How Billy Porter Felt When He Saw Todrick Hall in Kinky Boots

News   How Billy Porter Felt When He Saw Todrick Hall in Kinky Boots
 
The actor reflects on the role that won him his Tony Award.
Billy Porter in <i>Kinky Boots</i>
Billy Porter in Kinky Boots Matthew Murphy

Tony Award winner Billy Porter, last seen on Broadway in Shuffle Along, spoke to Playbill from the December 19 red carpet of the NYC premiere of Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

Based on the Pittsburgh-set play of the same name by August Wilson, Porter feels a deep connection to the movie and the milestone the premiere represents.

“I’m from Pittsburgh,” he said, “and as a kid, one of the things that we got to do before Reagan took all the funds away was to go to the theatre for free. All of August Wilson’s plays at that time, they started other places, but then they made a stop in Pittsburgh. I got to see all the first four or five plays in their original incarnations, and it was about Pittsburgh. I started growing up on The Hill [the neighborhood setting of Fences and the filming location]. We moved from The Hill when I was about seven, so to have stories that were literally about my neighborhood is one of the things that opened up this world to me and let me know that I could be in it, that I could be an artist—I could make a living with pieces as brilliant as these.”

Porter is best-known for his Tony-winning turn as Lola in Broadway’s Kinky Boots, a role now filled by YouTube sensation and Broadway performer Todrick Hall. “I was there for his opening night,” said Porter. “I haven’t seen it in about a year, and it’s so awe-inspiring.

“To have the distance and go back and realize that we created something that is a real thing,” Porter paused. “Miss Lola will go down in history…. She’s an iconic character, and I am so blessed to have been a part of making that happen.”

It’s a revelation Porter had not experienced until seeing Hall in the role “because you’re in it, and in theatre we don’t get the immediacy of being able to sit back and watch it as in film or television. We have to be in it—that’s the way that we share it. So when you’re in it, it doesn’t resonate like that because you’re just trying to do eight shows a week.”

Hall is “in it” now through March 5, and Porter is proud to have created a legacy that can live on through gifted performers.

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