International Emmy Host Alan Cumming on His Fears (And Hopes) After Trump Election

The Hollywood Reporter

After six years playing shifty political operative Eli Gold on The Good Wife, which finished its acclaimed run on CBS this year, Scottish actor Alan Cumming has been busy recently baring his soul. Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, the cabaret show he original developed at New York's Cafe Carlyle before taking it on tour (including to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer), is arguably the actor's most intimate work to date, combining personal stories with heartfelt tunes and a healthy dose of silliness. PBS aired a version of the show on Friday night.

Cumming has also been politically active, recording a Spike Lee-directed Bernie Sanders advertisement and being a prominent anti-Trump voice both before and after the election. Even his gig as host of the 44th International Emmy Awards, which will take place in New York Monday night, is a chance for Cumming to open up and tell the world what he's thinking.

How did it feel to say goodbye to The Good Wife's Eli Gold after so many years with that character?

I was ready. I was ready for it to end. I think we all felt that. I actually was going to leave after season six and they said, "Will you stay on, because it's going to be the last season" and I did and I'm glad. But I was ready for it. I miss seeing people and I miss the regular structure I've had for the last six years, but I'm a very sanguine person about that. There is a time for things to end, and I was ready for it to be over.

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You're hosting the International Emmys, which honor the best in non-U.S. television. Do you have an international show or star that is a particular touchstone for you?

I think I would like to honor, because she died this year, Victoria Wood. She's a British comedian and actress who, for many years, was an incredible national treasure for Britain and someone I grew up loving and met as an adult. She was an incredible talent and will be sorely missed. I encourage anyone who doesn't know her work to go on YouTube or go online and try and find out as much as possible about her. She was a brilliant, brilliant wit - and her humanity and also her understanding of popular culture. But not popular culture as you understand it today - not the Kardashian way, but the working-class culture of Britain and their aims and desires and aspirations - and finding the humor in that.

What do you have planned for the show, especially as it's coming as it does after the U.S. election?

Obviously, you can't have something that huge happen and not acknowledge it. And also the place where the ceremony is taking place [the Hilton New York in Manhattan] is where Donald Trump first stood as president-elect. I think also, the idea people in the room are responsible for sending out messages to all the different countries and I think in this industry, now more than ever, everyone in the media has to look at themselves, to take stock and be very very careful and diligent about what they say and what they are putting out to the public. We have seen in the past year how terribly wrong the media has got things.

Do you think the media, both during the U.S. election and maybe also with the Brexit vote, was particularly slanted?

That's not my point. I think the news media has to look at what really their job is as a reporter or a journalist in the news media. It is to challenge hoods. And to take people to task and to make sure the viewers are getting an unbiased and honest and accurate account of what is happening. Now that, obviously, did not happen in the U.S. election and obviously did not happen in the Brexit campaign. So I think it is a time for the news media to completely reassess how they communicate the news and how the whole system is set up. I think for the rest of the media, for the people working in drama and other media, I think it is a very volatile time in our history and people should be very very careful. I think everyone would agree we need compassionate messages right now and hope that will be reflected in the efforts of the people in the media.

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How do you feel personally after the election?

I feel devastated that this has happened. If you voted for Donald Trump or not, if you are a Republican or a Democrat, you must acknowledge that it is a shocking time in American history that people of such vehemence, such racists - the fact that there is a man [who is going to be] in the Oval Office who espouses clearly white supremacist views. That is a huge, massive shift, and I'm really very, very worried about the implications of that and what's going to happen. I'm obviously not very happy about the situation. But I think it has happened now and we have to try to understand why it has happened and to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's what's important. He is our president. And we have to be vigilant to make sure he is not going to implement all the unconstitutional things he said he would in his campaign. And I think it's a question of being strong, being vigilant. Of picking up the pieces, trying to find out why this happened.

Are you hopeful for the future?

I have hope in the human spirit and I have hope that if you are kind to people they will respond in a positive way. My worry is there is not much kindness in the dysfunctional world right now. That's the worry.

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