Alan Cumming on Kindness to Animals and Resistance to Trump

Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming is fighting the good fight.

No, the actor who played political operator extraordinaire Eli Gold on The Good Wife isn’t appearing on the spin-off series by that name — but he’s working for a variety of progressive causes in real life, supporting both human and animal rights.

“If you believe in kindness and equality, it’s something you take with you to all areas of your life,” says the bisexual performer, who balances his activism with a busy career in film, television, music, and theater. “I think you have a responsiblity in your life to cause the least despair in the world.”

Cumming, who has been a vegan for about eight years, believes that kindness should extend to nonhumans, and for that reason he’s involved with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In February, when bringing his Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs cabaret show to Miami, he sent out a plea to the Miami Seaquarium to free its lone orca, Lolita, and send her to a coastal sanctuary.

“She and I have much in common,” he wrote to Fernando Eiroa, CEO of the Seaquarium’s parent company, Parques Reunidos. “We both hail from the cooler north, and we’re both in our early 50s. However, over the past five decades, I’ve been able to travel the world and pursue my dreams, while she has languished in the smallest, oldest orca tank in the world. I’m writing to ask that you free her.” And with no orca companion, Lolita has “no opportunity to socialize or interact with other members of her species — which is agonizing for such a social and intelligent animal,” he wrote.

Cumming stresses that he’s not against all zoos and marine parks, as “sometimes they’re the only protection the animals have,” but he campaigns for humane treatment of captive animals.

There’s been no response to his letter, but in the past, park operators have said Lolita receives “world class care and attention” at the Seaquarium. A judge last year dismissed a suit brought by PETA to free the orca, saying the matter should be addressed legislatively, not in the courts.

But Cumming has seen some victories with his PETA activism. He participated in the group’s 2016 “Not a Dairy Queen” campaign, calling on Dairy Queen to offer vegan options, and now it is, he says. He hosted a fundraising event for PETA’s captive-animal campaign while in Florida, and he’s thinking of doing a benefit concert for the group.

Not that Cumming’s activism excludes his own species. He supports a variety of LGBT, AIDS, and other human rights organizations, including GLAAD, the Hetrick-Martin Institute, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, amfAR, the Trevor Project, the Family Equality Council, Planned Parenthood, and the United Nations Refugee Agency.

And he is dedicated to resisting the current occupant of the White House. “The biggest thing we have to do is to make sure we don’t normalize him,” says Cumming, who spoke out strongly against Donald Trump before the election and has continued to do so since. Born in Scotland, Cumming is a naturalized U.S. citizen, so he can vote here.

He urges fellow citizens to be involved in politics, and his website refers readers to sources where they can learn the most effective ways to communicate with their legislators. And a fan sent him a condemnatory letter aimed at Trump, written in the style of 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns, calling him among other things “thou peacock of unabashed ignorance,” and Cumming has taken to reading it to the audience at the end of his Sappy Songs shows.

He expects to wind up Sappy Songs in June with some dates in Australia; before that, he has some appearances scheduled in the U.S. as well, which are listed on his website. He has a lot of other things going on too. His film After Louie just screened at the BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival; in it, he plays a New York artist who lost many friends and lovers to AIDS, now beginning a relationship with a younger man. Another film due out this year is Battle of the Sexes, about the 1973 Billie Jean King–Bobby Riggs tennis match, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell; Cumming plays Ted Tinling, a British tennis pro who became a noted designer of clothing for the sport.

Now he’s shooting a TV pilot in New York, where he lives with his husband, illustrator Grant Shaffer, and their dogs, Jerry and Lala. In the proposed series, titled Instinct, he portrays a Yale University professor and former CIA agent who gets drawn back into the espionage game. Like Cumming, the professor is married to a man.

And no, he says, Eli Gold won’t turn up on The Good Fight, at least in the first season, undoubtedly to the disappointment of some fans. But Cumming plans to keep fighting the real-world good fight. “If I have a platform, I’ll stand up for things,” he says.

Tags: People, Politics

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