No more What If?: Billy Porter’s directorial debut for Orion Pictures has a new leading lady.
Black transgender writer, actress, and artist Eva Reign will star in the forthcoming high school rom-com from Porter, Deadline reported on Tuesday (July 21). It is Reign’s first role in a feature film, and Porter’s first time stepping behind the camera to direct.
Billed as a “modern coming-of-age story,” What If? follows Kelsa (Reign), a transgender high school senior who catches the eye of her classmate Khal (played by Abubakr Ali). Galvanized by a positive response to an internet post he made about his crush, Khal embarks on an unexpected senior-year relationship with Kelsa. The screenplay was written by Alvaro García Lecuona and is based on a heartwarming viral Reddit post from 2018, according to Out.
Kelsa was originally set to be portrayed by Yasmin Finney, a 17-year-old Black trans woman from Manchester, England, but the production was unable to secure a work visa for her due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Reign and Ali will co-star alongside Hamilton’s Renee Elise Goldsberry, Courtnee Carter, Kelly Lamor Wilson, and Grant Reynolds.
Reign’s previous on-screen work includes Sideways Smile, a Pride 2019 commercial for Pantene, and Salacia from transgender filmmaker and Time 100 honoree Tourmaline. She is currently a columnist for Them and a film fellow with New York City’s Queer|Art.
“big news y’all! super excited to announce that i’m starring in @theebillyporter’s directorial debut WHAT IF?,” the actress wrote on Instagram. “get ready for some magic 💕💫”
What If? is filming in Porter’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this summer. There’s no release date yet, but we can’t wait to meet Kelsa and Khal.