March 28, 2018 at 12:50 pm EDT | by Susan Hornik
Alan Cumming on his new role on CBS’s ‘Instinct’
Alan Cumming, gay news, Washington Blade

Alan Cumming says he appreciates that his character being gay is not the main thing on his new show ‘Instinct.’ (Photo courtesy CBS)

Alan Cumming continues to fascinate audiences. He’s enjoying a bit of a second career wind with his new role on the CBS procedural drama “Instinct,” which debuted March 18.

Once dubbed a “bawdy countercultural sprite” by the New York Times and one of the most fun people in show business by Time magazine, the well-rounded actor is known for Broadway (“Cabaret,” “The Threepenny Opera”), TV (“The Good Wife”) and film appearances in everything from “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” to the Stanley Kubrick swan song “Eyes Wide Shut” and a whole lot more.

He’s also active in LGBT and HIV/AIDS causes. Cumming, 52, serves on the board of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and works with many charities, including amfAR, the Trevor Project and the Ali Forney Center.

Adapted from the book “Murder Games” by James Patterson, “Instinct” gives Cumming the chance to play an author and university professor who wrote a book that is inspiring a serial killer.

It’s off to a strong start. Its pilot episode drew more than 9 million viewers and gay TV critic John Griffiths called the show a “not-too-twee crime solver in the cozy tradition of entertaining whodunnits like ‘Barnaby Jones’ and ‘Cannon.’”

There was a caveat though: “Just hope the scripts don’t get bogged down in serial killer stuff,” Griffiths writes. “Cumming is too classy to be saddled with gruesome and silly plots.”

During January’s Television Critics Press Tour in Los Angeles, Cumming talked about why he was drawn to play this role.

On his character: “Well, really just that it’s such a sort of confounding character. There’s so many different layers to it. He’s sort of a fuddyduddy professor, a bit of a dandy. He is a kind of former spy. He drives a motorbike. He’s gay. … I guess the challenge was to make them all into one sort of whole person.”

On playing a gay character: “I think this is an incredible thing and also a terrible thing at the same time. It definitely was another layer to the character that makes it interesting to play. But socially and politically, especially in the time that we find ourselves in America, where gay people are being persecuted again and their rights are being removed. And the president is actively condoning, by his silence, violence and persecution against the LGBT community … I think it’s all the more important that we should have a character with a healthy, successful same-sex marriage on network screens.”

On the cultural climate: “I really do applaud everyone at CBS and (production company) Secret Hideout for having the courage to put this on right now in an environment or a climate that you might think possibly might not be the best time to do that. But I think it’s actually the perfect time. It needs to be done, and I’m really proud to be a part of that.”

On the tangential nature of his character’s sexuality: “In terms of my marriage on the show, I was very conscious. You know, I am married to a man, (in real life) so I brought that to the table. But also, I was very conscious of the fact that I think most times when we see gay characters on American television especially, their gayness is, like, the prime thing. And there’s also the gayness is somehow a problem. And what I think is really refreshing about this and what I was definitely advocating was that there’s a successful relationship and very supportive of each other, and it’s also the fourth or fifth most interesting thing about the character.”

On doing some of his own stunt work: “What’s funny when you do these things is when you have a stuntman. I always say stunt people look like inflated versions of you, because they’re big, muscley guys. It’s like someone’s inflated them, like the Michelin Man. So what’s so great in this is I have two stuntmen — a motorbike stunt double and a punching stunt double. And my punching one looks really like my body type. He’s not all built. He looks kind of like me, except he’s 30 years younger than I am. It’s a very, very affirming thing to go in and see that a person 30 years younger than you is trying to be you.”

On pulling it off: “And also, the other good thing is there’s a scene where I have to sort of bring down a serial killer. And they were all going, ‘Oh, Alan, so the stuntman is going to do this.’ And they said, ‘Well, would you like to try once just to see if you can do it? We can use as much as we can of your face.’ I said, ‘All right.’ So I did it, and you know, I’m quite fit. And I did it and brought the man down. And all the crew clapped. And I was, like,‘Are you clapping because I’m old, or am I’m butcher than you thought? What’s going on here?’ I really like doing those things because it’s a bit out of my normal thing. But also, the fact is, the older I get, the more I enjoy doing whoopass kinds of things.”

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