Wearing rips in his jeans, a red flannel wrapped around his tie-dyed hoodie, finished off with an Adidas baseball cap, Todrick Hall brought his Los Angeles style with him to Austin, but that wasn’t all he traveled with. He couldn’t hit the road without his conservative, Christian mom.
The openly gay black actor, singer, dancer, director, and YouTube hero attended the annual South by Southwest conference last week to premiere his new documentary, Behind the Curtain. While discussing the experience of the film, he found the opportunity to express the strong relationship he and his mom hold—even though they don’t share the same morals.
“There’s certain things we have to agree to disagree on, but we have found a way to love each other in spite of it,” Hall tells the Daily Dot.
The documentary focuses in on Hall’s conservative upbringing in Texas and the struggles he faced being raised by the laws of the Bible. It’s a life that informed his stage show Straight Outta Oz, and Curtain maps Hall’s journey to get it made.
Hall received his first glimpse of fame as a contestant on American Idol in 2010. After being eliminated from the show, Hall bounced back into the public eye through some of his viral YouTube videos. Since then, Hall has starred on Broadway as Lola in the Tony-winning musical Kinky Boots, helped choreograph Beyoncé’s music video for “Blow,” created a variety of viral dance clips, and toured the nation with his Oz.
“It’s been a difficult journey for us, but my mom’s obviously here supporting me,” Hall says. “She has been nothing but sweet to the people that I fall in love with and if I love them, she loves them.”
Hall thinks the documentary will help parents understand how to continue to love their children, even though they may be different. The film gets there, Hall says, by being vulnerable and honest.
“When you watch it, it feels really real and raw because I forgot the camera was on,” he adds.
The director of the doc, Katherine Fairfax, punted on a large set of cameras and microphones, using just one camera to keep proceedings intimate.
“It was helpful because it broke down any barriers between Todrick, myself, and the cast,” Fairfax says.
During the documentary, Hall breaks down his journey. It finds the song-and-dance man at a crossroads, moving away from internet fame and supporting roles into Oz, a post-Hamilton original musical filled with his ideas.
Hall knew he could trust Fairfax to help him fulfill his vision for the film. Her debut doc, 2012’s Call Me Uchu, was both widely acclaimed and explored the rampant homosexuality in Uganda through the jarring lens of the country’s first openly gay man.
“I didn’t meet any other directors,” Hall says. “I was sold from day one with Katherine.”
Hall hopes people see his accomplishments and feel inspired to fulfill their own dreams. That’s what he’s doing: After SXSW, he’s going back on the road with Oz this month.
“You don’t need some huge Hollywood producer to come down and give you millions of dollars to make you a star,” Hall says. “You can create your own brand and your own empire.”