THE LEADING MEN: Tony Nominees Billy Porter and Stark Sands Kick Up Their Heels in Broadway's Kinky Boots

By Michael Gioia
06 May 2013

Porter and Stark Sands
Photo by Matthew Murphy

Tell me about your physicality, too. I'm interested in how Billy became Lola.
BP: Hanging out at gay bars and seeing drag queens, I always thought to myself, over the years, that if I was ever presented with the possibility of playing [a role like this], my goal would be to go for realness — for real femininity — so that's where I started. I wanted to go for full-on realness, and that's what I'm aiming for.

This story must really strike a chord with you. Are there moments in the show that catch you off guard each night, and you think to yourself, "This resonates with me, Billy"?
BP: "I'm Not My Father's Son" is the ballad in the first act in the bathroom where Stark's character and my character come together for the first time and realize that we're the same — emotionally. You know, my relationship with my father — both of my fathers, my stepfather and my biological father — were strained, at best, when they were alive, so that's [a moment] every night that I sort of live in. I try to live in a space that honors them and honors the effect that they've had on my life in teaching me how to be human and in teaching me how to love myself and teaching me about forgiveness.

Porter and Daniel Stewart Sherman in Kinky Boots.
photo by Matthew Murphy

Tell me about your 11-o'clock number in the second act, "Hold Me In Your Heart." Are you completely drained by the end of the show?
BP: No, it's interesting… Everybody is interested in my energy level. We, as artists, dream for roles and characters and work that will come along that support you creatively, emotionally, financially — all of those things — and that's what this show is for me. So no, I'm not drained, I'm not tired. I'm completely energized, and I love every second of it. I mean, tired — regular tired? Yeah. Eight shows a week is tiring, but not in a sense of, "I'm so exhausted, I couldn't possibly…" It's not that at all.



Stark Sands and Annaleigh Ashford told me about the Kinky Boots fan who had your signature tattooed on his body…
BP: He just showed us last night. He was really touched by the message of the show, which is, "You change the world when you change your mind." It's about acceptance. He has been following, actually, my trajectory as an out, gay man, actor in the world, and he was just really touched by it.

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