“I think it’s been a detriment, probably just a little bit. Had I not been out and open, I think I might have gotten some movies that I screen-tested for. People may have said, “The dude’s gay; how are we going to market this?” But it’s not an issue for me, because being out is very freeing”.
Cheyenne Jackson is a multi-talented actor, singer, and song writer. He is currently working with SONY/ATV on an album of original music scheduled for 2012 release.
His album collaborators include; Sia, Stevie Aiello, and Charlotte Sometimes.
On stage, film, television, or in concert Cheyenne continues to have one of the most diverse careers in entertainment. This year he will star on Broadway opposite Henry Winkler, Ari Graynor, and Alicia Silverstone in David West Read’s new play “The Performers.”
He also recently completed filming Steven Soderbergh’s movie “Behind The Candelabra” with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as well as the NBC TV pilot Mockingbird Lane.
He has appeared in numerous films including; portrayal of Mark Bingham in the 2006 Academy Award nominated “United 93″. “The Green” opposite Julia Ormond and Ileana Douglas, Price Check with Parker Posey, and Lola Versus. Upcoming 2013 films include; Mutual Friends, Lucky Stiff, and Behind The Candelabra.
On & Off Broadway, Cheyenne has starred in; 8, Finian’s Rainbow (Drama Desk nomination) , Damn Yankees, Xanadu (Drama League , Drama Desk nominations) The Agony & the Agony, All Shook Up (Theater World Award, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle nomination) the premiere cast of Altar Boyz, Aida, Thoroughly Modern Millie, On the 20th Century, and The 24 Hour Plays.
On television Cheyenne can be seen on NBC’s 30 Rock portraying series regular Danny Baker and recently portrayed Dustin Goolsby, the new coach of Vocal Adrenaline on Fox’s hit TV series Glee. Other television credits include; Family Practice, Life on Mars, Ugly Betty, It Takes a Village, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Local Talent.
In concert, he has sold-out Carnegie Hall twice. “The Power of Two” in 2010 with Michael Feinstein followed by his solo debut concert with the NY Pops “Music of the Mad Men Era” in 2011.
“The Power of Two” was hailed by the New York Times as “passionate,” “impeccably harmonized,” and “groundbreaking,” Variety acclaimed it as “dazzlingly entertaining,” and the Huffington Post said “The Power of Two is a stunning and potent political statement”
“Music of the Mad Men Era” was lauded by critics, the NY Daily News said, “Cheyenne Jackson has got it all and he showed it all: the voice, the moves, the quirky self-effacing humor. He gleamed like Don Draper’s Brylcreemed hair.”
Cheyenne plays an active role in a variety charities and social issues including; LGBT Rights, Marriage Equality, Animal Welfare, and HIV/ AIDS Research.
Cheyenne is an international ambassador for amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) and he serves as the national ambassador and spokesperson for The Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Harvey Milk High School. Cheyenne Jackson was recently named Out Magazine’s Entertainer of the Year.
Follow Cheyenne’s blog here:
Here he chats to AfterElton.com:
Let’s start with a possibly awkward question and get it out of the way: Can you say why you didn’t continue with Xanadu after the workshops?
Yeah, it was just that I couldn’t commit to a year in the show at that point. I had finished a film called Hysteria, and I knew I had to go back to L.A. to do some more scenes for it. It’s a psychological thriller and it’s my first lead in a movie, which is very exciting. It’s supposed to come out in the fall.
At one point in Xanadu, Jackie Hoffman’s character refers to the show as “children’s theater for gay 40-year-olds.” Why do the movie and the show have such a strong appeal for gay men?
I think the poster says it all: “Xanadu on Broadway. Seriously.” It’s the kitsch factor. The movie is so bad. I remember being at gay bars in Seattle and, at the end of the night, they would show the video of the roller skating number. I thought, “Are they serious?”
Our show is total camp, and people are absolutely digging it. Nathan Lane was there a couple of nights ago, and he said, “This is really good!” Everyone is so well cast, and [director] Chris Ashley knows what world to keep it in.
I’ve never seen the movie. Is it truly terrible?
It’s wretched. It’s not even good in a “so bad it’s good” way. There’s an animated sequence half way through for no reason — just because. It was an incredibly expensive movie, but you look at it and you think, “Where did all the money go?”
After seeing your show, James Wolcott of Vanity Fair wrote in his blog, “It was like taking Ecstasy in Broadway ticket form.” But he quoted another critic who said, “It might just prove too gay for Broadway.” Any thoughts on that?
Well, my parents came this weekend, and they loved it. They didn’t get a lot of the gay references, but they responded to the love story. My mom said, “You and Kerry have great chemistry, I love the songs, and it was fun to see you skate!”
It’s interesting that the creators of the film are allowing the show to be done as a total spoof.
They must have a sense of humor about it. Olivia Newton-John is coming on opening night!
Michael Beck played Sonny in the movie. Is he still around?
I don’t know, but I would love him to come; I definitely tip my hat to him in my performance.
How is James Carpinello taking all of this?
His heart’s broken – and his leg’s broken, in two places. It’s such a bummer for him and his family. He worked really hard on the show, everyone loves him, and he really wants to come back as soon as he can.
I hear that you wear this already legendary pair of short-shorts in the show. How are they working for you?
They’re literally these little, ’80s style, satin skating shorts. I have huge legs, and I never show them — not because of false modesty, I’m just not comfortable. So I had to work up to wearing the shorts. Last weekend was the first time I put them on, and I rocked ‘em. I figure if I’m doing this, I’d better go for it all the way, so I invited all my friends to come the first night I wore the shorts. They gave me some catcalls, and I felt okay.
Do you think that being openly gay has been a detriment to your acting career, or has it helped, or has it had no net effect at all?
[Pauses] I think it’s been a detriment, probably just a little bit. Had I not been out and open, I think I might have gotten some movies that I screen-tested for. People may have said, “The dude’s gay; how are we going to market this?” But it’s not an issue for me, because being out is very freeing.
On the plus side, you might perhaps not have been cast as gay hero Mark Bingham in United 93 if you weren’t out.
Possibly – although the director didn’t know anything about me. I think one of the main reasons I got the part was that I was the biggest guy who auditioned; Mark Bingham was 6’5” and I’m almost 6’4”.
If Hollywood gives us another big, gay love story like Brokeback Mountain and you were cast in one of the leads, who would you want to play opposite?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. [Starts to say someone's name, then stops:] I won’t say him, because I don’t want it to be weird the next time I see him. [Pauses, then comes up with another name:] Ewan McGregor. I’d do a love scene with him any day. Or Hugh Jackman. I’ve never met him, but he said some lovely things about me in the press when I was in All Shook Up – and we have the same agent. He’s an idol of mine, for sure.
I’m guessing that, in terms of theater work, your being out has been a non-issue.
That’s right. Here, your reputation is everything. People know if you’ve got the goods, if you’re easy to work with, and if you can get the job done. Besides, it’s New York theater. Everybody’s gay!
Are you in a relationship?
Yeah, for almost eight years. He’s a very private person. I don’t think anyone could find any pictures of him. He says he’s like the Amish; he doesn’t like to have his picture taken, because he feels like it’s giving away part of his soul. He’s a medical physicist, really brilliant and funny. He’s the brains behind the operation.
Do you ever feel like you’re a sort of poster boy for gay actors?
Chris Sieber and I were talking about this. Every time they mention either of us in the press, it’s always “openly gay Christopher Sieber” and “openly gay Cheyenne Jackson.” It’s a little reductive and, after a while, it’s like, “Yawn.”
Yet it’s understandable that people focus on it, given that so few actors are out — especially leading man types.
Sure. I liken it to the experience of a black friend of mine. When he was growing up, there were almost no black people on television; but occasionally, there would be a black family in a commercial or something, and when that happened, his whole family would run in and gather around the TV. To me, that’s lovely and precious and sad at the same time.
When I was a little kid, who were the gay people on TV? Charles Nelson Reilly, Paul Lynde, maybe Liberace. So I understand why the gay community wants to embrace actors who are out. People want to be represented.
Right after you open in Xanadu, you’re going to leave for 10 days to do a reading of a new musical called Red Eye of Love at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Connecticut. What’s up with that?
I committed to that a long time ago, so I had to keep my word. I think it will be fun. It’s going to be hard to open in Xanadu and then go away three days later, but I have two great understudies, Curtis Holbrook and Andre Ward. They played the part before I came on.
On your blog, you recently wrote, “I AM STRANGE AND WEIRD!” Is that true?
Well, yes. I think I have ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], though I was never diagnosed. I have insomnia, and it’s hard for me to sit still for a long time. My mind is always “tick, tick, tick.” People don’t expect me to have a weird sense of humor, but I do. I’m very eccentric
You recently played the title role in concert performances of It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman in L.A. and New York. If you could possess one super power, which one would you chose?
To fly, for sure. I’d also love to be able to be invisible, because I like to eavesdrop.
They’re reviving Terrence McNally’s The Ritz on Broadway next season. Did you go in for that?
I had two appointments to audition, but I just couldn’t swing it. I literally had three days to go into Xanadu, and that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life – not only to remember my lines and songs, but to not die on my skates.
Was All Shook Up a fun experience?
It was amazing, but it was so hard. I had to sing 17 songs, and I was never offstage. Once they put a billboard of your mug in Times Square, it becomes a little surreal. You’ve just got to focus on what you have to do.