EXCLUSIVE: Billy Porter’s What If? from Orion Pictures has set Eva Reign, Abubakr Ali and Renee Elise Goldsberry to star in Porter’s feature directorial debut, which begins production today in Pittsburgh. Courtnee Carter, Kelly Lamor Wilson and Grant Reynolds round out the cast.
The film’s global casting search was overseen by Alexa Fogel. Unfortunately, due to complications owing to backlogs during Covid that have impacted UK citizens coming to the U.S. for work, and after exhausting all avenues over several months’ time, the production was unable to secure a work visa in time for Yasmin Finney, the original actress cast.
The modern coming-of-age story follows Kelsa (Reign), a trans high school senior. After Khal (Ali) posts online about his school crush, the internet encourages him to go for it. What If? tells the story of Kelsa and Khal navigating a senior-year relationship that neither could have expected.
The film’s screenplay is written by Alvaro García Lecuona. What If? is produced by Christine Vachon on behalf of Killer Films, David Hinojosa, and Andrew Lauren and D.J. Gugenheim on behalf of Andrew Lauren Productions.
Orion Pictures is exclusively dedicated to underrepresented voices and authentic storytelling in film with a focus on developing, producing and acquiring feature films that amplify underserved voices, both in front of and behind the camera.
What If? marks Reign’s debut in a starring role. Her credits include Sideways Smile, Tourmaline’s Salacia and Pantene’s 2019 Summer Pride commercial. Reign’s storytelling – as an actor, writer and filmmaker – revolves around her identity as a Black trans woman. Following a summer fellowship with Condé Nast’s LGBTQ platform Them, she became assistant editor of the publication. She currently also serve as a columnist with Them, as well as a film fellow at Queer|Art.
Ali most recently was cast as a series regular in the CW’s pilot Our Ladies of Brooklyn written by Claire Rothrock and Ryann Weir and from executive producer Jennie Snyder Urman. Ali also recurs on the Starz series Power Book II: Ghost and previously recurred on the CW’s Katy Keene. His extensive work in theatre includes work with Yale Rep, A.R.T, New York Theatre workshop, Primary Stages and the Sundance Institute, among others. He is a recent graduate from the Yale School of Drama. Ali is represented by APA and Authentic Talent and Literary Management.
Goldsberry is a multi-hyphenate actress and singer who has delivered performances both on Broadway and the screen. Best known for her role as Angelica Schuyler in the musical phenomenon Hamilton, her performance earned her Tony, Grammy, Drama Deskand Lucille Lortel awards. She was recently nominated for an Emmy for the Disney+ film adaptation as well. She currently stars on Tina Fey’s new series for Peacock, Girls5Eva, which will soon begin filming its second season. Other highlights from her film and television career include co-starring in A24’s critical darling Waves and the Netflix series Altered Carbon.
Carter previously performed the role of Ti Moune in Broadway’s Once on This Island and led the first national tour. She has appeared on Pose, Law & Order: SVU and The Path. Wilson’s credits include Freaky, Mrs. Fletch and Summer ’03. She is represented at Authentic Talent and Literary Management, STW Talent Agency and Hyperion.
In addition to What If?, the upcoming Orion Pictures’ film slate includes writer-director Sarah Polley’s Women Talking; Emma Seligman’s Bottoms;and a film adaptation of Michelle Zauner’s best-selling memoir Crying in H Mart, which Zauner will adapt for the screen.