Billy Porter knew a long time ago that his life’s mission was to change the world through art. Whether it’s breaking ground on Broadway with his Tony Award-winning role in Kinky Boots or challenging gender norms in fashion with his iconic red carpet outfits, he consistently uses his creative outlets to make a statement. While it’s been decades since Porter delivered his one and only sermon as a youth at a Pittsburgh church, he’s found a new pulpit onstage, where he preaches a message of respect. “We have to remind the world that everyone is a human being. That is fundamentally my ministry,” Porter says. “Even if you don’t like who I am or what I do, that’s none of your business. The only thing that is required is respect for my humanity.”
The Emmy-nominated Pose star and LGBTQ advocate is now the director of The Purists, a world premiere at the Huntington Theatre Company. The play marks Porter’s return to Huntington—which he considers a second home—after directing Topdog/ Underdog and The Colored Museum. Written by Dan McCabe, The Purists revolves around an unlikely group of music lovers who find common ground despite their wildly different tastes and life experiences. “The thing that stuck out to me was that it’s about people from different communities coming together and choosing to understand and respect each other,” Porter recalls. “It’s an explosive piece.” That message strikes him as particularly important in current affairs. “We must respect each other’s differences in order for this world to move forward. If we don’t, we will destroy the world. Period,” he says.
“Everything that you’re seeing right now is the fruit of my labor, of my entire life and career,” Porter adds. “My hope has always been to be able to create change in the world through what I do.”