‘Pose’ Star Billy Porter Takes Home Historic First Emmy For Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Tony and Grammy-Award-winner Billy Porter just received his first Primetime Emmy, making him an Oscar win short of having the prestigious EGOT honor. The fashion icon beat out forerunners Sterling K. Brown and Kit Harington to take home the Lead Actor in a Drama Series Emmy and made history by becoming the first openly gay black man to win the category.

Billy Porter Emmys
Billy Porter | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Billy Porter as Pray Tell on ‘Pose’

In a conversation between Pose director Ryan Murphy and the actor for 92nd Street Y, Murphy explained that Pray Tell never existed until Porter showed up to his audition and they wrote the part for him.

Porter expanded more on his side of the story and said he told everyone he wanted to work with Ryan Murphy, so when he found out the famed director was doing a show about the 1980’s New York ballroom culture, Porter knew this was finally a show for him.

Pray Tell is the emcee of the balls and explains concepts like cultural appropriation with humor and knowledge. The flamboyant emcee also ended up finding love with Ricky, a dancer who is much younger than him and Damon’s ex-boyfriend, which put a strain on his relationship with best friend, Blanca, until they made up.

Who were the other actors nominated with Billy Porter?

Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Jason Bateman (Ozark), Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us), and Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us) were all nominated alongside Porter for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

With fan-favorite show Game of Thrones ending after seven seasons and Brown as the former titleholder, either of the two were expected to take home the award. However, the Television Academy chose Porter’s iconic portrayal of Pray Tell as the winner.

Billy Porter’s speech after historic Emmy win

When Porter was announced as the winner, he kissed his husband and started his speech with Pray Tell’s opening statement from Pose, saying, “And the category is…love!”

He then quoted James Baldwin, saying, “It took me many years to vomit up the filth I heard about myself that I believed until I started walking around the Earth like I belonged here.”

Porter followed it up by encouraging the audience and viewers at home to do the same thing, explaining, “we all have that right.” The actor also thanked the others he was nominated with, noting it as an “honor to breathe the same air” as them.

He also thanked his mom, calling her the strongest and most resilient woman he knows, his sister, husband, and manager of 29 years. Porter turned his acknowledgments to his Pose family, thanked the people at FX, his cast, and gave a special thanks to Murphy for seeing him and believing in the show.

Finally, he shouted out the other creators and told them, “We are the people that get to change the molecular structure of everyone’s mind. Please don’t stop that.” Pose has been renewed for a Season 3 where Porter will continue playing the character of Pray Tell.