Actor, director, and singer Billy Porter is set to play acclaimed novelist, essayist, and activist James Baldwin in a feature about his life. The film will be based off of 1994 book James Baldwin: A Biography by David Leeming. Additionally, Porter will pen the script alongside frequent collaborator, writer and playwright Dan McCabe.
The upcoming biopic is one that’s near and dear to Porter, as he even shouted out the Black queer icon in his 2019 Emmy Awards acceptance speech for his work in Pose.
“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,” said Porter in a statement. “I stand on James Baldwin’s shoulders, and I intend to expand his legacy for generations to come.”
The film will be produced by Porter’s Incognegro Productions and Allen Media Group.
“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,” said Byron Allen, CEO of Allen Media Group.
James Baldwin was a Black gay writer, essayist, Civil Rights activist whose work existed at the intersection of Black identity, sexuality, race relations, and activism. Born in Harlem in 1924, the acclaimed author was known for living outside of the United States for extended periods due to the racism embedded within the U.S. Some of his most famous works include, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, Another Country and Giovanni’s Room.
His legacy is further cemented in work, such as the Academy Award-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro (the same name of Baldwin’s novel) by Raoul Peck and the Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk, which gave Regina King the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
With Porter already one award away from EGOT status (he received a Tony Award as a producer of A Strange Loop, Tony Award and a Grammy Award for his role in Kinky Boots, and an Emmy Award for his role as Pray Tell in Pose), all eyes will be on Porter’s performance.
The news comes after Porter made his directorial debut in Anything’s Possible, a coming-of-age teen romance centering around a Black trans girl (Eva Reign) and a Brown cis boy (Abubakr Ali). Porter also voices Randall Leibowitz-Jenkins, one half of the gay couple in Disney+’s The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, and is featured in 80 for Brady alongside Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, and Sally Field.