Billy Porter is set to play James Baldwin in a film based on the trailblazing novelist and activist.
The Pose star will also write the script for the forthcoming biopic with Dan McCabe for Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group Motion Pictures.
It will be based on James Baldwin: A Biography, the 1994 book from David Leeming, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Connecticut who was also a close friend and assistant to Baldwin for over 25 years.
Widely regarded as one of the best writers of all time, Baldwin often explored themes of masculinity, sexuality, race and class alongside social and political change such as the civil rights movement and the gay liberation movement. His protagonists were primarily gay and bisexual African-American men.
Baldwin’s most acclaimed and best-known works include Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, Another Country, The Fire Next Time, Giovanni’s Room and If Beale Street Could Talk, the latter of which was adapted into the 2018 Oscar-winning film of the same name.
In a statement, Porter said: “As a Black queer man on this planet with relative consciousness I find myself, like James Baldwin said, ‘in a rage all the time.’ I am because James was. I stand on James Baldwin’s shoulders, and I intend to expand his legacy for generations to come.”
Allen, the founder, chairman and CEO of Allen Media Group, added: “We at Allen Media Group Motion Pictures are extremely passionate about sharing James Baldwin’s phenomenal story with the world. Billy Porter and Dan McCabe’s talent and commitment to amplifying James Baldwin’s legacy and contributions are invaluable and unmatched for this unique and epic story.”
Porter has expressed his admiration for Baldwin various times throughout his career, most notably at the 2019 Emmy Awards – where he historically became the first gay Black man to be nominated and win in any leading category for his portrayal of Pray Tell on Pose.
He quoted Baldwin’s 1970 essay They Can’t Turn Back in the speech, telling the audience: “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as if I had a right to be here.”
As well as Pose, Porter is known for his Tony Award-winning performance as Lola in Kinky Boots and for becoming the first man to play the Fairy Godmother in Prime Video’s 2021 adaptation of Cinderella.
In 2022, he made his directorial debut with the lauded romantic comedy Anything’s Possible, which received praise for its trans and queer representation.