“The Traitors” host Alan Cumming's 'gayest' role may surprise you: The star looks back at his iconic projects

“The Traitors” host Alan Cumming's 'gayest' role may surprise you: The star looks back at his iconic projects

The Tony winner reflects on "GoldenEye," "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," "Cabaret," "X2," "Spice World," "Josie and the Pussycats," and more.

“Oh my God, all the hits!” Alan Cumming says, letting out a laugh.

We’re halfway through a walk down memory lane and, to paraphrase the Tony winner, the hits do indeed keep coming. Though, in all honesty, his résumé is pretty much all hits. (Okay, maybe there are a few Son of the Masks in the mix — but they are far outnumbered by his Emmy-, Golden Globe-, and Screen Actors Guild–nominated performances.)

Here, the 59-year-old — who recently graced EW’s LGBTQ+ Pride cover — reflects on four decades on screen.

The Traitors (2023- )

<p>Euan Cherry/PEACOCK</p> Alan Cumming on 'The Traitors'

Euan Cherry/PEACOCK

Alan Cumming on 'The Traitors'

"This whole experience of The Traitors has been so great — and partly because it was so left field and unexpected for me. I didn't quite understand why they wanted me to do it. But I met with them and I realized that it was because they kind of wanted me to be theatrical and camp, to play this larger-than-life character, and kind of create the mood of the whole show. Once I understood that, I was really on board. And then, of course, getting to work with costume designer Sam Spector. When I have a costume on, I really understand what to do.

"Having the freedom to push the boundaries we've been doing, that's made it really exciting. And I think it's great to see that working, and with viewers’ interest in the show, so that when we come back to it each season, we kind of up the ante a bit more. It's a really great thing to remember to say yes to life, and say yes to things that you don't really understand or seem a little weird. I think as you get older, you're encouraged not to do that — so, for me, it's been really important to flout that convention. And here I am doing this show that I really enjoy and have such a laugh doing."

Spice World (1997)

David Fahm, Steven O’Donnell, and Alan Cumming in 'Spice World.'
David Fahm, Steven O’Donnell, and Alan Cumming in 'Spice World.'

"I loved making Spice World. I love those girls. And it was just right at the cusp of their greatest time. After that, it all slightly went downhill and went a little sour and Geri [Halliwell] left and everything, but it was just such an amazing time. In that film I wear a chest wig because I wanted to look like Nick Broomfield, the documentary maker — I based the character on him. But I didn't want to have to go into makeup after lunchtime to get my chest wig refitted because it was so itchy. So I just pretended that I didn't take it off, but I did take it off. As a consequence, if you're bored, you could watch Spice World and see my chest wig move up and down in every scene. It’s a fun little drinking game."

X2: X-Men United (2003)

<p>20th Century Fox</p> Alan Cumming in 'X2: X-Men United'

20th Century Fox

Alan Cumming in 'X2: X-Men United'

"Oh, I think the X-Men film I'm in is the gayest film that I've ever done, and that's me saying that. It's got a queer director, lots of queer actors in it. I love the fact that something so mainstream and so in the comic book world is so queer. I think, in a way, those sorts of films really help people understand queerness, because you can address it in an artistic way, and everyone is less scared of the concept. It's an allegory about queerness, about people having these great gifts and really great, powerful things that they have to hide to exist. Queer people understand what that's all about."

Josie and the Pussycats (2001)

<p>Shane Harvey/Universal/courtesy Everett Collection</p> Alan Cumming (front) with Missi Pyle, Paulo Costanzo, Rosario Dawson, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Tara Reid in 'Josie and the Pussycats.'

Shane Harvey/Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Alan Cumming (front) with Missi Pyle, Paulo Costanzo, Rosario Dawson, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Tara Reid in 'Josie and the Pussycats.'

"I had a phase in the early 2000s of doing these bonkers films on the queer scale. Some of them were more coded than others, but, again, about the idea of being manipulated in the media, being used…it was so ahead of its time, in terms of the subliminal messages and the product placement. I just think they didn't quite know how to sell it. They sold it as a kind of kids film, and it really is quite adult and also hilarious. And I was actually in that film doing an impersonation of Richard E. Grant in Spice World. I just copied him."

Cabaret (1998)

<p>Jeff Christensen/Getty Images</p> Alan Cumming and the Broadway revival cast of 'Cabaret.'

Jeff Christensen/Getty Images

Alan Cumming and the Broadway revival cast of 'Cabaret.'

"A thing about Cabaret, [it was kind of like The Traitors]: Why are they asking me? Because at the time, in the early ’90s when I did it in London [on the West End] for the first time, I didn't do musicals. I'd never done a musical before, and I was a little snobby about it. And so again, there's an example of why it's good to say yes to something new, something that scares you. And luckily the way I wanted to do it was exactly the way [director] Sam Mendes wanted to do it, which was to sort of do this gritty vibe — really embody the character with what it would've been like to work in one of those clubs in the Weimar Republic, and that involved a lot of sexual sort of openness.

"And so when I came to [Broadway] with it, it was hilarious being so objectified in my early 30s, like my nipples being mentioned in gossip columns and things like that. It was sort of hilarious, but I think it was a really positive thing — a really positive sexual statement to put out. Especially at a time in America in the late ’90s when there was such great scandal and sensationalism and shame around sexuality because of the Clinton scandal."

The L Word (2006)

<p>Liane Hentscher/Showtime</p> Alan Cumming and Daniel Sea on 'The L Word.'

Liane Hentscher/Showtime

Alan Cumming and Daniel Sea on 'The L Word.'

"It's so funny, whenever anyone says to me, 'I saw you on The L Word,' I always say, 'Oh, so you saw me getting f---ed up the ass by a lesbian with a strap-on, then.' And they just go, 'Hmm.' Because that's what happened to me, which is something of a TV first. Yes, it was a lot. That was a lot. And Daniel [Sea, who played Max Sweeney,] and I had a very close bond because of that. When you do something like that with someone, you take many leaps in your friendship. But yeah, that was great. And one time I was in New York, and I went to this bar, and I was going in and they said, 'Oh, you can't come in. It's girls only. Lesbian night.' And I was like, 'Oh.' And they went, 'Oh! Alan! You are an honorary lesbian. You can come in.' So I liked the fact that I got my lesbian chops, as it were."

Schmigadoon! (2021-23)

Fred Armisen and Alan Cumming in 'Schmigadoon!' season 1.
Fred Armisen and Alan Cumming in 'Schmigadoon!' season 1.

"It was such a great idea. And playing the repressed gay mayor, Mayor Menlove — that was hilarious. There's this great song and then he reprises it when he's going to come out, but sadly he does it at someone's funeral, so kind of bad timing. [Laughs] I loved the fact that I had a love scene with Fred Armisen, something that I didn't think would happen in my life, but I love Fred and it was so cute. I really loved making that. And then the next one, I got to be all butch and Sweeney Toddy. So fun. I was sad when Schmigadoon! was canceled because I was really looking forward to the [third season]."

GoldenEye (1995)

<p>MGM/UA</p> Alan Cumming in 'GoldenEye.'


Alan Cumming in 'GoldenEye.'

"It's one of those films that people still freak out about. Maybe it has to do with the video game, which is iconic. People always ask me to say, 'I'm invincible' — still shout at me in the street and everything. It’s great to have a catchphrase. But one of the things I always remember is there was a hair company sponsoring the film and they'd put this stuff in our hair to 'activate' it, and then 20 minutes later did something else to it. They'd literally come to your dressing room and say, 'Alan, could you come have your hair activated, please?' I just thought, 'Oh, that must be what they do in these big blockbuster films,' because it was my first big movie.

"A couple years later, I was visiting Pierce [Brosnan, who played James Bond in the movie,] and I saw he actually had some in his bathroom! We were laughing about it, and he went and got it and put it in his hair and then on his leg hair and chest hair and was running around saying, 'I'm activated! I'm activated!' It was so hilarious. I suppose that's what I think about most of that film: what a goofball Pierce is."

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)

<p>Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection</p> Lisa Kudrow, Alan Cumming, and Mira Sorvino in 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.'

Buena Vista/courtesy Everett Collection

Lisa Kudrow, Alan Cumming, and Mira Sorvino in 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.'

"Again, another thing where I don't know why they asked me. It was the first film I'd ever made in Hollywood, and it was one of the first things I ever read when I came here to sort of whore myself around. It was just so clever and witty. It's one of these films that some people are obsessed with. There was a screening of it in Atlanta recently, and it was feverish. It was almost culty. It's great to be a part of something like that, that people are so passionate about.

"I think what's great about the [upcoming] sequel to Romy and Michele is just going back to something that is so beloved and having a relationship with these characters. I actually know what the story is, and it's really good. So I'm excited. I'm excited to go back to it."

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.