Why Everyone, Including Alan Cumming’s Mother-in-Law, Is Talking About the Actor’s Sex Scenes (Exclusive)
By Chris Azzopardi
In Alan Cumming's latest film, After Louie, the celebrated screen and theater actor, who is back on CBS with Instinct, portrays grief-stricken LGBTQ activist Sam Cooper, still mourning the loss of his lover to an AIDS-related death over two decades ago. Enter a carefree, 20-something Braeden Devries (Zachary Booth), who ends up at Sam’s place after the two meet at a bar. Cocktails lead to rough, hand-slapping sex -- and, yes, Cumming watched that very scene with his mom and mother-in-law.
"Can you imagine having your mom there?" Cumming asks ET, laughing as he recalls sitting with both women at Frameline, San Francisco's long-running LGBTQ film festival, in June of last year.
“Grant's mom said, 'I love the sex scenes! I thought they were great!'" he says, referring to Grant Shaffer, his husband of six years. "I was like, ‘Please stop talking about the sex scenes. I do not want to have a discussion with my mother-in-law about me, you know, having my hand over the mouth of someone as I'm penetrating him."
However, plenty of people do want to talk about Cumming being nearly nude in the film, which is now streaming VOD. To appear older for the role, the 53-year-old actor packed on a few additional pounds and grew a beard.
"It's like people dancing -- someone's sexy when they're dancing, when they're comfortable in their own skin and comfortable with their own body, and they can be any size or shape," Cumming says. "So, I'm glad people are thinking, 'Oh, there's a middle-aged man naked.' If that inspires or helps them, you're welcome.”
But After Louie reaches beyond sexual desire, tackling the generational divide that exists between two gay men: Sam, who lived through the AIDS crisis but can't shake its lingering trauma; and Braeden, who's only ever known HIV as a manageable disease.
"As someone who lived through the AIDS crisis and identifies as queer, I can remember feeling scared of AIDS; I can remember feeling angry about the way that people who had HIV were stigmatized," Cumming says, recalling AIDS as "literally a plague."
Cumming was struck by first-time director and longtime gay activist Vincent Gagliostro's unique vision, this "schism between these two generations," and believes its queer niche-ness has universal appeal. "Why do we think our stories aren't important enough for a mainstream audience to witness and enjoy? In all sorts of ways we pigeonhole ourselves," he says about LGBTQ-themed cinema.
Cumming understands why, of course: The Scotland-born actor, whose first U.S. feature was 1997's cult comedy Romy and Michele's High School Reunion opposite Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino and has recently appeared in The Battle of the Sexes and on The Good Wife, had doubts that his personality and sense of humor would be understood in America. But, Cumming says people should be concerned about hearing everybody's story.
"It's actually a great time for this film," he says. "Even the Me Too movement is essentially a kind of treatise on how the older generation has let down their younger peers because they have allowed a behavioral pattern to be unchecked."
When Cumming revels in the diverse crowd at his New York City nightclub, Club Cumming in the East Village, he’s gripped by a sense of kindness as "all genders and sexes and sexualities come and co-mingle, and feel relaxed, safe and happy with each other." Witnessing that melting pot of clubgoers has been his "biggest pride."
Of course, the actor also feels proud that his new procedural, Instinct, debuted on CBS to impressive ratings, spiking during its second episode, which aired after Anderson Cooper’s highly anticipated 60 Minutes interview with adult star Stormy Daniels, who detailed her alleged sexual relationship with the current president. "Our [ratings] went up by a million and a half -- and that, of course, is in part due to the lovely Stormy Daniels, and that's a great thing."
Laughing, Cumming says, "It's the one thing I will ever thank Donald Trump -- for allegedly having sex with Stormy Daniels -- because it made my TV show get better ratings."
Furthermore, the actor praises the sexuality of his character, CIA operative Dylan Reinhart, the first gay lead in a network TV drama, for being "handled really nicely [and] with dignity." "There are millions of people out there in America who have never seen a gay character on TV like this," Cumming adds, "but also have never probably seen a same-sex marriage on their screens, and are seeing one that is happy and supportive and lovely."
For Instinct, the actor shares the same soundstage with fellow CBS legal drama The Good Fight, a spinoff to The Good Wife, on which Cumming spent the series playing crisis manager Eli Gold. In fact, his Instinct dressing room once belonged to Julianna Margulies, while the two shot the CBS drama. As for a cameo on The Good Fight, which stars Sarah Steele as Eli’s daughter, Marissa Gold, who begins work as an investigator for a law firm: "It was in the cards, but it didn't quite work out contractually," Cumming says. "But who knows. It's still a possibility. They just have to cough up, that's all."