Glass meets American artist and performer Dyllón Burnside

MULTIFACETED Dyllón Burnside managed to both provide an incredibly fulfilling ending to his character, Ricky Evangelista, during the finale of FX’s Pose, and release his single, Heaven, all during Pride month. Burnside, an Emmy-Award winning filmmaker for his work on the documentary Prideland, highlighted the stories of LGBTQ+ people in POSE alongside Billy Porter and tells Glass that their relationship started when Burnside studied Porter’s work as a theatre student, before they met.

Burnside describes Porter as a mentor, friend, and confidant, and is added to the list of works and people that inspired Burnside to start performing including The Bodyguard, Fred and Ginger Rogers’ films, and Usher performing Singing In The Rain during a TV special.

Burnside talks to Glass about starting out as a lead singer for 3D, a boy band he began with his cousins at the age of twelve, and his return to Broadway and starring in the American Horror Stories Anthology alongside Nico Greetham, Charles Melton, and Kevin McHale. Burnside’s episode will air on July 29th.

Glass Digital x Dyllón Burnside_1Dyllón Burnside. Photograph: Ssam Kim

You began your journey in the arts as a lead singer for 3D, a boy band, and continued on in Broadway and now film and TV. Can you talk about that path you took and how it all began?
I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a performer. [Being a part of 3D] really laid the foundation for the rest of my career and [allowed me] to develop an identity as a stage performer. With my musical background, I naturally found my way to musical theatre and I moved to New York with the intention of starring in Broadway. I was able to make that a reality in 2014 [with the] Tupac musical called Holler If Ya Hear Me.

Glass Digital x Dyllón Burnside_2

Dyllón Burnside. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Pose told such a powerful story involving the lives of the LGBTQ+ community and provided exposure to various narratives that many people may not have seen otherwise. How important was it for you to play the role of Ricky Evangelista and how has that changed you as a person as the show comes to a close?
It’s important for people to see nuanced depictions of other LGBTQ people. I wanted to create a character that I felt that I needed to see on TV. Now there are young Queer Black boys who have Ricky to look to as a possibility model and representation for some part of their lived experience. I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of changing the paradigm on TV and in representation for Black and Brown boys.

It’s important for the world to see a depiction of a young Black man contending with a positive HIV status and to see him wrestle with that and survive. Many of the narratives that we understand about HIV, particularly in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, are a lot of the pain and the death. But there are many people who continue to survive today and live their full lives with HIV, so I’m grateful to be a part of changing that narrative as well.

Glass Digital x Dyllón BurnsideDyllón Burnside. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Your relationship with Billy Porter began when you met him during the time of your Broadway debut in 2014 and you have had the opportunity to play alongside him. Can you tell me more about your relationship with him and what you’ve learned from him?
Billy’s been a possibility model for me, he’s been a teacher. I’m grateful to have played opposite him and to share these experiences that are not only changing the world but have changed both of our lives in the process. I grew a lot as an actor as a result of working with him.

Not only was the work challenging, but I felt like I was able to rise to the occasion in ways that I didn’t know that I had the ability to do and so I’m super grateful for him.

Glass Digital x Dyllón BurnsideDyllón Burnside. Photograph: Ssam Kim

What do you hope that the audience will take away from the final season of Pose?
People have grown to really love these characters and these stories, so I hope audiences walk away feeling like the characters’ stories are wrapped up in a way that leaves nothing to be desired.

Glass Digital x Dyllón BurnsideDyllón Burnside. Photograph: Ssam Kim

Prideland recently won an Emmy. What did you gain from this experience and what kind of change would you like to see in the future?
From talking to all the people [I learned that] that not only are LGBTQ+ people everywhere, we need to be everywhere. We need to live authentic lives because that’s what actually propels the world forward. It’s not enough for us to just live in coastal cities.

We need to be out in rural Alabama, in Mississippi, showing people that we belong in these places too. It was a really gratifying experience and I’m grateful to all of the folks whom I got to meet.

Glass Digital x Dyllón BurnsideDyllón Burnside. Photograph: Ssam Kim

You are returning to Broadway this year through Thoughts of a Coloured Man and are continuing to star in the world of Ryan Murphy through American Horror Stories. How excited are you for both these projects and is there anything you can share with us?
Going back to Broadway is really cool, because I get to do a play this time, not a musical. I get an opportunity to be in the first new play to open on Broadway, since the shutdown. With a cast of all Black men, a Black director, a new Black writer, this is the first time it’s ever happened.

That’s really exciting. It’ll give me a chance to recalibrate as an actor. I’m also excited to be entering the crazy world of American Horror Story with this new anthology and off American Horror Stories. I think people are going to have a lot of fun watching it.

Glass Digital x Dyllón BurnsideDyllón Burnside. Photograph: Ssam Kim

What has been the highpoint of your career so far?
I think getting to do work that not only is enriching and inspiring for me as an artist but also as a human being. I like to think of my work as a conversation that I am having with the audiences and for anyone who is along for the ride, get to be a part of this conversation over time.

At this stage in my career I’m most proud of the fact that I have a career that is an alignment with who I am and what I value.

Glass Digital x Dyllón BurnsideDyllón Burnside. Photograph: Ssam Kim

What advice do you have for aspiring actors or what piece of advice have you received that you’re grateful for?
As human beings, we often are result-oriented. I think that this life and this business is much more process-oriented and the sooner you fall in love with the work and the process, the sooner you’ll start to see the results that you want. My advice would be that, to do the work and fall in love with the process.

by Chandana Kamaraj

Photography by Ssam Kim
Talent Dyllón Burnside
Styling by Luca Kingston
Make-up by Joanna Simkin at The Wall Group
Hair by Robert C. Matthews III
Photo Assisting by Irene Tang
Styling Assisting by Rachel Tate

Look 1:
Jumper, trousers – Givenchy
Boots – DSquared2

Look 2 and 3:

Clothes – Dior
Earring – Rimor
Necklace – Misho

Look 4:

Jumper – Cos
Trousers – Rag & Bone
Boots – Aquatalia
Ring – John Hardy

Look 5:
Top – Martin Asbjorn
Suit – Samsøe Samsøe
Shoes – Doc Marten
Rings – John Hardy

Look 6 and 7:

All clothing – Ermenegildo Zegna

Look 8:

Shirt, Jumpsuit – Martin Asbjorn
Shoes – Wolverine

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