Artist, actress, and activist Eva Reign will be coming to the big screen in a major way, making her film debut in Billy Porter’s first feature as a director, What If?
Reign, a Brooklyn-based creator and former them. assistant editor who previously appeared in the web series Sideways Smile, will be starring as a trans high school senior named Kelsa in the Pose star’s buzzy forthcoming film. Its original star, 17-year-old U.K. actress Yasmin Finney, had to drop out due to COVID-related work visa complications, as Deadline reported Monday.
Pitched as a contemporary coming-of-age-story with LGBTQ+ themes, What If? follows Kelsa as she navigates the peaks and valleys of school life, specifically a relationship with fellow senior Khal, played by Abubakr Ali, who had a recurring role on the CW comedy Katy Keene. Reign took to Instagram to celebrate the news, telling her followers to “get ready for some magic.”
The film marks the first major post-Pose project for Porter, who took home the 2019 Outstanding Lead Actor Emmy for his portrayal of ball emcee Pray Tell, and who will next appear as the Fairy Godmother in a forthcoming adaptation of the Cinderella musical.
Based on a script by Alvaro García Lecuona, the film will also star Renee Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton), Courtnee Carter (Pose), Kelly Lamor Wilson (Freaky) and Grant Reynolds (Distortion). The central plot explores a possible romance between Kelsa and Khal, after the latter posts about his crush for the former online, only to find himself being egged on by the internet in his romantic pursuits.
Production on the Orion Pictures feature began earlier this week in Pittsburgh, but there’s no word yet on a release date. Whenever it arrives, What If? will be a welcome addition to the cinematic landscape, given the fact that it has been 4 long years since we last saw any trans or nonbinary representation in a major studio film, according to GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index (SRI.) Positive stories about characters like Kelsa are exactly what we need more of in theaters right now, after a year of nonstop nationwide legislative attacks on trans youth.
In an area where larger studios are dropping the ball, Orion has stepped up to the plate, with Billy Porter and the fantastic Eva Reign now poised to knock it out of the park.
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