Billy Porter says it was a 'gift' to tell story of AIDS crisis in 'Pose'

The Emmy award-winning actor discusses the parallels he sees between the AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic and talks about the final season of “Pose.”
9:45 | 05/03/21

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Transcript for Billy Porter says it was a 'gift' to tell story of AIDS crisis in 'Pose'
In the third and final season of the groundbreaking series "Pose," the fabulous Billy porter returns as beloved ballroom emcee pray tell who finds himself at a crossroads during the height of the AIDS crisis of the '90s. Take a look. I'm going to make this quick. I'm retiring. You couldn't retire from I'm being serious. I'm done emceeing the balls. We don't accept your resignation. It's not up for discussion. We've lost too many icons and all these young kids ain't got no home training. These cash prizes and these tacky lip syncs. I just can't. Please welcome back the fabulous Billy porter. Sara has the first question. Billy, it's great to have you here today. You're known for your icon red carpet looks. Last week's premiere was no exception. You looked fabulous. Thank you. It was the first major red carpet event in New York City since the start of the pandemic. How did it feel to be back out there? You know, everything was covid friendly. All of the protocols were in place. It felt very safe. It was a breath of fresh air to just get a glimmer of what it could feel like to be back to relative normal. I'm ready to see people again in person. I'm ready to hug some necks in fellowship with real red-blooded human beings again. Me too. "Pose" features the largest recurring cast of lgbtq actors ever for a scripted series and in 2019 you won an Emmy for your role as pray tell, becoming the first openly gay man to win lead actor in a drama. What will you miss most about the character and what does it mean to you to have set a new benchmark for representation? Well, you know, this third season is very, very bitter sweet. Having lived through the AIDS crisis, you know, I always thought, you know, there was a bit of survivor's guilt with me. "Pose" really let me know, you know, the reason why I survived, to be the vessel, to tell the story, to remind the world of the whole community of people that was decimated by this plague. I stand on their shoulders. You know, it's a -- it's a gift to be able to tell this particular story in this particular intersection at this particular time. We're in another plague right now. We have to give the message of love. We have to spread the message of love and choosing life. That's what we get to do with "Pose." The series does end in 1994 at the height of the AIDS crisis in this country. We all remember how awful it was. You have said the show actually helped you process what you and the lgbtq communty went through at that time. Give me a little more specifics. What do you mean by that? Do you see parallels between the AIDS crisis and the present covid epidemic we're in right now? Yes, well, you know, it's really interesting because I do. I do see parallels. I believehat -- actually the show ends in '98. The anti-retro viral drugs came in '96. True to American form, you know, the collective energy is about moving on always, almost to the point as if acting as if it never existed. You know, there's a whole generation of us that never got a chance to process that trauma. "Pose" has created a space where my generation has been reminded that to process drama -- trauma, to process trauma, is to heal. We need to heal. There's a collective healing that needs to happen on this Earth. I am so proud of the work on "Pose" because it speaks to the necessity for that kind of healing. At his first address to congress the other night, president Biden spoke in support of the lgbtq community and said to all the transgender Americans watching at home especially the young people who are so brave, I want you to know your president has your back. What was your reaction to hearing him say that? Well, you know, it's nice. It's nice to hear. It's nice to hear the words. Now I would like the words to be translated into policy because we still have 160 plus anti-transbills going on in our country. Apparently that's still legal. We have 160 plus, you know, voter rights bills, discriminatory bills going on in congress. Apparently it's still legal to be able to do these things. I would like to see it translated into policy. I am hopeful because that's the only way to live. It's the only way to be. I'm not hopeful because I have seen a lot of hopeful things happening, but I choose hope and I choose life anyway. Billy, you have so much going on. You're going to be releasing new music this summer and you're about to start shooting your directorial debut, a transgender coming of age story called "What if" in your hometown of Pittsburgh. You were open about your struggles growing up there as a gay kid. How does it feel to return home? It's a triumphant return home and, you know, now that I have a little bit of power, I also get to shine a spotlight on pittsbur, the transformation of Pittsburgh. A lot of people still think of Pittsburgh as back in the dark ages, blue collar, steel and that industry and what happened was there was a renaissance that was put forward by our leaders, the leaders of Pittsburgh and, you know, we've been able to ground ourselves in Pittsburgh in different things, whether it's the arts, whether it's the medical professional top five in the world, whether it's Google and, you know, all that kind of stuff. I'm excited to go back to Pittsburgh and tell a new story about what Pittsburgh is and the beauty of what my hometown is. I love Pittsburgh too. It's one of the great American cities of all time. Really has an interesting culture right now, especially in politics. Moving on, I want to ask you about "Cinderella." You're playing the fairy godmother. What kind of Billy porter spin are you going to bring to that? We're all excited to see it come out. What's great is Kay cannon, the writer and director of the piece who is best known for "Pitch perfect," that franchise. She created a script that's very fresh. It's very modern. Cinderella is trying to be a business woman. She ain't running after no prince. As a result of that, the entire piece embraces inclusion, embraces diversity and they sort of had me in mind. When they called, you know, they called me for me and they wrote the fairy godmother with me in mind. I can't talk too much about it, but, you know, they wrote this fairy godmother as I call her, aka the fab G, to slay all day. That's what I intend to do. It was very fun to shoot. I'm looking forward to the world experiencing this new interpretation of this classic tale. All right now. All right. Okay. You're busy. We got it. I'm busy. You know, as it should be. As someone told you once in the past, the best was coming. You can come hang out with us any time, Billy porter. You can catch the third and final season of "Pose" Sunday nights on FX.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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