Cheyenne Jackson has held a place in our hearts since he roller-skated in short shorts across stage in Broadway’s musical adaptation of Xanadu. Most recently, he lit up our TV screens in American Horror Story: Hotel as one of the Countess’s many handsome male companions. Now Jackson is starring alongside Melanie Griffith, Eddie Izzard, and Vincent Kartheiser in Day Out of Days. In the film, he plays the gay best friend and plastic surgeon to an actress who’s aging out of the industry.
I recently caught up with Jackson to ask him about getting older in Hollywood and working with Lady Gaga—and to confess my high school crush on him.
Out: So you're currently in Day Out of Days, which is about the struggles of being an actor in LA. Did the script have a personal meaning to you?
Cheyenne Jackson: Sure, definitely. I mean, I’m the same age as her character, and being 40 in Hollywood is definitely different than being 20. However, it’s different for men, way different. So the struggle to stay young and look a certain way isn’t the same as it is for women. But yeah, I can definitely relate. I mean, for sure. We’ve just all had those experiences in casting agents’ offices and conversations with managers over the years. Every actor, I’m sure can.
You say it’s different for men than it is for women. Would you say it’s different for straight men than it is for gay men?
That’s interesting. I was just talking about this with somebody. It is different, I think. Just to be an actor, we all exhibit a level of vanity. And nowadays, so many people are doing little things to their faces. And I find that especially with gay guys, there’s such a pressure in our community to look young, to stay looking young. I will admit I kind of succumbed to that a few years back. I got into doing Botox and putting stuff in my face. And I started to not look like myself anymore. It kind of just made me sad. I was like, “What am I doing?” I couldn’t wrinkle my forehead anymore. It changed the shape of my eyes. So three years ago, I was like, “Fuck it. I’m just gonna let my face do what it’s gonna do.” I know it’s not that easy for women, and it’s a total double standard, but for me, I had to quit while I was ahead. Because I think once you start doing that, you’ve got to keep doing that forever. I feel like Botox…I don’t feel like it makes you look younger. I feel like it makes you look like you have Botox.
You look good regardless, so I don’t think you have to worry about it.
Aw, thank you. Thank you. That’s sweet. I actually feel more handsome without it. I feel like just looking at pictures from four years ago, I’m like, “Yikes!” Like my face looks flat and weird. Uh uh.
The movie also mentioned how the industry is changing because of social media and streaming movies. Has that had a particular effect on your career?
I don’t know about that. But I definitely see the trends and the changes. I know that certain times, I’ll hear stories about casting directors maybe looking between two different actors, and the one that has the biggest social media following will be the one that will get the job, because they know that they’ll be able to reach more people. It’s a crazy thing to think about. I mean this wasn’t something we did 10 years ago, but now it’s kind of the world in which we live. So you have to kind of play along to some extent. It’s definitely like a balance.
You're a big advocate for HIV/AIDS research and you've worked with amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, for a while now. Is there anything you're focusing on with them at the moment?
Not any specific projects, but I was just at amfAR two nights ago here in New York. You know, Kenneth Cole and Kevin Frost, chairman of the board and the president, we definitely all keep in touch. And they know that anytime, anywhere they need me, if they need me to go do an auction somewhere, if they need me to get items, if they need me to sing, I’ve traveled the world for and with them and will continue to. I really believe in what they’re doing and where they put their money. It’s really setting the standard.
This was your first season with the American Horror Story family. What was it like joining such a huge cultural phenomenon?
Exciting, daunting, nerve-racking, everything you can possibly imagine. I mean, it’s a franchise and a world that you watch one second of on TV and it immediately invokes a mood and a feeling. And I just wondered how I’d fit into that world. And I didn’t know how people would be, what the vibe would be, and if it would be so intense, and just everyone crying and screaming all day. It was just great. Everybody’s a pro. It’s a great troupe of actors who really take their jobs seriously. And it’s about telling these dramatic stories and it’s cool. It’s really cool I have to say. My very first day, I had a scene with Kathy Bates, and she’s been one of my favorite actresses for about 15 years. So it was really great. And I just love Ryan [Murphy].
Were you as surprised as the rest of us by Lady Gaga’s acting abilities?
No. No, I knew she would be good. I mean, I didn’t know how good. But everything I’ve ever seen her do, which is pretty substantial, she just goes for it. She’s fully committed. And I knew that she had a theater background. No, I wasn’t surprised at all. I was just so happy that everybody else caught on.
Okay, we also need to acknowledge that you have a great bum. I’m sure as an actor you can't be shy, but is it intimidating being naked in front of Lady Gaga?
Well thank you first of all. It wasn’t. She’s so cool and being naked is a nonissue for her. It was just being naked on primetime television in something that my parents could potentially see. And also while you’re doing it, it’s just a weird thing. You’re standing around and you have like a sock on your junk, and there are 40 crewmembers. It’s a bizarre thing but you just have to get into it. But yeah, she was so fun and sweet though. She made it easy breezy.
What's it like working with all those handsome men?
Fun. I mean who doesn’t like to look at beautiful things and beautiful people. I mean the best thing is just that they’re all such great humans as well. I mean, Wes is just a great person and a great dad. Same for Bomer. I’ve known him for several years. I met him in New York about eight years ago. Finn, I love. Evan, so talented. Oh my god, it was great. I learned so much from working with them. And Denis O’Hare’s one of my best friends and he’s just beautiful and so talented. I just loved doing scenes with him. I loved that I got to do so much with him toward the end of the season.
I loved Liz Taylor. Any news about Season 6 or if you’ll be returning?
Not yet. I hope to come back. They’re supposed to start telling people within the next few months, so fingers crossed.
My last question. Marry, fuck, kill: Lady Gaga, Angela Bassett, and Jessica Lange?
Oh come on. Well, ok… Oh shit. So I would marry Jessica, fuck Gaga, and kill Angela only because she killed me on the show.
Day Out of Days is available on Digital HD and On Demand, February 23. Watch the trailer below: