EXCLUSIVE | QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH:
BY ALEX NAGORSKI
This fall, Cheyenne Jackson will show off a brand new and dark side of himself as one of the leads of the upcoming fifth installation of American Horror Story opposite Lady Gaga and Matt Bomer.
After successful recurring roles on shows like Glee and 30 Rock, the acclaimed 39-year-old actor is no stranger to television. He’s also appeared in 18 films, such as United 93, Love Is Strange, and Lola Versus. His diverse career consists of eight Broadway shows, including the original productions of All Shook Up, Xanadu and Finian’s Rainbow. And on top of all that, his voice has been featured on a dozen different albums, including a recently Grammy nominated West Side Story recording with the San Francisco Symphony.
But before he gets to work on the top secret American Horror Story, Jackson will return to his stage roots for a headlining concert at New York’s revered Town Hall venue on Friday, June 12 (buy tickets here). I caught up with Cheyenne about this upcoming show, his plans to return to Broadway and release a new album, this weekend’s Tony Awards, his love for Taylor Swift, and more.
NAGORSKI: What is a distinguishing characteristic about your Town Hall show on June 12 that will make it differ from your previous concerts?
JACKSON: It’s my last big show before I begin 8 months of American Horror Story so it’s kind of the “best of” all of my different shows. It’ll include my favorites and songs people have often requested.
What will the ratio of covers to original music be?
5 to 1 I’m guessing.
Also performing at the show will be Laura Benanti. What made you choose her as the one to share your stage with? And will you be performing any music together or will these be completely separate sets?
She’s a great friend and we’ve only done one show together and I just really wanted to sing with her again. We’ll be singing together.
Is this a one-off show or do you have more touring plans through the rest of the year?
One off. This is it for a long time so I’m going to go big.
Do you have any plans for a follow-up solo album to 2013’s I’m Blue, Skies?
Yes! The album is half done, I’m just trying to make myself sit down and finish!
Earlier this year, you released the charity single, “Find The Best of Me.” How did you initially get involved with amfAR and what made this the perfect song to release as a benefit for them?
I’ve been an ambassador for amfAR for 8 years. I love them so much and when Dan and Laura Curtis asked me to sing a song for charity, it was a no brainier.
Currently, what/who are the most played albums and artists on your iPod?
I could lie and pick something super cool, but honestly if I look at my most played, it’s an even mix of Broadway, top 40, some obscure jazz, and opera. Taylor Swift is in there too. Sue me, she makes good music.
Recently, you had a residency at Café Carlyle, where you covered Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory.” What can you tell us about working with her on American Hotel Story: Hotel and is there anything that you can tease/share about your character on the show?
I could tell you details about American Horror Story but then I’d have to kill you with Lady Gaga’s meat dress.
Belated congratulations on your wedding! How will you and Jason be celebrating your one year anniversary this September?
Thank you! I’ll be working so we can’t leave town but I’m sure we’ll do something special and chill.
Next February, you’ll be one of the headliners of the Broadway on the High Seas cruise alongside performers such as Brian Stokes Mitchell, Christine Ebersole, Liz Callaway, Judy Kuhn, and more. What are you looking forward to most about this experience and what is the one item you’ll have to take on board to keep you from getting homesick?
Hanging with my peers is what’s the most fun and it’s not long enough of a trip to get homesick.
You’ve often mentioned that 9/11 signified a huge turning point in your life in that it gave you the confidence to become a performer. Can you please elaborate a bit on this?
I innately felt after 9/11 like life was slipping me by, and at 27 I decided to follow my dream of being a professional actor. It made me really feel how precious life is and I went for it.
Do you have any plans to return to Broadway anytime soon? If not, what type of show would be the most attractive to you to lure you back to the Great White Way?
I keep trying! Every year I’m offered something great and I try and make it work but it hasn’t happened yet. I’d love to do something new. I love revivals, but I’ve done enough of those for a while. Somebody write me something!
“I could tell you details about AMERICAN HORROR STORY but then I’d have to kill you with Lady Gaga’s meat dress”
“If I look at my most played, it’s an even mix of Broadway, top 40, some obscure jazz, and opera– Taylor Swift is in there too–sue me, she makes good music!”
This year’s Tony Awards are being hosted by Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth on June 7. What or who are you most excited about seeing at the ceremony?
So many! I loved Hand To God, The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time, and On The 20th Century. Hopefully I’ll get to see Fun Home and Something Rotten before the awards.
You have openly spoken about your struggle with alcoholism. What role did music have in your journey to sobriety?
Not an overtly huge one, but definitely a comfort to me and a conduit for expressing my pain.
What have been both the most rewarding and challenging roles you’ve played to date? And what is your dream theatrical role?
Rewarding? Sonny in Xanadu, Danny in 30 Rock, and Billy in Behind the Candelabra (I only had two lines, but it was extremely rewarding). The most difficult was Mark Bingham in United 93. My dream theatrical role hasn’t been written yet.