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March 27, 2018

A Q&A with omni-talent Alan Cumming:

Gay men, Uber politics and why he wants to visit Hershey, Penn.

Celebrities Q&A
Alan Cumming JC Olivera/Sipa USA

Actor Alan Cumming at the AARP's 17th Annual Movies For Grownups Awards held at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on Feb. 5, 2018 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Author, actor and Broadway star Alan Cumming is also playing the first openly gay lead character in a new hour-long network drama. In CBS’s “Instinct,” Cumming stars as a psychology professor cum C.I.A. operative who just happens to be married to a man. The show is already getting rave reviews since debuting this month. It follows a long string of successes for the actor in such projects as “The Good Wife” and “Cabaret.”

The Scottish actor, who now makes his home in New York City, was in Philadelphia this past weekend for qFlix, Philly’s LGBT film festival, where he screened his latest film, “After Louie,” a stark depiction of a queer 50-something still grieving for the loss of his lover to AIDS. Cumming stars in this cross-generational film that takes a poignant look at two generations of gay men as they navigate love and sex. He met fans at the closing night awards ceremony at the Kimmel Center on Sunday.

It turns out, chatting with Cumming is a wild ride. He’s ingratiating, smart, funny and painfully honest, especially when it comes to things that excite him (his new nightclub) and piss him off (Donald Trump). The following are excerpts from the conversation with PhillyVoice

PV: What was it about “After Louie” that got your attention?

AC: It was really about, not so much an argument, but a discussion in the film about the schism between generations of gay men in our culture because of AIDS. I know lots of people from both sides of the thing, and in looking at people who are my age and older who are slightly resentful and slightly self-referential about the fact that they have been through the AIDS crisis and are not suffering from it. Their relationship with people two generations down [is complicated because] the middle generation is missing because they’re all dead.

(At this point, Cumming’s assistant shows up with an iPod charger and he lights up with his characteristic grin: “Faaabulous!” he coos.)

PV: Now that is a happy face.

AC: Isn’t it sad that that is a happy thing for us everyday?

His assistant says, “Without it, sad face.”

AC: Alan Cumming, celebrity, and I think, “I’ve gotta take my charger,” and then I think, “No, someone will get me one.” (laughing)

PV: Do you do that everywhere you go? Do you say, “I want ice cream!”

AC: Well, I don’t do ice cream. I just do charger. Everyone seems to have a charger.

PV: Except my Uber drivers. They never seem to have one.

AC: See, you’re more of a diva than me...Actually, I love the rise of Lyft and Uber. But I don’t like Uber.

PV: Because of their politics?

AC: Of their politics – for a variety of reasons.

PV: But you do Lyft?

AC: I try to do Lyft as much as possible. I’ll always choose a Lyft over an Uber because they’re not from such a toxic corporate culture. They give their drivers more money and they give them insurance and things like that. When I talk to the drivers – because I talk to them – they always say to me (because some of them do both) the ones that do both always say that Lyft is more fair, kind and nice. And that’s my other point: When I did delete my Uber app, when that guy who’s been fired now would not withdraw from the Trump business, I thought, “F**k you!” I don’t want to be giving money to a person who’s sitting at the table of a fascist and engage with him. F**k you!

Cumming smiles and apologizes for his language.

PV: You’ve never been known to shy away from controversy. The new project you’re working on in addition to this movie and the new television show is “Legal Immigrant.”

AC: It’s a concert. It’s a show. It’s like a cabaret. I sing songs and I have a little band, and I tell stories.

PV: And it’s framed around your experience…?

AC: Becoming a citizen of America.

PV: What can we expect?

AC: Songs, laughter, tears.

PV: Sounds like Club Cumming. New York nightlife is going through some interesting things. This seems to be somewhat of a renaissance of what the city’s nightlife used to be. What inspired you to open your own club?

AC: Just because I had started to have parties of my own.

PV: In your dressing room, right?

AC: Yes, they were in my dressing room and then when the play finished I would do odd ones, sort of pop-up ones. And then when I did my concerts, I sometimes did after-parties of my concert called Club Cumming. By this time, I totally understood what Club Cumming is.

PV: What is it?

AC: It’s ultimately a dance party, but it starts off as a performance. And it slowly moves into a fusion of those things.

PV: It reminds me of some of the greatest clubs New York has had, like Mudd Club. You don’t see that as much anymore.

AC: That’s the whole point...I danced my tits off last night.

PV: It sounds like a mix of people, too. LGBT, but not just LGBT?

AC: It’s LGBT-S.

PV: S?

AC: Straight. It’s everything.

PV: Are you going to go out in Philly? Everyone wants to know if you’re going to go out in Philly. I was asking on social media if people had any special questions for you and most of them were X-rated.

AC: (laughing) First time.

PV: No one’s ever asked those before, huh?

AC: What time do bars stay open here?

PV: Here, they stay open until 2 a.m. There is an after-hours club called Voyeur that stays open much later. The city is talking about extending the hours past 2 a.m.

AC: Is that like L.A., isn’t it? I always feel like you want to have a rager in L.A. and you want to go out. And then there’s the time difference. It feels, to you, like 9 a.m. You want to get chucked at a bar at 9 a.m. It’s so funny, this last week, I was with my editor who did the book on my dad. I’m doing a new book with her.

PV: You’re doing another book?

AC: Exclusive.

PV: Is it a personal book?

AC: It’s a memoir – it’s about me coming to America...And I realized I can’t deal with LA.

PV: What is it about LA.?

AC: It’s a work town. I don’t want to live in a work town. That’s really it. That’s the short answer.

PV: Like Washington D.C. being a political town?

AC: Or Hershey, Pennsylvania.

PV: Hershey, Pennsylvania is a chocolate town.

AC: When I think about LA…I think that Hershey, Pennsylvania, must be really boring because, like Hollywood, everyone’s just talking about chocolate.

PV: It actually smells like chocolate. Did you know they have Hershey’s kisses on their streetlights?

AC: Ooo, that’s kind of weird.

PV: It’s a little creepy. You should go see it.

AC: Is it far from here?

PV: It’s not far at all – about an hour and a half.

AC: Get out!

One of his assistants chimes in, “We’re going tonight.”

PV: There’s a chocolate tour that’s surreal with mannequins moving around.

AC: (laughing) Oh my God!

PV: I hope you get there one day.

AC: Me too!

Alan Cumming stars in “Instinct” on Sunday on CBS at 8 p.m.