Broadway/TV favorite Cheyenne Jackson has been popping up in various movies while writing an album with Australian singer/songwriter Sia. What’s more, he talks!
I just spoke with the moxie-ish multitalent on the phone, and we started by discussing the reading he recently participated in of Dustin Lance Black’s play about Proposition 8. Oh, yeah, he did that, too!
Hi, Cheyenne! You had to have that gala reading the same night as the party for my book, Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back? I know. How did it go?
Fine, considering the competition. And your reading? It was kind of a spectacle in the best sense of the word. I was worried that it’s a transcript, but I had a lot of faith in Dustin. He was able to make not only heads and tails out of it, but something interesting that keeps your focus. He’s hoping to use it in schools for educational purposes. America was glued to the TV for months because of the Casey Anthony trial, but with Prop. 8, people didn’t know shit of what was going on inside. I’m hoping this could be like a Laramie Project thing where communities who usually don’t get that material can be reached.
You’re in The Green (on VOD starting October 18), which also makes a point about decent gays accused of something shady. It comes off like a standard melodrama, but it’s refreshingly done with a same-sex couple at the core. What I liked was what you said. It’s a formulaic-type story that we’ve all kind of seen before, but it just so happens that the two lead characters are gay. [Co-star] Jason Butler Harner said to me early on: “Let’s dare to be mundane. Long relationships are just that. It’s not all snuggles in bed. It’s the mundanity of day-to-day living.” We had a 17-day shoot—for some scenes, we had just one take—and it was up to us to create the mundanity that you bought.
The title isn’t mundane, though. Multiple meanings galore. They want to move out of the city because they want to see green, but the Green is also the town square.
And one character is after some green. And you two are pretty green to think suburban life will be a gay breeze. This has more definitions than Take Me Out. Speaking of Broadway: You once told me you weren’t cast as Carl-Magnus in the last A Little Night Music because they felt you were too conventionally handsome.
[Evasively.] Who knows?
And the last Guys and Dolls? I auditioned but didn’t get it.
You dodged a bullet. Your words!
The Normal Heart? They offered it to me, but Glee came along. I was so bummed I couldn’t be part of it. I saw it, and Jim Parsons was terrific in the role.
Do you ever have career regrets? Not really. There are things that get away, and I think, “Oh man, I could have fuckin’ killed that.” But I’m coming up on my 10th year of being a professional actor, and I have perspective now. I’m thankful for where I’m at. I think Hal Holbrook said, “I’ve been up, and I’ve been down, and up is better.” As long as you keep riding the wave until you reach that up spot again, you keep going.
But you’re in that up spot. I’m actually calmer when things are bad because there’s nowhere to go but up. Exactly. I always think about all those kids on X Factor and American Idol. When you start that big, there’s only one place to go, and it’s a long fall. You have to hope you have people around you to pick you back up.
You and Neil Patrick Harris have done so well, but I still strangely hear murmurs of “Out gays can’t make it.” I feel like everybody has their own path. I don’t believe in outing. All I can do is say I feel like I’m a better actor and partner now—actually, husband; I just got married. Come on, there are so many bigger issues in the world. It’s fascinating that it’s still a hot-button issue. I get a lot of correspondence from folks, and being open will affect some kid in the Midwest. It’s the oldest cliché in the book, but it really does matter.
Well, since you’re so open and out there—weird question—do people stare at you at the gym? They do stare a little more than usual in the last year or so. Monty [Cheyenne’s husband] notices it, and he’s such a private person. I’m not a social gym person. I don’t like to chat. I’m sweaty and skanky and just want to do my thing. But yesterday, a guy at the gym had a shirt so tight and short, and it said “Bacon Strips” on it. I don’t even know what that means!
That’s so not you. I’m not Bacon Strips at the gym. Ham Hocks! [Laughs.]
By any name, will you come back to Glee? Glee is like Oz. People come and go very quickly there. They said I’d come back, but a friend told me that on the show last night, they said my character was fired. That’s kind of par for the course. If I’m not back, I had a great time. But oftentimes, people go away and return. It’s like All My Children.
Yeah, you could come back as twins. Or with amnesia. I’m supposed to come back to 30 Rock.
Really? I watched it last night, and they said you were fired. Kidding.
Knife in the back. [Laughs.]