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.