Sultry crooner Chris Isaak has been making women swoon ever since he seduced supermodel Helena Christensen in the video for his mega hit "Wicked Game" in 1991, and nothing has changed in that respect. The singer – who has also done his fair share of acting for the big and small screens – plays up his irresistible-ness in a guest-starring role on the TV Land sitcom "Hot In Cleveland," where we caught up with him on set.
The show stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick as best friends who move to Cleveland from L.A. and rent a house from a feisty landlady played by none other than Betty White. Isaak plays sexy musician Chase Jackson, whom Bertinelli's character Melanie cons into hand-delivering free tickets to his sold-out concert by pretending she has a grave illness and tugging on his heart strings.
We talked to Isaak about his role on the show, his first album in the works since 2011's Beyond the Sun, his bandmate's battle with leukemia, and his long-time crush on co-star Bertinelli.
Yahoo Music: Why did you want to guest star on "Hot in Cleveland?"
Isaak: They called and said, "Do you want to play this part?" And I said, "Sure! It sounds like fun. And then I saw the list of the people on the show – Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli – you know how many hours I've watched her on TV? I've been watching her for her whole career. Then there's Wendie Malick who I have a crush on and I go, "She's gonna be on this show?" She's tall and gorgeous. And Jane Leeves who I watched on "Frasier," and she's gorgeous too. And so I thought, "I'm gonna get to be on this show with these gorgeous women? Yeah, put me on."
Then there's Betty White who I've watched for years, too. I try to watch what she eats because I want to eat the same things because she hasn't aged one bit since 1962. I guess people want to be kind to somebody who's older, but without being kind to her for her age, she's just a great comic actress. You watch her and go, "She's way better than I'll ever be." Then on top of that she's 92 and she's way better at learning her lines than I am. One day I was on the set and I was tired. I'd been up since 6 a.m. working on my lines and I then did the shoot all day, and then I headed to over to do Jay Leno's "Tonight Show." So we ran from here across to do Jay Leno, and we're working on some skit with him, and I said, "Boy, it's a long day." He said, "Betty White was just here and she just finished her skit." So she did two things in a day. She's doing more than I am. I'm not gonna kid you. I think steroids might be involved. [Laughs]
What was it like working with these legendary actresses?
This is the first thing I've filmed [with them]. I will be in other scenes, but everybody's been really low-key and nice and it makes it really fun. And Valerie – she's always been gorgeous and she's still gorgeous. And I don't have a love scene with her but whenever I'm turned looking at her I'm going, "Oh my God, what a lovely woman."
Why did you want to play this character...aside from being surrounded by gorgeous women?
That's enough for me! [Laughs] That's all I need.
What do you think of the storyline in which Bertinelli's character pretends to have a terminal illness in order to get tickets to your character's concert?
I think it's hilarious and outrageous. When I first read it I thought, "Oh my God, you're gonna have a story line about this?" It sounds ridiculous but there actually are people who do it. When I was doing a film From the Earth to the Moon, we were at Disneyland, and a guy there said, "You know, we have people all the time who say they want to be in the handicapped access line and they're not really handicapped." So there's people out there who do stuff like this. But the idea that they're gonna show it on a sitcom – that's pretty brave.
Is it tough doing all this work that keeps you far from home?
I'm [based] in San Francisco but I'm never home...you know, I'm always on the road. I might be home two or three months in a year, if that. We do 150 shows or so in a year. On top of that I do film and TV work, so I have a lot of suitcases.
I can imagine. You must wear them out pretty quickly.
I do. My parents had one flesh-colored Samsonite suitcase with no wheels and that was the only suitcase they ever had, and it still looks brand new because in their whole life, my parents only ever took maybe two trips. We were always broke. So they never really took vacations and they had that suitcase for their whole life waiting to take a vacation or a trip but they never really got to. And I've gone through 20 suitcases. I probably go through one every year.
What have you been up to recently besides touring and guest starring on "Hot In Cleveland"?
The past couple of years I've been on the road more than ever, and this last year has been a really strange year. I've had the same band for about 30 years and we've been touring and I started work on the next album I'm gonna do. But when we got back from Australia and we started to work, my drummer [Kenney Dale Johnson] called and said he had leukemia. After 30 years he had never missed a day's work. And after 30 years he called and said, "I think I'm gonna have to miss a day. I've got leukemia." And there was a lot of crying after I hung up the phone. I didn't cry when I was on the phone, I was scared to death. But leukemia's not the death sentence I thought it was when I was a kid because there's a happy ending. He's gone through his treatment, it's like six months later and he's coming back on this next tour with us. He's a big strong guy – he's a Texan. And he didn't lose his hair, he didn't lose weight, he just looks like the same guy. So I'm thrilled that he's coming back.
That must be such a relief.
Yeah, it makes you put things in perspective. You know, you might say, "Oh my guitar came in and the finish on the gold wasn't the way I wanted it." And then you go, "You know what that is, that's just whining!" Nothing else really matters except if your friends are okay…Kenney's such a part of the band too. It's called "Chris Isaak" so people think that I'm everything, but really the reason I've been around a long time is I have these amazing guys with me. And Kenney is a beautiful singer and he's a great drummer and he adds a lot to the band. But it's great – he's gonna be back in another two or three weeks, and we're on the road again.
So you have a new album in the works?
I have five CDs of song-starts I'm working on, and I drive myself from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I don't usually fly. I usually drive down because I can throw my guitars in the car. I drive by myself and I just put on those CDs and I sing all the way here and all the way back to work on them. We're gonna tour a little bit and then start recording again.
Do you have any goals or a time frame for putting out the new record, or will you just see how it goes?
Usually I just see how it goes, but I always want to hurry up and get the record out because I love touring and I love bringing out new music. So I figure we'll get back [home], and during the holidays and Christmas stuff I should be working. And right after that I'll be working, record [the album] and then get back out on the bus.
I've had the same guys [in the band] forever and we love touring. Imagine if you had all your best friends and you got to play together in a band and travel around on a bus and people think you're wonderful for about an hour. Then you leave. That's my life...so what's not to like?!
The "Hot In Cleveland" episode starring Chris Isaak will air during the show's fifth season this spring.