Cheyenne Jackson has done a lot of sex scenes. The Broadway star turned American Horror Story and 30 Rock actor has had the chance to pretend to hump some of the biggest names in the industry--including getting hot and heavy with Lady Gaga's 'Countess' character, groping the back of Liz Lemon's knees, and simulating rough passion with Audra McDonald in the new movie musical Hello Again (watch here.)
The adaptation is Hello Again's first on the silver screen, and in addition to Jackson and McDonald stars Raising Hope's Martha Plimpton, Glee's Jenna Ushkowitz, Rumer Willis and Tyler Blackburn. It's basically one long musical sex scene: the story consists of several vignettes of different lovers engaging with each other during different decades and settings around New York City. It's an ambitious indie film, where all the singing was recorded live as the actors stripped down and groped each other while belting out their lines.
We caught up with Jackson, who has sex with both a man and woman on camera in the film, to talk about the increasing quality of queer roles in large scale cinema and television, as well as what it was like to film faux fornication with two of our biggest queens: Gaga and Fey.
OUT: How'd you get involved with Hello Again--were you familiar with the musical before?
Cheyenne Jackson: I'd heard of the piece--and I had friends who'd done the recent production. But actually I found out later I was one of the only people in the movie who had never seen any incarnation of it. So I was finishing up American Horror Story--the season had just wrapped and I got the call. I'm assuming somebody dropped out because it was a very quick turnaround.
They said, 'Can you go to New York in the next 48 hours and start this project?' I said, 'Yeah, absolutely.' I thought it sounded crazy to do a musical movie period piece indie and sing live. Things that are that crazy--that's exciting to me. The stakes are high. It's not boring. So I said absolutely. And I purposely didn't watch anything about it before. I went off the music and just jumped in.
And you basically had one long singing sex scene that was really gay, which is fun.
I loved it. I haven't been able to do that on screen, and Tyler Blackburn, who I had my big gay scene with, was totally fun and sweet. Indies are a beast in and of itself because you have such a finite amount of time to get in 10, maybe 15 shots. And we're singing live, with earpieces in our ears, listening to a piano, trying to hit our marks... it was definitely a challenge.
Was it awkward to be getting naked and making out and also be singing?
Oh, yeah. I know it sounds cliche, but sex scenes are never sexy. I've done a lot of them, and maybe one was... I was into it a bit. Mostly it's super weird, and you're with a stranger, and you look up and there's 20 guys standing there holding a boom. Not sexy.
Was the one sex scene that you did enjoy your one with Lady Gaga?
It actually was. Because Gaga is so comfortable with body, and with nudity, and she's just such a cool chick. I have to say, I was super nervous about it, it was my first nude scene, at 40 years old, and she made me totally comfortable. I was like, 'Oh. This is fine.'
What did she say to make you comfortable?
It wasn't something she said, it was just the way she was. Like, in between takes, she would scratch her back with my nails. With her physicality, she's a little mama bear. She makes everything OK.
I can only imagine.
It's what you want her to be. She's everything you want her to be. She's truly Mother Monster to the end of time.
Have you two remained close friends since your sex scene?
I wouldn't say we're close friends, but we definitely keep in touch. I send her pictures of my kids, and she's someone I definitely want to keep in contact with. Because she's extraordinary. She's so inspiring.
I'm so excited for her next chapter. I loved Joanne, but I'm excited to see what's next.
She's going to have a huge film career. She's amazing.
I want to ask about another sex scene of yours with an equally powerful woman, which would be Tina Fey. In 30 Rock. I have to ask how it was hooking up with her in the office.
Listen. That was my first television. And to be able to start my TV career with the likes of Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin--it was just incredible. Tina is--again, like I said for Gaga--everything you want her to be. She's cool, she's kind, she's smart, she's not overly affectionate. She's very practical and real and makes you want to do your very best, because the writing is so good. Tina was--making out with her and getting to know her was a wonderful experience.
You've really made out with two of the best people.
And then Audra McDonald, in this movie. We had this super hot, super graphic scene, and we just had to go for it.
Do you have any other dream scene partners you'd like to make out with?
There's so many... I know that Daniel Day-Lewis is retiring, but he's my all time favorite actor, favorite anything, so anything with him would be a dream.
Are you up to speed on this year's Oscars contenders?
I haven't seen Phantom Thread yet, but I've seen a lot of them. There's some good movies this year.
Who are you rooting for?
I'd say Lady Bird affected me so much. The humanity they captured in that--it was really beautiful to me. Laurie Metcalf is my favorite. I want her to win, but I also love Allison Janney. I know Allison Janney--I love her, I adore her. She was equally brilliant in I, Tonya. It's just so fun to see everyone giving Laurie Metcalf the respect she deserves after all these years. Call Me By Your Name absolutely devastated me. I've never seen a portrayal of adolescent love so authentically put on camera. I thought it felt so real, so intimate... it was almost embarrassing sometimes, watching it, because I thought 'I know what that feels like. Those first butterflies.' I thought it was absolutely breathtaking. I also really like Three Billboards. It lives up. Sometimes you hear so much about something and you think, 'How is this going to live up to the hype?' But it really does. Actually Woody Harrelson was my favorite thing in it. He was really solid.
What else have you got coming up?
I've got this new show, American Woman, which is Kyle Richards, from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills--it's her life story. It's with Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and it's set in 1975 and really cool and groovy. That's going to start airing on the Paramount Network on June 7, I believe. And then I just had a recent dream come true--I guested on Will & Grace. It's the TV show that changed my life as a 24-year-old gay guy. So that was surreal to the end of time. It's like seeing an episode of Friends and then being on the episode. It's all the same cast, they look better than ever, they're funnier than ever. It was absolutely--I could not even contain myself. I've done a lot of fun things, and this was right at the top.
I feel like there have been a lot more gay roles coming to the mainstream. Has that been your experience?
Somebody asked me this the other day--if I have a preference of playing gay or straight. I don't--for me, I play probably half gay guys, half straight guys. It really depends on if the part is good, if it's funny. I don't want it to be boring or run of the mill. There are a lot of great queer stories and parts, and it's not like it used to be. I've been doing TV for maybe 8 years? So since then it's definitely changed a lot for the better. Thank god.
This movie is all about love in New York City--do you have a short sweet anecdote about falling in love in New York?
I went to New York when I was 27 and already in a relationship. And then we got married. And then divorced. So that's not the best story. But I fell in love with New York. My very first audition was for the Broadway show Thoroughly Modern Millie, and in three weeks I was in the chorus. And that's when I fell in love with the city, and Broadway, and performing. I was there 13 years, and it was definitely the love of my life.
She's a great partner.
She is. She's exhausting, and she smells like Thai food and diarrhea, but you have to just take the good and the bad.