Alan Cumming's 'Good' Cause

by Jarett Wieselman 8:02 AM PDT, March 16, 2012
Photo: CBS

Since joining midway through season one, Alan Cumming has been a force of nature (uncontrollable, unmistakable and unbelievable) on CBS' The Good Wife. And since the show has shifted from Tuesdays to Sundays, it has dominated the evening. On March 17, Alan is extending his reign to Saturday as he teams up with XL Nightclub for a one-night only cabaret show, benefiting The IGLHRC!

I recently caught up with the two-time Emmy-nominee to talk all about the benefit, as well as what you can expect from Eli Gold this year (and next!) on The Good Wife!

ETonline: The Good Wife is the first time you've been a series regular, how have you enjoyed the experience?
Alan Cumming: It's been kind of funny -- part of the reason I love it and the audience enjoys it is because it’s strange to see Alan Cumming playing a role like this [laughs]. We're both really enjoying the fact we didn't think I would be doing something like this. Right now, I'm in my dressing room in cargo pants and a sweatshirt, but I've got Eli's helmet hair, so I'm halfway into the transformation. As soon as I see myself in that suit, I think, "Who the f*** is that old guy?" [laughs] It's hilarious.

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ETonline: Do you find Eli in that transformation?
Cumming: Yea, totally. When I rehearse in my own clothes, I feel weird. It's all about being buttoned up -- that's why his suit buttons are always closed. The look of him really dictates the character and it's funny, when I see myself, I don't recognize myself. I'm a middle-aged man, I suppose, but I don't feel like one and I would never look like that in my real life. Playing Eli is fun because it's like having a secret life.

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ETonline: And I think it says a lot about the show that currently you're embroiled in a love affair with women played by Parker Posey and Amy Sedaris. If you had pitched me that idea beforehand, I would have said...
Cumming: What are you smoking? [laughs] You couldn't make that up – me, Parker Posey and Amy Sedaris in a love triangle? I mean, it's so crazy! Here's a spoiler for you, Parker and I have sex in an episode coming up. So I've done two post-coital sex scenes -- and I like Eli's hair to be floppy afterwards so you know the helmet is off.

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ETonline: But The Good Wife isn't your average procedural although it does have many of those elements. What is it about this show you enjoy the most?
Cumming: The show is it never tells you what to think. So many shows like this today are very polemic. But I think we do a great job of showing you all the sides. Our characters aren't black and white. There's not one good guy and one bad guy. Everyone does despicable things but they also do really touching things. I love that our show makes you feel sympathy for people you might not actually like. Look at Alicia -- she does all these things which don't make conventional sense. And there's something coming up that Alicia does which is so shocking, fans might not understand it. But that's what I love about our show: you see the dilemmas so you understand why she makes the decision even if you don't agree with it.

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ETonline: The Good Wife was recently renewed for a fourth season. Will you be a part of it in the same capacity?
Cumming: Yes. I will be. Without giving too much away, season four will see Eli back on the campaign trail more.

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ETonline: Can you say whether he'll be helping Peter (played by Chris Noth) for Governor or Vanessa (played by Parker Posey) for Senator?
Cumming: I can't, but just know one way or another, Eli will be causing trouble in government. I kind of missed that side of him. I've enjoyed the silly stuff with cheese and Bin Laden semen – it's been very crazy for me this season -- but I'm looking forward to going back to Eli's roots.

ETonline: You're very politically involved off-screen as well. Tell me about this cabaret show you're doing Saturday in NYC to benefit The IGLHRC.
Cumming: Well, it's a benefit for The IGLHRC, which is like a watchdog for the human rights abuses against gay people all across the world. It's an organization I didn't know much about and I felt many other people didn't either, so I've become an ambassador and am trying to raise awareness for them. I've been working on this cabaret show for the last few years, but it's not just about raising money; I want to get people talking. We're all still fighting battles in this country. I was just in Kansas City over the weekend and there ain't many gay marriages happening there but it's so shocking when you hear about these kids being killed. It's important to always take a step back and never forget that people are being murdered all over this world.

ETonline: It does seem like a lot of people's interest in these things tend to wain with popularity. Why is it so important to you to keep this cause front and center in people's minds?
Cumming: Because at its roots, it's about a lack of human and civil rights for people. It's as basic as that. There's major discrimination towards the LGBT community all over the world, especially here in America. Some of the hate being spouted by the GOP candidates is horrible. Really homophobic rhetoric in the news every day. And this isn't some extremist group in an attic somewhere, this is mainstream politics talking about really homophobic ideas and threatening to withdraw any kind of equality for the LGBT community. It's shocking, really. I think we've always got to be vigilant because if you look at history, that kind of rhetoric can lead to very, very dangerous outcomes.

ETonline: That said, how do you feel about November's election?
Cumming: I feel very positive about the election. The more that the republican party don't get it together, the better it is for Obama. Although, on a pure human rights level, it's terrifying to hear some of the despicable things they're saying. But I just think, "Go on, be the craziest right wing proselytizer you can be. It's only going to help Obama. He came in on a hands-across-the-aisle platform and look what happened, the republicans said "F*** you" and basically shut down the government. One of my complaints about American politics is that so little actually gets done because it's a two-party system. It gets quite difficult to make big, sweeping changes, but Obama has done a lot within that.

ETonline: So if people buy a ticket, what can they expect to see at your cabaret?
Cumming: It's me, my musical director on the piano, this lovely girl on cello and I will be singing a selection of songs – some you know, most you won't – and telling some hilarious showbiz anecdotes. It's a fun night, a very old fashioned structure. I don't sing pretty songs, I sing songs that have characters – it's pretty hardcore. But all in good fun. I don't do mean. I think you can be funny without being mean.

The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBS and you can purchase tickets to Alan's cabaret, click here!