Interview With Cheyenne Jackson

AE: 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?

CJ: [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.

AE: On the plus side, you might perhaps not have been cast as gay hero Mark Bingham in United 93 if you weren't out.
CJ: 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”.

AE: 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?
CJ: 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.

AE: I'm guessing that, in terms of theater work, your being out has been a non-issue.
CJ: 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!

AE: Are you in a relationship?
CJ: 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.

AE: Do you ever feel like you're a sort of poster boy for gay actors?
CJ: 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.”

AE: Yet it's understandable that people focus on it, given that so few actors are out — especially leading man types.
CJ: 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.

AE: 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?
CJ:
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.

AE: On your blog, you recently wrote, “I AM STRANGE AND WEIRD!” Is that true?
CJ:
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

AE: 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?
CJ: To fly, for sure. I'd also love to be able to be invisible, because I like to eavesdrop.

AE: They're reviving Terrence McNally's The Ritz on Broadway next season. Did you go in for that?
CJ: 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.

AE: Was All Shook Up a fun experience?
CJ: 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.

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