Billy Porter Is Done Playing Everyone’s ‘Gay Best Friend’

The stereotypes of gay characters on TV have become annoying to those in the LGBTQ community, despite huge inroads becoming a mainstream part of entertainment. One of the most celebrated gay actors nowadays is Billy Porter who’s become the first Emmy-nominated openly gay African-American man for the FX series Pose.

You probably also know Porter from his popular Broadway performances, including winning a Tony for his performance in Kinky Boots.

While roles on Broadway for openly gay actors have evolved fast, television still plays up the same tropes. Porter recently said he’s no longer interested in playing one standard device used with gay characters: Always being the gay “best friend.”

Is Porter advancing how TV portrays these characters in the coming years?

Upcoming plot developments on ‘Pose’

Billy Porter
Billy Porter | Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

If you’re new to the show Pose, then you should know it depicts a real-time in NYC history: The transgender ballroom scene of the 1980s. Porter plays emcee Pray Tell, which isn’t based on any real person, but vividly represents many of the transgender people involved in this community back then.

What’s made this show so innovative is it’s depicted transgender people in a realistic light and not using the same plot devices we’ve seen with openly gay TV characters.

One of the most significant with Porter’s is Pray Tell will soon have a love interest, something TV hasn’t done before in realistic ways. Porter has played one stereotype many have seen a little too often: Gay people always playing a woman’s best friend.

Once you look back at the short history of gay characters on TV, you can definitely see this trope recurring, even in streaming shows.

Will Porter change how gay characters are portrayed?

Whether or not Porter wins the Emmy for his performance on Pose, he and the show are already giving a more realistic portrayal about how transgender people lived in the ’80s. How they live isn’t any different now, including having relationships of their own rather than always tagging along with women for friendship.

That trope Porter mentioned was most recently used on shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt where Tituss Burgess played Titus Andromedon, the gay friend of Kimmy. They’re far from the only show to use this device, going back to the days before a character was outed as gay (if still insinuated).

With Pose now changing things, we have to assume we’ll see this become a TV precedent, especially during a time when we want to see more realism there.

As we’ve been seeing with TV becoming the new movie theater, we may see more insight into gay characters on TV than we’ve seen on the big screen.

The evolving may happen faster if Billy Porter wins the Emmy

Considering the Emmy nomination for Porter is already a milestone, you can imagine what it might bring if he wins. Should he win, it’ll set a faster path toward more realism of gay characters on TV.

How real it’ll become is a matter of conjecture, though anything is possible now with cable and HBO. What most in the LGBTQ community seem to want is a precedent for real relationships and how gay people dealt with them in the past and present day.

Making this a serious subject and not done with caricature or looking debauched is a step TV has to take carefully. The dynamics of a gay love relationship has a lot of possibilities TV hasn’t yet explored too much in-depth, particularly when taking place in the past.

Porter has also said he no longer wants to see gay people portrayed as “the clown” in dramas or comedies. Let’s all agree it’s for the betterment of TV when trying to depict reality.