Alan Cumming on Playing Mayor Menlove in 'Schmigadoon!'

A star of the screen and stage, Alan Cumming has no shortage of memorable roles, whether it’s Eli Gold on The Good Wife or Emcee in two revivals of Cabaret. While speaking with ET, the longtime actor opens up about his two latest projects, playing Mayor Menlove in the Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon! and directing the Audible podcast Hot White Heist

When it comes to the musical comedy, which was filmed in Vancouver last fall as many projects resumed production during the pandemic, Cumming was ready to get back to work after six months spent in the Catskills with his husband. And playing a closeted mayor of a 1940s musical town opposite the likes of Kristin Chenoweth, Fred Armisen, Jane Krakowski and leads Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, was enticing enough. 

“First of all, it was actually nice to sing again,” Cumming says, adding that his “part is hilarious, the way he’s pining away in Schmigadoon for the minister.”  

A send-up of the Golden Age of musicals, the show references several Rodgers and Hammerstein productions, including Carousel, Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music. And for Cumming, it was a welcome education, learning more about that era of musical theater. “I loved that whole structure of it being like this homage and a parody at the same time,” he says.

In fact, one of Cumming’s standout moments as Mayor Menlove comes halfway through episode two, “Lover’s Spat.” Alone at the creek, he starts singing “Somewhere Love Is Waiting for You,” which is a parody of “Some Enchanted Evening” from the 1949 musical South Pacific.  

But it’s later in the season, when the song gets a notable, show-stopping reprise that Cumming is sure will become a staple among gay fans. “When you go into any gay bar on a Monday, it’s usually musical Mondays around the world. And whenever I go in, they usually put on ‘Willkommen’ from Cabaret. Now, I think it’ll be, ‘I’m a homosexual,’” he says, while singing the line from the reprise. “That’s going to be played every time I enter gay bars.” 

While the song is drenched in humor, it’s also an emotional breakthrough for the character. And for Cumming, he loved seeing the mayor go on this emotional arc, from “being a cardboard cutout into having this tender sort of storyline and dealing with it all.”

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And while it may seem like an added bonus, to have this LGBTQ storyline playing out while a straight couple tries to figure out if they’re truly in love is something that is important to Cumming. “I feel really strongly about people living their true selves and getting comfortable enough to see who they really are,” he says, adding later that it was a conscious decision to make a similar statement with Hot White Heist

Starring a “murderers’ row of queer talent,” including Bowen Yang, who also serves as a writer on Schmigadoon!, Cynthia Nixon, Jane Lynch, Mj Rodriguez and many, many others, the podcast follows a crew of misfits from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum as they attempt to steal frozen sperm of some of the greatest minds in history from a secret bunker beneath Seattle, Washington’s Space Needle. 

It is a parody of heist movies, “which is a very straight, white domain,” Cumming says, adding that the concept created by Adam Goldman is one example of addressing the “absence of queerness in parts of our culture.” 

And when it comes to Yang, who leads the podcast as the put-upon criminal Jude “Judy” Fink, he really admires his performance. “That was a lot to do, to be in every single scene of that series,” Cumming says, adding that they were supposed to work together a third time, on Yang’s upcoming film, Fire Island, which begins filming later this summer. “I was going to be in it but my dates didn’t work out with this thing I’m shooting.” 

That said, Cumming adds, “One of the great things about being an actor is that you work with all different people in different sorts of spheres.” And when it comes to Yang, they may soon work together again if Hot White Heist lives to see another day, possibly in another format. 

“I like the idea of that group maybe coming back to do crime-busting, now that they are a team, and see what else they could do,” he says, sharing that he also hopes Schmigadoon! returns for a season 2. “There was some talk of another series set in another musical theater era. I think it would be great to all get back together.”  

New episodes of Schmigadoon! debut Fridays on Apple TV+.

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