Could there be an Emmy Award in Margaret Cho’s future? In Hulu’s “Fire Island” (which premiered June 3), as well as on HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant,” Cho’s uncharacteristic restraint gives her queer characters, Erin and Utada respectively, an admirable depth and humanity.
Additionally, Cho has an upcoming appearance on the Emmy Award-winning “Hacks” (as herself), and ongoing guest-starring roles in a multitude of popular shows. Never one to sit idle, Cho will be taking her stage act on the road throughout the coming months. Busy as she is, Margaret was gracious enough to make time to answer a few questions.
Gregg Shapiro: Margaret, in the new movie “Fire Island,” you play Erin, who’s described by one of the characters as a “career brunch server, age unknown, lesbian queen.” What was it about Erin that spoke to you and made you want to portray her?
Margaret Cho: I just love the script. I’m a big fan of Joel Kim Booster, and his comedy and his writing, and as a person. I wanted to be a part of the film. I love Andrew Ahn’s direction. I love Bowen (Yang). It was really special to do this. The “career brunch server” was so appealing. Everything about this character is a lot of fun, and so it was just perfect. We had a blast doing it.
GS: It looks that way! Erin is the wise lesbian housemother to her gaggle of younger gays. Is this an aspect of your personality that also transfers to your offscreen life?
MC: Absolutely! The elder gay. The crone. It's also the old lesbian who’s burned all of her bridges with the current lesbians her age and has to mine the younger generation for friendship. It’s very fun, it's really cold, and it's very realistic to me.
GS: What was the best part for you about acting with rising comic actors such as Bowen and Joel, whom you mentioned, as well as Matt Rogers?
MC: We laughed every day. We had such a good time. Outside of my dressing room, every day, there were full-on reenactments of entire “Real Housewives” episodes. Full Tiffany Pollard monologues from “I Love New York.” It was like Shakespeare in the Park, but it was “Real Housewives” by the trailer. It was exciting. I just love those guys.
GS: Erin was able to afford to purchase the Fire Island house following winning a settlement involving a piece of glass and a major Italian chain restaurant. Do you think our current culture is more litigious than necessary?
MC: I don't know. I think the character is just really savvy and knows where to make an opportunity for herself. I think that's really more it. I don't know if it was necessarily because of the culture or the time or whatever. But I think that she's just smart about doing where she can get something.
GS: Was your first trip to Fire Island as a performer or as a vacationing guest?
MC: Every trip I’ve made there was as a performer and then I stayed for vacation. So, I made it work and pleasure, both at the same time. I've been going there since 2008. I love spending time there and just hanging out. I'm actually more of a Provincetown lady. I've been going to Provincetown since the 1980s to work and perform and just hang out. These are very much important areas for me. It’s the gay beach life that I really love.
GS: You mentioned Andrew Ahn, the gay filmmaker who directed “Fire Island,” and he also directed the lauded 2019 film “Driveways.” Is he a director you could see yourself working with again?
MC: Absolutely! I love Andrew. I think he's quite an incredible director. Not only is he so great with actors … the way that he creates films is so visually stunning and they’re so emotionally rich. I really admire him and his vision as an auteur. I would love to work with him again.
GS: You were one of the performers in the line-up for the LGBT comedy show “Stand Out,” which was part of Netflix is a Joke: The Festival. Stand-up comedy has received increased attention with Jerrod Carmichael coming out as gay in his HBO Max comedy special “Rothaniel,” as well as the controversy surrounding Dave Chappelle’s Netflix comedy special. As a performer whose roots are in stand-up comedy, do you think there’s the possibility of healing?
MC: Yes, I think so. We need to hear from LGBT voices in comedy. I think that queer comedy has always been a part of the larger comedy world. We've always had a very strong presence within comedy. I see so many more of us participating and out there in this conversation. I was glad to be part of the festival and I'm so grateful to be part of the queer comedy community.
GS: Finally, I live in Fort Lauderdale, and I noticed that Florida is not on your tour schedule. I know that I’ve seen you perform in West Palm Beach, Miami, and, more recently, in Fort Lauderdale. With the political climate being what it is under the current governor, do you foresee performing here at any point in the near future?
MC: Yes, definitely. I think it's important to be out there. I was actually just there a few weeks ago, so. I think that we need to be constantly out there and we definitely need to be heard. Yes, I'm sure I'll be returning again soon.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.