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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 3 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 31
Cheyenne Jackson does it all
Arts & Entertainment
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Cheyenne Jackson does it all

Openly Gay film, TV, and stage actor moves into music

O by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Cheyenne Jackson is busy. Really, really busy. The openly Gay actor, a former Seattle resident, is now spreading his wings as a recording artist, releasing back-to-back singles ('Drive,' 'Before You') that will be included on a yet-to-be-titled EP or album. You might recognize Jackson from such films as the Oscar-nominated United 93 and this year's Lola Versus, or maybe from his TV roles on Glee, Ugly Betty, and 30 Rock, or stage productions like Xanadu and All Shook Up. All this aside from being a backup singer for Liza Minnelli and Vanessa Williams.

His most current project is a Liberace biopic for HBO, scheduled for a 2013 premiere. When not working, Jackson spends time with husband Monte Lapka at their New York City home. Though his schedule is packed, he found time to chat by phone last week. Here's what Cheyenne Jackson shared with me on a quick break from his many day jobs.

Rodriguez: You just got married last year around this time. Any plans for your one-year anniversary?

Jackson: We kind of had a belated honeymoon just recently. We went to Europe and went all over, to Paris, went hiking in Slovakia, went to Vienna. So we'll probably do something low-key, just us and our new little dog.

Rodriguez: Gay marriage could become law in Washington State, so we may see a lot of couples rushing to the altar. Do you have any wedding advice for couples-to-be?

Jackson: My advice for Gay couples getting married is to make the day about you, because this is an important step for all of us in the Gay community. We've worked a long time for just the basic human rights. What we did, and it was perfect for us, was that we did it quick and dirty by ourselves on the beach with our dog and had some friends as witnesses. I'm hopeful for Washington state. C'mon, let's do it!

Rodriguez: There's an EP coming out that will include both of your singles, 'Drive' and 'Before You,' correct?

Jackson: We haven't decided if we're going to do an EP, or if we're going to just go for it and do the full album because everything's moving rather quickly. I got signed to a publishing deal with Sony/ATV, which basically means they love my songwriting. So I'm writing for myself, but we recently started writing for other artists. An album is definitely in the works and I would imagine it's probably [out] by the end of this fall.

Rodriguez: Is there a plan to take these songs on the road?

Jackson: I'm trying to let this unfold organically and really let it happen as it's supposed to. That's why I haven't done an album before - a solo album, that is - because I never did feel like it was the right time. Now, I feel like it is. I'm definitely going to start with some dates in New York. I do a lot of concert work, but usually it's other people's material. As far as my own stuff - yeah, I'm sure I'll do some road sets.

Rodriguez: Your character on Glee didn't have any singing parts. Was [series co-creator] Ryan Murphy aware that you could sing?

Jackson: Oh yeah, he came and saw me in Xanadu. He was definitely aware that I could sing. Everyone always asks, 'Why didn't you sing on Glee?' I don't know - you'd have to ask Ryan.

Rodriguez: Aside from music, you're also an actor working in films, television, and theater. What are some of your upcoming projects?

Jackson: This past year I've done three films: one called Price Check, with Parker Posey; Mutual Friends, which is a great New York-centric ensemble film; and right now I'm working on Steven Soderbergh's Liberace movie [Behind the Candelabra] with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, so that is very, very exciting. We're halfway done - I would say almost halfway. Great cast - Dan Aykroyd, Rob Lowe - and it's really exciting and fascinating to watch these Oscar winners at work. Also, I just did an NBC pilot called Mockingbird Lane, which is a reboot of The Munsters. Also a great cast - Portia de Rossi, Jerry O'Connell, and Eddie Izzard.

Rodriguez: Do you miss anything about Seattle?

Jackson: I do. I miss the lushness and the greenness. I lived in several places in Seattle - I lived on Alki in West Seattle, I lived on Queen Anne Hill for a while, and then Monte and I ended up living on Capitol Hill. There's no place like Seattle, but I just don't have the time to go back there. Our whole lives are on the other coast now.

Rodriguez: Do you have any favorite Seattle haunts - any places you frequented?

Jackson: I wish I had a great answer for that, but I can't think of any. I can say that I met my husband at Manray. I don't even know if that exists anymore.

Rodriguez: It doesn't, actually. It went from a parking lot to a new condo building.

Jackson: A new condo building? How sad - no more Manray.

Rodriguez: The climate in Hollywood appears to be good for openly Gay actors. Do you notice that now from when you first started?

Jackson: From the very beginning of my career I have been out, so for me I always want the focus to be on my work and my reputation and what I have to offer. But yeah, it's wonderful that Neil Patrick Harris and Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons all came out. All that does is just make it less of an issue and that's really the most important thing. The more people who are out, the more visibility we have in every facet. So, I think the climate has changed. Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely. But I think we're moving in the right direction.

Rodriguez: I'm jealous that you get to stare at Matt Damon all day.

Jackson: He's very attractive. The most attractive thing about him is his kindness. I barely worked with him on 30 Rock. He did one episode, the live episode a year and a half ago. When I got to the set he ran up to me and was so kind and talked about his kids. He's wonderful. Is he great to look at? Absolutely, for sure.

Rodriguez: For someone here in Seattle who wants a shot in the entertainment business, more on the acting side, is this a city where they can start and get work, or do they really have to move to New York or Los Angeles?

Jackson: Seattle obviously has a huge, thriving theatrical community. At one point I think there were seven, eight, nine Equity houses. I don't know what the tally is these days, but I got my Equity card working at the Village Theatre in Issaquah. I worked at the Civic Light Opera, Seattle Rep, and of course the 5th Avenue [Theatre]. There are people who make their whole living in the arts quite successfully by staying in Seattle. Do I think you can really go to the next level staying in Seattle? I think it would be difficult. There are several peers of mine - Megan Hilty, Noah Racey, Ben Schrader - they've all made the move to New York because if you really want to have a career in musical theater, Broadway is the pinnacle of that. I would suggest doing as much as you can in Seattle - do great work, and work with a lot of people, and then if you can get to New York do it and see what happens.

Rodriguez: What's the last piece of music you downloaded?

Jackson: Pink's 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss)' is the last thing I added. Great song.

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