In Billy Porter’s directorial debut, ‘Anything’s Possible’ for a trans teen


Warning: This article contains spoilers for “everything is possible”.

Billy Porter is a man on a mission. After ending his three-season career as Pray Tell in the groundbreaking FX drama Pose, the Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor made his directorial debut, directing a romantic comedy about a transgender black girl and a Muslim American boy who falls in love during Final year of high school.

Directed by Porter, written by Ximena García Lecuona and produced by MGM’s Orion Pictures, “Anything’s Possible” — which debuted at Outfest and premieres Friday on Prime Video — follows Kelsa (Eva Reign), a high school student who navigates life with… Her first boyfriend, an uncle (Abu Bakr Ali), the ever-changing expectations of her friends and her single mother (Renée Elise Goldsberry).

After working with a group of transgender pioneers on “Pose,” Porter, the first openly gay black man Won in the Main Acting category at the Emmys, was looking for another project led by Quire last year when he got a call from the film’s producer Kristen Fashion, who asked him to read a screenplay titled “What If?” It is located in his hometown of Pittsburgh.

“The screenwriter’s apparent intent to present the transgender community in a new light blew me away: Joy!” Porter wrote in his director’s statement, which outlines his vision for the film. “The end result is a film unlike any we have seen before…full of the diversity that our world demands. It is a true celebration of the authentic human spirit.”

Having stepped into the project as a director, Porter realized that he needed two main ingredients: a mature, unassuming black actress who could guide the audience through a story rarely told on screen, and a handsome male actor who was comfortable. With the embodiment of a kind of unabashed and unconditional love. In the end, he chose Reign, who would make her film debut, and Ali, who would soon become the first Arab Muslim hero in a comic book adaptation of Netflix’s Grendel.

“When I started theater lessons in high school, there was a lot of tension about my type and how I presented myself, and people told me there was no room for me when it came to acting,” Ren told NBC News. “I started to lose a lot of my confidence. But through the audition process and playing Kelsa, I started to get a lot of that back.”

While she believes that there are certain roles that don’t require actors to provide their own lived experiences, Reign understood the unique responsibility of playing a character she’s always wanted to see.

“This was my chance to give that younger version of myself a gift,” she said, “and I hope it’s a gift to all the young trans children that are coming now.”

When Khal’s audition arrived in his inbox, Ali, who admitted he was too busy to meticulously read the script, read the material and thought he was auditioning for the role of best friend instead of the main man.

Eva Ren and Abubakar Ali in Billy Porter’s directorial debut, Anything Is Possible.Amazon Studios

“I’ve been so weary of what I’ve seen before,” he said, referring to the beloved Disney character, “I’ve never seen a scenario where someone from my background or from my history was a leading man, other than Aladdin.”

Once he landed the role and completed some memorable callbacks via Zoom with Porter, who “was talking to me as if we were going to shoot the next day” and reiterated the groundbreaking nature of the project, Ali said he had to adopt Khal’s tactful, soft nature, Which is part of why Kelsa was so drawn to him in the first place.

“There is a little butterfly in his heart that always flutters; Ali said of his character.

From the moment they meet in art class on the first day of their freshman year, Rin and Khal find a rare sense of safety with each other as they try to find their own place in the world.

“Both Kelsa and Khal are two people who have so much love in their hearts from jumping in,” she said. “These are two really cute kids, and they just happen to cross at the perfect time in their lives and also at a time when they both need the other person, and I think that’s what a loving bond looks like.”

While Kelsa’s sexual identity is a key part of her characterization, Khal doesn’t respond to outside criticism about dating a young trans woman. Instead, it is Khal’s peers who confront their transphobia.

“When it comes to love, you’ll find a way to go beyond what other people say,” Ren noted.

“People do not wake up with hatred in their hearts. They knew this out of fear of something they did not quite get.” “When it comes to most of these bigots, they don’t know any trans people; they didn’t grow up with trans people. Usually someone would tell them something was wrong… and luckily, Khal is someone who doesn’t listen to any of that. And I think that’s is how simple life is for everyone.”

Ali notes that many Muslim Americans, including Khal, have been “historically denied the opportunity to allow the ugly parts of themselves to exist” and had to present a certain facade to make others feel more comfortable around them. But in ‘everything is possible’ Muslims are able to see not only the ‘beautiful parts’ of themselves but also a more advanced perspective on interracial and transgender relationships.

“Too often, we caricature the older generation and only allow them to have one specific point of view,” Ali said. “Honestly, most people have been watching this movie and expecting Khal’s parents to kick him out of the house because of his feelings for Kelsa. It’s nice to see that generation have had the opportunity to explore something else. I hope, within the world, we have older members of my community who see That and they say, ‘That’s a possibility. What my reaction is historically supposed to be doesn’t have to be the case.’

Porter said that after working in the industry for three decades, he’s seen it all and been able to turn his obscurity into his “superpower” after it was repeatedly said it would be a professional responsibility. As artists, he added, “we have to empower ourselves with stories like this and inspire and encourage ourselves.”

Director Billy Porter, actors Kelly Lamour Wilson and Eva Reign
Director Billy Porter and actors Kelly Lamour Wilson and Eva Rain on the set of “Anything Is Possible.”Tony Rivetti/Amazon Studios

With anti-LGBT legislation currently rampant across the country — including the potential threat to same-sex marriage — Porter said he thinks the rollback of LGBT rights and rights “is very severe because actual change has already taken place… and that’s what I want to show it.”

“That’s the kind of work I want to do,” he said, “because that’s our oxygen, and we have to put our oxygen mask on first so we can face what’s going to happen in the future.” “Because it’s a battle and —— now, and it will last for a long time.”

In addition to choosing two romantic threads from societies still underrepresented on the big screen, “Anything’s Possible” redefines the classic fairy tale with an ending so abrupt that Reign was caught by surprise. At the end of their first summer as a married couple, Kelsa and Khal decide to go their separate ways, agreeing that it wouldn’t be fair for either of them to pursue a long-distance relationship in college.

In youth stories, Ali said, “There is always someone who sacrifices a part of himself or gives up something for the sake of the relationship.” In Anything Is Possible, he said, the last scene of Kelsa and Khal together was one of his favorites to shoot, because Kelsa chose herself.

“We see her honor in herself while she still loves the person in front of her,” he said. “It’s not selfish; it’s not pretentious; it’s not hurtful; it’s just life.”

“We live in a time where, specifically with men, we are so immersed in our feelings…Instead, we see this boy totally getting hurt but we choose to smile through him in support and honor for that person in front of him as he chokes,” Ali added as he suffocated. To see an injured person – and this does not deny it – but [he] You choose to put that away and make room for her to do her thing. This is rare. I don’t think we see that often.”

Porter said he believes “people come into your life for a reason,” whether it’s “for a season” or “a lifetime.”

“And just because a romantic relationship isn’t working, doesn’t mean the relationship doesn’t last but rather a post-romantic relationship deepens, and I love that part of the movie too. There’s a maturity that I think is necessary,” he said.

Reign agreed that “there is something very honest” about the ending.

“Yes, it’s a breakup, but it’s not a sad breakup. They both still have a lot of love toward the other person, and I think over time, maybe they’ll try to open the door for that again,” she said. “Kelsa is just a strong young woman, and she just wants to see what’s possible for her.”

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