Entertainment Spotlight Interview: Alan Cumming

Award-Winning Actor Takes New One-Man Show to WHBPAC

Scottish performer Alan Cumming has long been a force on any stage or in front of any camera he graces, having hosted the Tony Awards and winning one for his role as The Emcee in Cabaret. He’s also won an Olivier and has earned multiple Emmy, SAG, and Golden Globe nominations. The actor, whose past roles have ranged from the Pope to a Smurf, is also a singer and an author of a New York Times best-selling memoir.

Cumming’s latest one-man show, “The Legal Immigrant Tour,” heads to the WHBPAC July 6, following his previous hit cabaret show “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs,” which appeared in Westhampton last year and just wrapped a June run at New York’s Café Carlyle and Joe’s Pub. Cumming spoke with Hamptons Monthly about his love of New York and becoming a U.S. citizen, the joy that comes with playing himself on stage, and memories of visiting the Hamptons over the years.

You are taking “The Legal Immigrant Tour” to Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on July 6, just after Independence Day, America’s birthday. You currently live in New York and you’re Scottish. What has been rewarding about being a busy actor working in the U.S. and what do you love about New York?

I’ve always loved New York; I fell in love with it the moment I got here. I’ve made it my home and it’s where I feel most at home in the world. Also something about being: when you come from somewhere else and you feel somewhat different, New York is sort of a gathering of different people. I really love that energy. It’s a really good
geographical base if you work all over the world. Mostly I just love what is available here, what you can see and experience, and who you can meet.

This show is sort of about — it’s 10 years since I became a citizen — so it’s talking about why I became
a citizen and also how immigration has changed and how it’s in the conversation. And I wanted to explain what it’s like to be a recent immigrant to this country. If I were not a white man I think it would be even more challenging. There’s more negative rhetoric about immigration that we hear about all the time.

It’s interesting because though it’s exciting to come to a new country, in the past couple years it’s not welcoming people that are trying to emigrate here. Also I wanted to tell my story and celebrate immigration.

You are of course a Tony and Olivier Award-winning actor (and three-time Emmy nominee) with roles in Cabaret on Broadway, The Good Wife, The Tempest, Smurfs, and Burlesque to illustrate the range of work you have done. What about the stage is most thrilling to you and is it your favorite compared to television and film?

Well I think the thing with a live audience is it’s all instant and so kind of electrifying if it goes well. It’s very present: you know exactly how it’s going, you know if things are hitting. I think that sort of instant gratification that you’ve actually really made someone upset is a really important thing as a performer and it’s something I kind of learned really early on. I love making films and things as well, but it’s different — it’s sort of a long game in terms of the reaction you get from the audience. In this show, I’m not playing a character, I’m just being me, so I am connecting with the audience emotionally and everything.

Have you had a chance to enjoy The Hamptons over the years and if so, what is most appealing to you about heading East during the summer?

I have actually been out there. I’ve got friends and I’ve been for various weekends and I actually shot a movie called “Almost in Love” at a beach house shot in two takes. The second take, which took 45 minutes long, was in this house and the end of it was with the sun coming up and people running into the sea. We  started early in the morning. I was in the Hamptons up all night and we had dinner and then did the shoot.

I think it was Southampton. This movie out this year, “After Louie,” is shot a little bit in the Hamptons too. I’ve got friends in Montauk; I’ve been there a lot. I’ve been to the Hamptons International Film Festival. I was actually there last year with that movie. There have been lots and lots of visits over the years.

You already had an international show called “Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs.” What in your opinion will be the sappiest or perhaps is your favorite number to perform during your current show?

I do the Adele song “When We Were Young.” I won’t be doing that in the Hamptons. Sometimes I have the Gay Men’s Chorus sing with me on that song and two others. It’s such a builder. When there’s places with a Gay Men’s Chorus, I ask them to sing with me, but there isn’t a Gay Men’s Chorus of Westhampton.

You are busy with a new police drama called “Instinct” that will come back with a second season, a performance nightclub in the East Village, and other projects. Amid all the excitement, what are you looking forward to most performing this new show in the Hamptons?

I love coming to different places and experiencing different audiences. I brought the Sappy Songs show there and it was really great. It’s a different demographic in each place, but that’s what makes it exciting. In a place where you can be vulnerable, it makes you feel better about the world seeing a show like this.