Billy Porter is playing James Baldwin in a new biopic, and people have plenty of thoughts

Billy Porter with his hair in bantu knots, wearing a white shirt and leather jacket. James Baldwin smiling, wearing a black jacket and black tie.

Pose and American Horror Story actor Billy Porter will star as the influential American writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin in a new biopic, and everyone has thoughts.

Porter will also co-write the film’s script, which will be based on Baldwin’s 1994 biography James Baldwin: A Biography by Baldwin’s longtime friend David Leeming.

Depicting Baldwin’s life and struggles has long been a career goal for Porter, who has previously expressed his affinity with the legendary novelist.

At the 2019 Emmys, Porter quoted Baldwin as he accepted his historic award for Outstanding Lead in a Drama Series, becoming the first openly gay, Black man to do so.

“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,” Porter said, referencing James Baldwin’s 1960 essay “They Can’t Turn Back”. “I have the right, you have the right. We all have the right.”

During his storied career, Baldwin broke new ground by writing about his life experiences as a Black, gay man during segregation in the US. He was acclaimed for his prestigious work in theatre, poetry, novels and essays, while his best known books include Notes of a Native Son, Another Country, and Go Tell It on the Mountain

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His life and work have also inspired several movies, including the 2016 documentary I Am Not Your Negro.

Speaking about his new role, 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.”

Porter is one step away from becoming the first Black, gay man to achieve EGOT status, having won an Emmy, Grammy, and a Tony award. He just needs an Oscar to complete the set, and some fans think the as-yet untitled James Baldwin biopic will get him there.

One fan said Porter’s role as Baldwin was “utterly perfect casting,” while another wrote: “I’ve been saying this for years, Billy Porter is picture perfect casting for James Baldwin. I will be seated.”

Not everyone is completely thrilled by the idea of Porter taking on Baldwin’s life, though.

“Would Billy bring out a great performance for Little Richard and Sylvester? 100 per cent,” one person wrote. “But James Baldwin? I’m not so sure.”

“Hopefully it’s not just another biopic and they actually engage with his ideas and do justice to his beautiful, towering intellect and talent,” said another.

Others are entirely on the fence.

“This has the potential to either be so good or so bad. I don’t know whether to be hopeful or pessimistic,” one person said.

No release date for the untitled biopic has been set.

Porter’s diary is already pretty packed, too, considering he has just been announced to produce London’s version of queer musical A Strange Loop, alongside Jennifer Hudson and Mindy Kaling.

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