Interview: Cheyenne Jackson Reveals His Secret Shame (Kissing Canadians and Watching “Real Housewives”!)



Far be it for us to say, "We told you so."

But we told you so.

Regular readers of this site know that we’ve been thoroughly in the tank for Broadway star Cheyenne Jackson for some time now — one of very few leading actors who have been out from very early in their careers.

So we weren’t at all surprised when he finally got a big television break on 30 Rock, as Danny, the hilariously irony-free Canadian performer hired for TGS, 30 Rock‘s Saturday Night Live-like show-within-the-show, to appeal to Middle America.

We also aren’t surprised that he’s making such a strong impression in the role.

In addition to his reoccurring gig on 30 Rock — he makes another appearance this week — Cheyenne just finished a run in Finian’s Rainbow where he received rapturous reviews. It was yet another stage triumph for the actor after his very well-received turn in Xanadu last year.

Musical theater? Sitcom comedy? Dramatic acting like his role in the 9/11 movie United 93?

Yup, Cheyenne can pretty much do it all. Next we’ll tell you he wants to direct (okay, not that we know of).

Recently, we rang Cheyenne up for a chat about everything from kissing Canadians, to his latest album, to — seriously — his recent underwear-clad lockerroom encounter with Neil Patrick Harris.

And it confirmed something we’ve been saying all along: the world has not seen the last of one of the most talented (and nicest) guys in the business.

AfterElton: So to fulfill Liz Lemon’s fantasies on 30 Rock, you recently got to dress up as Poncho from CHiPs.
CJ:
No, it was Larry Wilcox. That’s the one she liked. Complete with a blond feathered wig, all of that.

AE: What was the favorite character to dress up as for you?
CJ:
Well, I mean, that whole episode was very like Halloween, because they go full out. I have to say that even though the cop was fun and you go all sexy and that whole deal, I kind of like the Grizzly Adams just because of the whole flannel – I grew up in Idaho and my Dad was in the Forest Service for a while, and I just felt like a manly man for once in my life.

AE: I hate to go someplace controversial in your interview, but given that you’re on 30 Rock, I have to ask this. As an actor, did you have any qualms playing Canadian?
CJ:
That’s funny. Well, you know, that comes with a whole lot of baggage and once somebody sees you play Canadian, they’re gonna think, “Oh, that’s all he can do.”

AE: Is this the first time you’ve played Canadian?

CJ:
It is the first time I’ve played Canadian. My co-star in [the Broadway show] Finian’s Rainbow, Kate Baldwin, her husband is Canadian, so I had so many references in some of the actions and things, I was throwing off her. And I’ve gotten a lot of response actually from Canadians, especially at the stage door of Finian’s Rainbow. Thumbs up on the accent, or whatever.

AE: You then would be actually willing to kiss a Canadian?

CJ:
Yes, I am not discriminatory when it comes to that. I will kiss a Canadian if need be.

AE: Obviously 30 Rock is comedy and lighthearted, but having you as an out gay actor playing Liz’s love interest is yet another chink in the bias against the idea that gay men can’t play a straight love interest. Did you even think about that at all, or given your Broadway stuff, do you just figure people shouldn’t even be thinking about that?
CJ: Yeah, that one. Definitely. I think a lot more people are hung up on that than I am.

I definitely understand that line of thinking, but for me it’s never been an issue. That’s kind of been my MO since the beginning of my career. When they told me that I was going to have an office romance, I would have been fine with whoever it was. If it was Kenneth or Jack or Tracy or Jane . . . I mean I knew it would be funny. And that’s the most important thing, is being able to find the truth in the comedy.

The fact that it was Liz, I was like, “Jackpot!” Although this could be the demise of my character really quickly if I have this torrid love affair with the head writer, and then if somebody doesn’t like it, and they kick that new guy out.
Yeah, this is, like you said, one more chink, one more step, one more example of where being the right actor in the right role is the thing that takes precedence over who that actor happens to sleep with.

Next Page! A sitcom for Cheyenne?

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