Billy Porter

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‘Kinky Boots’ star Billy Porter wants to create Harlem-based television drama

The Tony-winning Pittsburgh native’s TV series, titled ‘SoHa,’ would center on the big-city tribulations of a group of friends who are black, gay and in their 40s.

He’s taking a break from Broadway to pursue several side projects, and Billy Porter is also thinking a lot about Harlem.

The award-winning “Kinky Boots” star is shopping an idea for a TV series he conceived, titled “SoHa,” which would center on the big-city tribulations of a group of friends who are black, gay and in their 40s.

And like the 45-year-old Tony and Grammy Award winner, they live in Harlem.

“When I was sort of without a place to live, and I was subletting and hopping around and living on sofas, I was really drawn to mid-central/West Harlem,” said Porter, who moved into a new building on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. two years ago.

The actor remembers his childhood in Pittsburgh, where he said struggling families like his own lived in close proximity to upwardly mobile black doctors and lawyers.

Broadway performer Billy Porter sings during a performance of the play “Kinky Boots.”
HANDOUT/REUTERS
Broadway performer Billy Porter sings during a performance of the play “Kinky Boots.”
“And what I like about the spots of Harlem that are emerging is that it feels like that,” he added. “I live in a luxury building across the street from the projects. So that makes me feel like I’m at home.”

During his three-month hiatus from his turn in drag in the Cyndi Lauper-Harvey Fierstein musical, Porter has taped a PBS special, “Live at Lincoln Center,” which will air on April 3.

He also directed a biomusical written by fellow “Star Search” alum Sam Harris, and plans to helm a revival of George C. Wolfe’s “The Colored Museum” for Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company.

But he is especially driven by the possibility of developing his Harlem-based television drama, which began as a play he described as a mashup of “Six Feet Under” and “Girls.”

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiBilly Porter moved into a new building on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. two years ago.
PreviousNextNYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi Billy Porter is planning to pitch a concept for a television series he conceived, to be set in Harlem. The “Kinky Boots” star has lived in Harlem for two years. Billy Porter is planning to pitch a concept for a television series he conceived, to be set in Harlem. The “Kinky Boots” star has lived in Harlem for two years. EnlargeSUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
“(It) follows a character that’s loosely based on me and my archetype — that being a black, out, gay man that’s not on the down-low,” he said.

“I find that there is often a down-low component that’s associated with the telling of black, gay stories and I think it’s interesting because that isn’t my story. So it follows that character and his sort of four best friends as they try to figure out how to close the chasm between sex and intimacy.”

Porter, who will return to “Kinky Boots” on April 28, said he chose Harlem as its backdrop because of the role the emerging gay community has played in its recent transformation.

“I just wanted to have a cool setting that nobody has really talked about like that before,” he added. “I also think it’s telling a story that deals with black, gay men, and setting it in Harlem — in a world where inherently, the culture is so homophobic — I think it turns that idea on its ear.”

Jesse Beer Dietz