Jan 4 2012

 

 

Alan 1

Actor Alan Cumming has been everywhere, played everyone and leaves his peers and the public in total awe of his talent. The actor has won a Tony Award (Cabaret), been nominated for two Emmy's (The Good Wife), won the prestigious British Oliver Award (Accidental Death of an Anarchist) , as producer won an Independent Spirit Award (Ali Slim's Sweet Land) and the list could go on and on.

One of the most profound acknowledgements of his talent was when Queen Elizabeth II anointed him with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2009 for his acting and activism within the LGBT community.

The actor can be found in mainstream movies (X-Men, The Spy Kids, Circle of Friends, Golden Eye, etc), starring in a hit television series (The Good Wife, Masterpiece Theater), performing to packed houses in a cabaret act (Feinstein's Regency, Joe's Pub), releasing a solo record (I Brought A Blue Car Today) and working with some of the amazing talent in the entertainment industry (Stanley Kubrick in Eyes Wide Shut).

He is simply an original. There is no one like him in the entire entertainment industry.

As an actor who is in love with his craft, he is often found supporting with hard work other actor's projects. One night people were startled to see him playing a role in New York's hit "Sleep No More." He thrives on edgy projects and challenging new roles that others with his success would pull back for fear of hurting their career. Cumming's joy of being an actor drives him to embrace his profession in every conceivable way.

Proving the point, he has just agreed to be the only actor in a production of Shakespeare's "MacBeth." He literally will play every single role in the play. People are already astonished by the daring and courage he is showing taking on such a challenging project.

Alan Cumming, more importantly than any of his credits, awards or hits, is a man of great principles and values. He passionately and intensely cares for the planet and the people on it. At every opportunity he will appear at events to raise money and awareness for many different causes but especially the battle for full equality for the LGBT community and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Artist Illustrator Grant Shaffer and he have been married five years this month. As a native of Scotland he is a citizen of both Britain and the United States.

Here are "Five Questions For....."

1. You did the English version of the television show "Who Do You Think You Are?" and it resulted in an incredibly dramatic ending. What did you find out about your past and did you wish you hadn't agreed to do the show?

The thing about doing a show like that is that you have no idea what is going to happen and you really do find out the information they have unearthed for the first time on camera. Before it started I thought that it was the best thing ever about being famous - these amazing resources made available to me because of my celebrity. Then I ended up in a tiny village in southern Malaysia being told my grandad died playing russian roulette there, and I thought it was the worst thing that ever happened to me because of being famous - the fact that I had to go and tell my Mum this information. But after the initial shock we were able to see how good it was to finally find out the truth about him, and no, I don't regret doing it. It was a catalyst for huge things to happen in my life and even though some of them were really upsetting I am a big believer that everything that happens brings you to the person you are and the place you are in, so if you are happy how could you wish anything to have been different?

2. You are going to play every role in the play "Macbeth." There are well over a dozen characters in that production. How in the hell did this idea surface and are you overwhelmed with the idea of playing each and every character solo?

I have wanted to do Macbeth for a long time. My professional debut was actually playing Malcolm in a production of it in Glasgow in 1985! But over the years I had developed this idea that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth should flip roles each night, much in the way the actors playing Romeo and Mercutio do sometimes. First of all Lady Macbeth is such a great part and I wanted a go at her! But mostly there are so many references in the play about masculinity and gender and I thought it would be a really interesting way to portray those themes by flipping the genders each night. Also I thought Macduff and Lady Macduff could do the same thing too, and in turn that would open up the other roles to not being so gender-specific in terms of the casting. But then I did a reading of the play with me playing Lady M for the first half and Macbeth in the second. Just as I was processing how it had gone, and thinking about maybe asking if we could do another reading to make sure that it worked, Andy Goldberg, who is the co-director with John Tiffany, just said why didn't I do all the parts. And instead of it seeming an insane idea, well, in addition to it seeming like an insane idea (!) I just thought it was a brilliant, super-challenging idea, and if I had enough balls to play both the Macbeths then why not do the rest?! Also John and Andy came up with a brilliant narrative about why I would be one person playing all the roles and so the whole thing came together. I am completely overwhelmed but I know that every couple of years I have a need to do something that so terrifies me and is such a risk and so I just go with it and fling myself at it with all my heart and all my body. I imagine I will be a husk by mid July!

3. You became a US Citizen in order to vote in the 2008 election. Did you feel backlash from that action from your Scottish friends and fans?

I am actually a joint citizen because I did not have to give up my British citizenship, but in terms of Scotland I actually feel more connected to my country. I campaigned for the incumbent First Minister Alec Salmond at the last election, and he is the head of the Scottish National Party which ultimately aims for Scottish independence, so I still feel very Scottish and am very vocal within Scotland, despite my nascent Yankee-ness.

4. What is the most embarrassing thing ever to happen to you on stage?

I think maybe the time during the run of '"The Threepenny Opera" on Broadway when the actor playing Lucy fell asleep in his dressing room and just didn't come onstage at the end of my song. I had to busk it for many minutes, quite difficult when you are in a prison cell. I ended up just talking to the audience and saying how lucky they were to be there on the performance when Lucy went AWOL. It was utterly mortifying as I didn't know if he would ever appear at all, but of course the audience loved it. He finally did appear, really flustered and without his wig.

5. Who are your heroes and mentors?

I am a big fan of men and women who do it their own way. That can mean in terms of their performances or their politics or both. I have an abject fear of uniformity - socially, artistically or politically and so I am drawn towards people who teach us by confounding our expectations like Nelson Mandela in the way he preached forgiveness and compassion for the perpetrators of apartheid after his liberation from them. I am so moved by people who speak from their hearts. I remember being at drama school and hearing a speech by Neil Kinnock, the Labour Party leader, just days before the the 1983 general election. It is known as the 'I warn you' speech and it ends...'If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, I warn you not to get old'. It completely moved me and spurred me to everything I believe in now. I got to meet Neil a couple of times when he came to performances at the RSC when I was there. He is the best Prime Minister Britain never had. I also got to know Susan Sontag a wee bit at the end of her life and she left the most amazing impression on me. And there are many heroes in my life now, like you David, and Ian McKellen and Dr Mathilde Krim.