Melissa Foulger Directs First Play at Out Front
He’s been around for decades, achieving tremendous success on stage, TV, and film, but even Billy Porter was awed by his co-stars in the new film, “80 for Brady.” Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, and Rita Moreno star in the comedy about four friends who decide to go to the 2017 Super Bowl and see their icon Tom Brady in action. It’s based on a true story that the actor was not familiar with until after reading the script.
“As a student of the arts, these actresses have been inspirational to me for a very long time, not just the work but their lives off-screen, their philanthropy, the activism, the engagement with community,” Porter told Georgia Voice. “All of those things so publicly have been a blueprint for me in terms of how I understood how to show up once I got my opportunity to be in this space. I never dreamed I would be in a movie with any of them, much less all four at the same time. It was magical.”
Porter appears in the film as Gugu, who he sees as “fabulous,” a director and choreographer of huge stadium shows who has a chance encounter with the four women.
“I imagine he is the master of those type shows,” he said. “In my mind’s eye, that is how I played it.”
He loves the fact that the film features vital women in their 70s and 80s, a Hollywood rarity, as well as an affirming message.
“This reminds people that there are no time limits on your dreams,” Porter said. “Continue to live your life to the fullest. It’s not over until the wheels fall off. I know that that kind of representation matters because when you see it actively, one can then filter that. It’s inspiring and encouraging.”
Someone told Porter this was the gayest sports film ever made, and he agrees.
“It cracks open such a subversive conversation in a way that we need right now to remind us that we are all human and the only healing is through love,” he said, jokingly calling the movie “Golden Girls” meets “Bridesmaids” on crack.
“80 for Brady” also examines the role of extended family.
“I don’t know anyone who can live without unconditional love and it doesn’t always necessarily come from blood relatives,” Porter said. “Often it comes from people and energies that you curate to be in your life.”
Atlanta Falcons fans may not be happy with the project. The film painfully recreates the Falcons’ loss to the New England Patriots in what is considered the greatest sports choke of all time.
The series “Pose” changed the world for Porter. He won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Pray Tell and the show was celebrated for its authenticity.
“I lived through the AIDS crisis,” he said. “I am 53 years old and have been HIV positive since 2007. I always wondered why I survived. I had survivor’s guilt for a very long time — and then ‘Pose’ came along and it was clear to me. I have always known there was a calling in my life, but it was ‘Pose’ that sat me in the center of that calling. The fact that my community was finally seen in the mainstream has cracked open a different kind of conversation, a space where we are no longer unconsciously or unknowingly dehumanized.”
Out Front Theatre Company’s new “I Wanna F***ing Tear You Apart” tells the story of two friends and the wedge that comes between them when a third enters the picture. The show is directed by Melissa Foulger, who is working with the company for the first time.
Leo is a gay man who has been friends with Sam for approximately 15 years. They are writers who went to college together and remained “Will and Grace”-type best buds into their 30s. Sam is overweight and struggling with selfesteem issues. The two spend almost all their time together, bingeing “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“They rely on each other as being on the outside, not accepted by society, and that is what links them together and makes them a team,” Foulger told Georgia Voice.
Over time, Leo decides that, as he gets older, he wants more than just one friendship and begins hanging out with Chloe from his office, who is in her 20s.
“Sam gets jealous and it breaks things up in their relationship,” Foulger said. “The way Leo and Chloe interact is the way Leo and Sam used to interact.”
One reason Foulger wanted to do this piece is getting to examine the idea of this specific friendship.
“That relationship has an unhealthy nature to it,” she said. “There is some dysfunction, and it’s fun to explore all of that.”
Written by Morgan Gould, the show is making its Southeastern premiere and will also be staged at Fort Lauderdale’s Island City Stage with the same two lead performers.
Foulger has been watching Out Front for a long time, and when she was contacted, she was proud to be able to do something at a theater that represents her community.
“I was excited to do something that is about a relationship I have been in and I love the work they do, putting such a spotlight on the LGBTQ community,” she said.