Billy Porter breaks down why Broadway actors are on the brink of poverty

And what he's doing about it.
July 29, 2020 9:47 a.m. EST
July 29, 2020 9:48 a.m. EST
Billy Porter is an award-winning actor of Broadway and television (he was nominated for another Emmy less that 24 hours ago), and his red carpet lewks always bring a sprinkle of joy—and whole a lot of FIERCE—into our lives (that Oscars gown gave us life). Yet to hear him speak frankly about the plight of actors during the COVID-19 global pandemic paints a very different picture to the glitz and glamour we associate with Broadway and silver screen stars—don't let the price of Hamilton tickets fool you.“We’re working class, especially on Broadway,” he explained to Seth Meyers for Late Night. “We live hand-to-mouth, I did it for 30 years. We’re not rich. We’re two to five pay cheques away from poverty.”
Noting that he’s trying to “be the change” that he wants to see, he talked about his volunteer-run campaign, Be an Arts Hero, that is currently appealing to the Senate to earmark a relief package by August 1st for arts workers who have lost their wages and salaries due to the pandemic. Speaking “the financiers' language” as he put it, Porter noted that 94 per cent of arts workers have lost work and 64 per cent are fully unemployed—in one of the United States' largest and most lucrative (under "normal" circumstances) industries.“There's so much funding that is necessary in this crisis in particular,” said Porter. “This moment has illuminated that in really stark ways.”He’s not alone in his efforts to aid the millions of actors who have lost work—we've seen many celebs and entertainers band together to raise funds for the struggling arts community deeply affected by the shutdown of all film, TV, and theatre productions. Back in March, when COVID-19 first forced an industry shutdown, Rosie O’Donnell remounted her popular '90s talk show Rosie on Broadway for one night only to benefit The Actors Fund. A new podcast called The Pack Podcast featuring big name celebs has dropped in an effort to also raise money for The Actors Fund as well as Feeding America. And even this very night, the cast of the massive ABC hit TV drama Scandal are reuniting (Kerry Washington was also nominated for an Emmy yesterday FYI) with the same goal of benefiting The Actor’s Fund.[video_embed id='2001526']RELATED: Michael B. Jordan launches #ChangeHollywood initiative [/video_embed]With a hand-painted handbag behind him reading “vote betches” (we’re living for the sass!), it's not surprising Billy Porter used another late-night appearance to voice his principles and stand up for his community. Whether he’s calling on NYC to defund the police, calling out transphobia wherever he sees it, or debunking coronavirus conspiracy theories, he always does it sporting a killer pair of glasses and a showstopping outfit (today, it's a colourful kaftan). His fashion choices never go unnoticed, and Seth just had to ask about that motorized veil that launched a thousand memes earlier this year.“We had been at another awards show, where Billie Eilish was in front of me, and she was wearing this veil over her Gucci situation, and I said, ‘Oh that’s cute, that’s fun, but I would never cover my face because I’ve spent too long getting people to see my face!’” he explained, adding that his stylist suggested a veil that could open and close, and the rest is history.We love it when Billies inspire each other.[video_embed id='1993445']BEFORE YOU GO: What We're Watching - Black lives in the spotlight [/video_embed]

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