Billy Porter directs drag queen episode of FOX’s courtroom drama “Accused”

Billy Porter directs an episode of FOX's "Accused"
Billy Porter directs an episode of FOX's "Accused" Photo: Taylor Henderson

FOX’s newest courtroom drama, Accused, is tackling queer stories unlike any other show on TV right now. Based on the BAFTA-winning British series of the same name, episode 5, “Robyn’s Story,” follows a drag queen accused of a heinous offense.

“It’s really a balance of a crime story and a love story,” Emmy-winner Billy Porter, director of the episode, shared at a panel at The Abbey in West Hollywood.

We meet Kevin, an ESL teacher by day and a drag queen named Robyn by night. After getting heckled in drag by a group of drunks, a man named Jamie caught up with her and the two fell into a whirlwind romance. But once Kevin discovers Jamie is secretly married, the episode turns dark. Despite juggling heavy themes like homicide, self-loathing, and a hate crime, the episode serves up three drag performances and a bit of Black joy. We even get a few cameos from Anything’s Possible star Eva Reign and RuPaul’s Drag Race star Willam.

Creator Howard Gordon says Porter was the first choice to direct the episode. What excited him about the script was that Kevin has “a fully realized life outside of drag,” and aside from the crime, the episode is also “a little bit of a love story.” 

Porter thinks it’s necessary to humanize drag performers during political persecution; recently, a bill passed in Tennessee that restricts certain drag shows from existing.

“We live in such polarizing times and drag artists are the target of so much attention negatively” that “this was an opportunity to tell the humanity of a drag performer, of an artist, and to show the layers and the love.”

Billy Porter directs an episode of FOX’s “Accused” Credit: Taylor Henderson

The representation is vital, Porter says.

“I grew up in a time where there was no representation for anybody, for any of us, anywhere. There was nothing.”

Porter knows that firsthand, especially after FX’s groundbreaking series Pose, and now, Porter has a say in how those stories are told and wants to make sure they’re told authentically. Hopefully, Robyn’s story can lead to empathy and understanding among folk who feel a world away from drag queens, he says.

“It’s such a gift to be able to be at the helm of a new kind of storytelling, where the people who have lived the story get to tell the story.”

ACCUSED: Billy Porter behind the scenes in the “Robyn’s Story” episode of ACCUSED airing Tuesday, Jan. 21 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. Credit: Steve Wilkie/FOX

There’s no doubt that the episode will push a few buttons, especially for FOX’s substantial middle America viewership.

“My hope is that viewers take away the importance of seeking truth and walking in authenticity,” the episode star J Harrison Ghee told LGBTQ Nation. “Trying to hide feelings and operating from fear can lead to harmful choices, but choosing truth brings joy and love.”

For the character Robyn, joy is certainly a choice. Everyone, regardless of race or sexuality, has “to choose joy,” Porter preaches. “Joy is in action. Love is an action. All these things are actions and we have to choose them and recommit to that choice every day.”

“It has to be the choice otherwise we die.”

Billy Porter’s episode of Accused airs February 21 at 9/8c on FOX.

On stage, Kevin is Robyn and Robyn has no limits or fears, a drag queen full of confidence and charisma.

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