The titanically handsome, sexy and openly gay star of stage, screen and TV opens the 2015 winter season at the graceful Cafe Carlyle in NYC with his brand-new show, Eyes Wide Open. Originally opened in 1955, Cafe Carlyle is an exceedingly elegant venue for classic cabaret entertainment, where audiences can indulge in close, intimate performances.
Cheyenne Jackson has appeared both on and off Broadway numerous times in productions such as “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “The Heart of the Matter,” “All Shook Up” and “The Performers,” just to mention a few. His film career boasts such movies as “United 93,” “Curiosity,” “Smile,” “Hysteria” and the acclaimed “The Green.” His TV credits include “30 Rock,” “Lipstick Jungle,” “Ugly Betty” and “Glee,” where he portrayed Dustin Godsby, the coach of “Vocal Adrenaline.”
Musically, Jackson has recorded several albums and singles such as “I’m Blue Skies,” which included the single “Before You.” If that weren’t enough, this brilliant performer has twice sold out Carnegie Hall. Now who does that in one single lifetime!
During our conversation I found Cheyenne to be exceptionally soft spoken, almost shy, very sweet and with an overwhelmingly true appreciation and love for his fans.
So you are debuting at Cafe Carlyle’s winter season opening. Can you give us a little sneak preview of what fans can expect from “Eyes Wide Open”?
It’s gonna be…I mean, I’ve never performed there before, so I wanted to definitely honor the space and all the people that have come before me, so I wanted to give you some great old school jazz—Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong—that’s great stuff. And also I’m going to do Lady Gaga, George Michael, Billy Joel
So you’ve got it all!
There’s a reason. There’s definitely a method to my madness.
There’s a whole story I’m creating. The show’s called “Eyes Wide Open.” It’s everything in the last 2 ½ years of my life. I got divorced, I got remarried, I got sober.
Congratulations on the marriage, by the way.
Cafe Carlyle is kind of cabaret style. Have you done cabaret before?
You’ve played major roles on Broadway, you’ve recorded albums, been in films, on TV, you’re married, you’ve been grand marshal of Pride. Is there anything you still wish to achieve?
Oh, sure. I’d like to write a book. I’d like to become a father. I’d like to run a marathon. I’d like to write a musical. Yeah, lots of things, sure.
What inspires you?
My family, my experiences, my friends, my husband, my dog. Things I come in contact with all day long.
So you grew up in a very small town. What was it like for you?
It was great. It was a beautiful way to grow up. I mean, there were 1,200 people in town, so we all knew each other. It definitely had its pluses and minuses, but it was great. We didn’t have electricity for a while. We were forced to use our imaginations when it came to playing and stuff.
You live in the city now?
Have you ever considered doing Fire Island?
I’ve played Fire Island before.
You have? Will you do it again?
I’m sure I will. The last couple of years I’ve done P-town, but yeah, I love Fire Island.
So, how is that new marriage going?
Wonderful, thank you.
And what kind of dog do you have?
I’m not sure; she’s a rescue. I think cocker spaniel, and there’s definitely dachshund in there. She’s adorable. I’ve never had a small dog before. She’s little. She’s only like 25 pounds. She’s very mobile.
How cute. So you’ve done so many different projects. Do you have any particular role that was more of a challenge or more fun for you?
They all have their things that I loved and things that were challenging. My first major movie role was probably my most challenging, “United 93.” I played Mark Bingham. That was definitely powerful, important for me. Also I played Sonny Malone in Xanadu. That was kinda fun to make somebody a dingbat on stage—to actually make him a living, breathing person. I fell in love with all of my characters.
Did you always know that you wanted to be an entertainer while growing up?
Being in the public eye and the media comes with some kind of pressure and responsibility. Being gay and in the public eye, I feel, might add a bit of extra stress to the situation. Is it like that for you?
It used to when I first came out. I was out since I was 19, and my first major show—I mean, I’ve always been out—I felt pressure around that time like, “What should I talk about? Should I use non-specific pronouns?” The pressure was really the pressure I put on myself. But because I’ve never been in the closet as far as work goes, I don’t really know what it’s like. I’ve kinda let the chips just fall. It’s great that it’s becoming less and less of a big deal. I’ve always been out, so I really don’t have a struggle.
If you could pick two celebrities to be your parents, who would you chose?
Wonder Woman and Michael Landon.
Besides Wonder Woman, if you were a superhero, what powers would you want?
I definitely would want to fly.
The story of your life has just hit the headlines. What do the headlines say?
Do you recall any particular funny experience that has happened to you on stage?
OMG, tons of things. The last Broadway play I did was called “The Performers,” and we played adult film stars. I played a porn star, my wife was a porn star, so she and I were getting into a fight before the adult video awards for being nominated for the best actor. So we get into this horrible fight, and she throws the actor’s thing away—she throws a dildo at me. She throws it at me, and I’m supposed to jump over it and make sure it doesn’t go anywhere. I have to jump over it and make sure it doesn’t crash into anything. This one particular night, it hit me, but then it started rolling off stage. It was rolling and rolling, so I had to run down stage and stop it like a soccer ball. And there’s not really a way you can recover that. The audience went crazy, so I literally had to stop the scene and say, “OK, we’re going to take that from the top.” Yeah, I would say it was the rolling dildo.
If you were a porn star, what would your name be?
Good choice! What’s the color of money to you?
I guess green.
You’re a new addition to a crayon box. What color are you?
What’s your favorite thing about humanity?
My favorite thing about humanity is that people are inherently good. It takes a while to realize that sometimes. But I think deep down that people are inherently good, and it gives me hope for humanity.
So you’re naked in a store window and you’re holding a sign. What does the sign say?
“Did anybody see my pants?”
What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you get through it?
Coming out, coming out at 19. How I dealt with it was I joined a gay youth group in Spokane, Washington. I tried to find other people that were like me. I think just by realizing that I wasn’t alone, that was the thing that got me through it. But yeah, that was definitely the hardest.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself, a dad, still working, still running around, still doing Broadway shows and TV shows, concerts, still writing – more of the same. Busy, happy, older, fatter, grayer, but happy.
I feel like you love family, like you’re a big family person.
What’s the one thing that you would want your fans to know about you?
That I appreciate them and love them so much. There are some of them who have seen everything I’ve ever done and have been at every show and never missed a concert. I definitely know when they’re there, and it’s never something I take for granted.
Cheyenne Jackson will be appearing at Cafe Carlyle January 13 through January 24 from Tuesdays to Fridays at 8:45 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.