Cheyenne Jackson on Liberace Biopic, Being 'Vulnerable' Through Music and Why He Admires Alec Baldwin
Broadway vet Cheyenne Jackson is already a pro at belting out tunes onstage, and thanks to guest gigs on Glee and 30 Rock, he has been “schooled” in the art of the small screen, as well. Now Jackson takes on his most challenging endeavor yet: writing and recording a full album of his own.
"I’ve always written music, but now, actually sharing it, you feel vulnerable. You feel like that’s your baby," Jackson tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I’m learning that that is OK. Hopefully people like it -- it’s been getting a nice response, but that’s not really the point. What I’m learning is that it’s OK to put yourself out there and be vulnerable.”
Jackson says he expects to release a full album in late fall, but he already has debuted two singles from the untitled release: “Drive” and “Before You.” Right now, Jackson says he’s about 11 songs deep in the recording process, including five that were co-written by Sia. (Most recently the Australian pop singer-songwriter was featured on Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones.”) As for any vocal collaborations on his album, Jackson says he’s open to the idea -- but only if it makes artistic sense.
“I do love a good collaboration but not for shock value. I liken it to kind of stunt casting on Broadway or something. It really needs to serve a purpose,” Jackson says, before adding that he’d love to work with George Michael, k.d. lang or Adele. “I’m dreaming big, baby!”
Aside from Jackson’s budding career as a solo artist, he also nabbed two high-profile gigs that flex his acting chops. Jackson recently wrapped filming the pilot of NBC’s Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane -- which is in contention for a midseason start -- and is working with Steven Soderbergh on HBO’s mysterious Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, alongside Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his younger lover, Scott Thorson.
“I didn’t go to school for acting, but I have been schooled,” Jackson says of learning from his co-stars. “I watch, I absorb, I just -- I am schooled by osmosis. It’s amazing to watch them, truly.”
Jackson says Candelabra is about halfway through shooting and that audiences will be “blown away” by Douglas and Damon’s performances. “It’s just so exciting to watch them work,” he gushes.
For his part, Jackson plays a man named Billy Leatherwood but is tight-lipped about character details. “You know, it’s top secret, so you probably know as much as I do,” he teases.
“I did as much research as I could about my character and really just read everything I could,” he says of his preparation. “I spoke to some people who were in that inner circle back in the day and who definitely know what went on, and I just pulled as much material as I could.
“And really, with hair and makeup and costumes, once you’re on set, these amazing sets, the tone is set,” he adds. “All you have to do is be in the moment.”
It’s not all drama for Jackson, though, as he brings a bright spot of comedy to Mockingbird Lane as the overly cheery Scoutmaster Steve. Coming off a recurring role on NBC’s 30 Rock, Jackson says he likes to take a page from Alec Baldwin’s book of comedy.
“Comedically, I’ve learned the most from Alec Baldwin because he can find three different meanings in one line reading,” he says. “He is just so proficient at that.”
“Tina Fey -- the same thing,” he adds. “She is always self-deprecating when it comes to her acting, but she’s wonderful.”
Of Mockingbird Lane, Jackson insists, “People are going to be really excited by this.”
“Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies) wrote it, so he has this wonderful, dark subversive but also wonderful way of coming at the material,” he teases. “Bryan Singer (X-Men, Valkyrie) directed it, so visually it looks like a feature film. It’s amazing.”
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@thr.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci