Hello Billy, tell us something about your role in 'Cinderella'...
I will say that this 'Cinderella' is one for the new millennium. It is taking the old fairy tale of Cinderella, which has its problematic moments in modern times, and sort of making it relevant for today. It's very empowering for women. It's about women being empowered, women being businesswomen, running their own lives, making their own choices and decisions, not based on whether they have a man or not. So I think that's awesome. It's very inclusive, it's very diverse and one of the big changes is with the fairy godmother aka the Fab G which is played by yours truly. It's a new interpretation of what a fairy god person can be. It's magical and magic has no gender. And I get to be that spirit, this time around.
So how exciting it was to play that spirit?
It's really exciting for me because on a personal level as an out queer black actor in this business, it hasn't always been a welcoming space to be who I am naturally. There's always a talk about authenticity and just simply being yourself and my response to that has always been that its easy to be who you are when what you are is what's popular. So, what do you do when who you are is not popular? When who you are is not wanted. So, to choose myself so many years ago, to choose that thing that seemingly was my liability, and was my liability for a long time, until it wasn't. And now it's not. 'Cinderella' is an example of the reward for living in one's truth.
How was your experience of working with Camila?
It was really lovely because this is her first film. My only scene in the movie is actually with her. We shot early on and I think my scene came perhaps a few days to a week into filming and so we really got to bond. I have been in the business for a long time, so we were able to bond on the level of real friendship, real mentorship. She's a sponge, she's an extraordinary talented one and she is exceptional in this movie and it was lovely.
Camila is known for her singing skills. Did you get to hear some of her singing skills on the set while working with her?
Yes, we have a song together. She sings, we sing together, it's a bit of a duet at the end and she twirls it out.
This shoot might have taken place during the lockdown, so it might not have been easier for you guys to shoot. What difficulties did you face, personally and professionally?
Well for me, my stuff was shot right before the lockdown, in the non-covid world. The moment I left, I think it was two weeks later that they shut down. I'm not sure how they dealt with that after, but I know they went back a few months later and finished with very strict covid protocols in place.
The film has already become a craze in India. How excited are you for the Indian audience to watch it?
I'm so excited to just as an artist be connected to India in particular. I think this is the largest rollout of anything that I've ever done in my career, thus far. So I'm excited that its this piece and I'm excited that we get to speak to the changing landscape of the world. To speak to what real inclusion means, what real diversity means, what real change and change for good, really means.
It's really wonderful to be a part of that.
Have you seen any work of Bollywood actors so far? Ranveer Singh loves to emulate your style of dressing. Have you heard about him?
I have not heard about him. You have to send me his name, I want to connect with him.
Have you ever watched a Bollywood film?
I have, but not recently. I love Bollywood--the extravagance and the beauty of it, the detail and the celebration of it.
You're making a film now. Tell us something about that...
Yes, I just finished directing my first feature film. The working title is called 'What If' , that's going to change because the Marvel Universe has a show on the television now by the same name. So, we have to change ours. But it follows a black transgender high school girl, in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, which happens to be my hometown, over here in America. We have also shot it there. It's a coming-of-age, romantic comedy, in the vein of the old, sort of John Hughes, young adult dramedy's comedies of the '80s. I'm bringing the genre back and it reflects what our world looks like today. I'm really excited to be at the helm of telling these queer young stories, stories that I never had a chance as a young queer person to see myself in. It's very important that we see ourselves reflected back at us and it's a very exciting time.