BY Brandon Voss
October 29 2009 1:35 PM ET
Two gay men singing traditional love songs could’ve come off as very cutesy and wink-wink. How did you avoid that?
just really wasn’t an option. We wanted to show these songs in their
most raw, purest form. I’ve done a lot of cutesy, wink-wink stuff and
I’m kind of over it right now.
Feinstein’s at Loews Regency
caters to a wealthy, older clientele that’s probably not the most
progressive crowd in town. How did the gay subtext go over?
I’m sure there were some people who were scandalized. I knew the gay guys who saw me in Xanadu
were going to come to see me at Feinstein’s, but Michael’s fan base is
a lot of straight, rich, Upper East Siders. I know for a fact that some
of those people didn’t come because of the thematic elements, but a lot
of people who had never seen Michael ended up seeing him because of it.
There were times during the show I’d overhear an older couple who
couldn’t hear say, “Now, who’s this guy with Michael?” “I don’t know. I
think he played Elvis.” So it was definitely a chance for both of us to
expand our fan bases. But Feinstein’s is really expensive. Another
reason I wanted to do the CD was because hardly any of my friends could
afford to come see the show.
Michael has been known to change the gender in lyrics of female-sung standards -- “The Man I Love,” for example, became “The Girl I Love” -- so it’s refreshing to hear him sing about his “taste in men” in the song “Old Friend” on the album.
Michael grappled with that lyric in particular. He’s always sung it as “my taste in friends,” but when we were recording it in the studio, I said, “Try one where you say ‘my taste in men.’” When he listened to it back, he decided that it was the right decision to sing the lyric with “men.” He’s awesome and has nothing to hide.
You’re starring in the Broadway revival of Finian’s Rainbow, a very old-fashioned 1947 musical that deals with racism. Besides the fact that the new poster looks like a gay pride flag, does this production reflect the civil rights struggles of today?
There weren’t a lot of changes that needed to be made. It’s actually incredibly current, and it’s crazy how much stuff in the show we’re still dealing with. One of the reason people have shied away from the show for so many years is the fact that a racist Southern white senator gets turned black by a leprechaun. They used to use black face or masks, but somebody had the great idea to use two different actors, which is what we do.
30 Rock writer and executive producer Robert Carlock has confirmed that you’ll appear on the series this season as the guy Liz Lemon hires as a new TGS cast member to appeal to a more mainstream audience. What else can you tell me about the role? Is he a love interest for Jenna? Does he turn out to be gay? Will you sing? How many episodes have you shot so far?
You know I would tell you everything and shout it from the rooftops if I could, but I can’t divulge too much. They really thrive on the element of surprise over there. I can tell you that I’ve already been filming and the part will pop up throughout the year. 30 Rock is really like the holy grail of comedy -- the subversive, urbane humor that I respond to. That’s why I was so excited when I got a call that Tina Fey and Robert wanted to talk to me about a part on the show. I feel like I’m at the cool kids table.
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