January 26 2017

Alan Cumming Gets Sappy on Us

Los Angeles-The Standard Interview
To say Alan Cumming is a man with his finger in every pie would be an understatement. The Scottish actor, singer, author, fragrance-creator, director, producer, and activist is everywhere and refuses to stop creating. It’s a miracle we got him for an interview before he had to jet off for the LA performance of his touring one-man cabaret show, Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, which he finds time to squeeze into his schedule between everything he’s currently filming. But if you think he’s spreading himself too thin, think again. The New York Times and The Guardian have praised the show for its raw, funny, fearless, and bold performance from Cumming, just as we expected from a man who gives himself over fully to everything he touches.

Before we party it up with him at The Standard, Hollywood to celebrate his Walt Disney Concert Hall performance, we caught up with Cumming to talk the show, Spice Girls, and the wildest person that wears his signature fragrance. 

THE STANDARD: You were hesitant to perform Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs because you were nervous to be yourself onstage without the veil of a character. Has that changed? Have you become more open over the course of this show's run?
ALAN CUMMING: It has definitely changed! I have really come to love the idea of being myself and being completely authentic with an audience via songs and telling them stories about my life. I think I am in danger of over sharing actually!
 
What prompted you to focus on singing in this moment? 
It just sort of happened. I was asked to make a new cabaret show to perform at the legendary Café Carlyle in New York, and I was really honored to do so. And then it just sort of took off—I realized how much I loved going off to different cities and singing, and also it was quite easy to fit the shows into whatever else was going on in my life. It’s like a whole new career that I can just slot into my other work. Not that I wasn’t crazy busy before! But in a way, many of the things I get from doing this show—my theatre fix, a connection with people, having fun in various locations—are all things I have done or crave to do, and now I can do them all at once!
 
In your long, multi-disciplinary career, is there a particular moment or highlight that stands out above the rest? 
I hope it doesn’t sound cheesy, but what really stands out for me are the things that have made an impact, the things that really touch, change, or inspire other people. Like my book Not My Father’s Son—people contact me every day to tell me it helped them deal with some issue in their family, or helped them understand someone more. And movies like Any Day Now, which is about a gay couple trying to adopt a boy with Down’s Syndrome—that is really moving and also challenging to realize we haven’t come as far as we all might think. I guess I’m saying that what fulfills me most is feeling like I’ve provoked or affected people, when I’ve made a difference.
 
We read that your favorite movie to film was Spice World. What's your favorite memory from filming? MORE IMPORTANTLY, what would your “spice” be?
My favorite thing about that was being taught all the moves to the Spice Girls songs by the Spice Girls themselves. It was surreal. Also after my last scene, they all wrote messages on my tummy with a Sharpie, and that was pretty awkward when I went swimming the next day. My “spice” would be Jock Spice or maybe, now, Old Spice!
 
As the creator of your very own fragrance: What kind of feedback have you gotten on the fragrance? 
That people get laid when they wear it. Really. They do say that! I didn’t make it up. 
 
What’s a fragrance or scent you can’t stand? 
Ugh, there’s some cloying ingredient that I can’t pinpoint or I have blocked from my mind, so I can’t remember its name, but it is included in a lot of contemporary fragrance blends and it catches in my throat and I have to get some air immediately. I actually banned my husband from using a rather well-known fashion designer’s fragrance the other day because this ingredient was in it and I just couldn’t stand it any more. It’s not a taste thing, just a physical reaction to it. I gag!
 
Who's the most surprising person you've heard wears your fragrance? 
Barbara Cook, the singer, who is 90. And Beth Ditto from Gossip!
 
As the voice of a Smurf, an actor in both Spice World and Shakespearean plays, to what do you credit your diverse career trajectory? 
Having an open heart and having had too many divorces or house renovations!
 
What’s one project you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t gotten around to yet? 
I don’t think there is anything! I am not a yearner. I just keep my mind open and live in the present, and miraculously fun and fascinating experiences just come to me. You should try it!
 
What’s something you miss when you leave New York? 
My man, my dogs, the adventures you can have just going for a walk, and the tofu spread in my local bagel place.
 
Care to share any thoughts on the current political climate here in the U.S.? 
I am horrified, embarrassed, and scared. We must not ever accept what is happening as normal. This is insane, lawless, and dangerous. Resist! Be vigilant! And never normalize!
 
Finish this sentence: I have an insatiable appetite for…
FUN!

Lead Photo By
Peter Ross