers who made a mark before the uprising, like “Giovanni’s Room” author James Baldwin, Harry Hay (the “fairy godfather of the gay rights movement”), New York transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, and Bayard Rustin, an adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. The show features biographical re-creations by Anthony Rapp (“Star Trek: Discovery”), Samira Wiley (“The Handmaid’s Tale”), Cheyenne Jackson (“Watchmen,” “American Horror Story”), Heather Matarazzo (“The L Word”) and more.
“Just their presence as a human being on the planet was illegal,” he said of the trailblazing figures whose actions preceded the 1969 unrest at the famed New York City gay bar. “They knew it was wrong, you know, and we, the people, have to stand up when our government is wrong.
“It is up to us, the people, to turn this around.”
Porter went on to express frustration with current-day political leadership and correlated it to extremist regimes of the past. “We know how it happens — and we’re doing it anyway,” he said emphatically. “We’re choosing it anyway.”
But Porter is buoyed by the stories of the civil rights leaders throughout history who are depicted in the HBO Max series.
“It’s really wonderful and really grounding to know and to see that we’re not alone now, nor have we ever been,” said Porter, draped in Christian Siriano couture in his Long Island living room, which features a large, black banner emblazoned with the word “VOTE” above his sofa. “People have been doing this for centuries already. We have always been here. And there is power and strength and inspiration in that.
“It is our responsibility to make sure that we continue to get in good trouble and fight the good fight.”
Porter said he knows about pushing for what he wants.
“There was a time early in my career where I was pigeonholed as the, you know, magical Negro — the fairy sprinkling healing dust over everybody, and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t a human archetype,” he said. “I was told that my queerness was my ability and I would never have mainstream success in the way that I desired.”
So he “fought really hard” to change that and now lands attention-getting roles in shows like “Pose” and “American Horror Story” and slays in paparazzi-worthy moments on red carpets at the Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, Grammys and Tony Awards.
“I know that we can get to a different reality,” he said. “I understand that because I’ve lived it, you know, so it inspires me to continue to fight.”
And Porter is happy to be out, proud and make his voice heard.
“I figure they’re coming for my black gay ass first,” he said. “Whether I speak now or not, they’re coming for me first. So I may as well speak and be on the right side of history.”
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