Alan Cumming is a no-nonsense multitasker and he gets bored easily, especially with journalists who seem to ask the same questions over and over. (His publicist advised me to check out the frequently asked questions on his website before—emphasis added—the telephone interview.)
Apparently, I discovered, he gets asked a lot about his accent. He’s a Scot who finds an American accent easy to replicate as fans of ABC-TV’s “The Good Wife” well know.
That, inevitably, leads to the next question, “What do Scots wear under their kilts?”
His reply, “Gosh I’ve never been asked that before! This Scotsman wears nothing, allowing his jewels of Scotland freedom and fresh air.”
A critically-acclaimed television and stage actor (he won a Tony for his role as the sexually-charged Emcee in “Cabaret”), he would reluctantly choose the stage over screen, if forced:
“That is a really boring question. But the answer is, as you might have gathered from my resumé, I like both. If, however, in the unlikely event that I had a gun to my head, I would choose the stage as I love the immediate connection with the audience.”
He is also an accomplished writer and photographer. His latest book, “You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams: My Life in Stories and Pictures,” was featured at the Miami Book Fair International last November. (And yes, he did once write an essay titled, “May the Foreskin Be with You,” calling himself an “intactivist” opposing the mutilation of baby boys.)
Cumming is not particularly interested in explaining his bisexuality—he’s been in relationships with women and men and is currently married to photographer Grant Shaffer—and doesn’t particularly consider himself an activist, although he is heartened by the fluidity of today’s youth.
On Friday, he will perform his celebrated cabaret show, “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs” on the stage at the Arsht Center in Miami.
Homework completed, I dialed his number…hoping not to become the latest journalist to bore him.
SFGN: What can you tell me about your upcoming show?
Cumming: Well, I can tell you everything. It’s a cabaret of songs and stories I’ve been touring for the last year and a bit. An old-fashioned cabaret, intense, a smorgasbord of emotions….a very eclectic mix, Annie Lennox, Billy Joel, Stephen Sondheim. It’s very structured, but there’s not a plot. It’s about being authentic, things that happened to me, definitely.
You’re such a multi-talented, creative person. How would you describe yourself professionally?
I very much consider myself a storyteller. Whether it’s a play or I’m writing, I do call myself a professional storyteller for hire, no matter what medium. I want to connect with people and express myself and hopefully provoke them.
You seem to always have a lot of projects going on. Do you ever get any down time?
I can switch off as well. I have a lot of things on the draw at once, I sometimes wish I had less ideas. I have so much fun doing all the things I do, but you have to actually focus. I’m good at multitasking. Maybe an hour later I’m doing something completely different. I have a very full life in terms of all the things I do.
How would you describe Alan Cumming, the man?
Well, I mean, a Scottish elf trapped in a middle-aged man’s body. I feel that as you get older, it’s actually a great thing. You have experience, wisdom and knowledge and, thus far anyway, can engage in an active way with life. I do have friends who are much, much, much younger than me. I don’t feel it yet, but completely relate (with them) on a level that is authentic. It’s the best of both worlds, I don’t feel that different.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
I always say I feel that everything you do is a triumph. Be yourself and stick to your guns and don’t get overly encouraged to become something you’re not.
“Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs” will be performed on Friday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. at the Arsht Center in Miami. Tickets start at $49 at ArshtCenter.org.