Sitting down to interview Alan Cumming.
Sitting down to interview Alan Cumming.

Am I Really Interviewing Alan Cumming?

Luck is being in the right place at the right time. Fortunately for me, my lucky stars aligned, landing me in a chair across from actor and author Alan Cumming for a one-on-one interview. Yeah, that Alan Cumming—Floop from Spy Kids, as he’s best known to anyone from the ages of 15 to 25. But he’s got many more memorable credits, including roles in Cabaret, X-Men, and the hot series, The Good Wife. The award-winning actor is also is the author of two books. Basically, he’s a Big Deal.

Cumming was at Arcadia for our First Year Speaker series and the Class of 2019 had been assigned to read his memoir, Not My Father’s Son.

Somehow, I wound up in the room with a camera and several people who probably knew much more about interviews than me. I couldn’t help but feel that my life up to this point had failed to prepare me for this interview. True, I’m a Print Communications major, so I wasn’t unqualified. But Alan Cumming?

So how did I get here? I ended up with this honor only because as Editor-in-Chief of the student-run online magazine, Loco Mag, I was the only person on the staff who had an email address set up already. By default, I was the only one who was able to reach out and ask for an interview. That’s the luck part.

But life isn’t just about luck. As they say, “Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity.” And I’d prepared for this by spending my whole life listening to my mother tell me to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. She’s always encouraged me to just put myself out there, so I saw the dots connect—I was on the staff of a magazine, Alan Cumming was coming to campus—and I decided to take my pen and draw a line right between them.

Request more info about Arcadia.

I emailed a few people in charge of the event to request an interview for the magazine. I had assumed that my quest would end there with a no or no response at all, so I was completely surprised when the director of communications emailed back and told me that I could share his interview time. What? I would have a couple of minutes to sit down and interview Alan Cumming.

If little me, sitting on the couch watching Spy Kids all those years ago, had known this would happen, I would have been terrified because Floop was a bad guy, and he’d probably capture me with his giant thumb men. But now, I was terrified because it occurred to me that I’d never actually interviewed anyone before. Would I flop? Would I say something awkward, or ask the wrong questions? Would he take me seriously?

After much anxiety and a couple of hair and wardrobe emergencies, the moment arrived. Cumming came into the room and introduced himself, friendly but focused. The crinkles around his eyes revealed someone who’s spent a lot of time smiling and laughing. He had a relaxed and casual air about him, which should have calmed me, but when it was my turn to interview, my heart beat rapidly and I know my cheeks screamed a fire red. “Come on, Helen!” he said in his inviting Scottish accent, to which I replied with a jovial and hopefully-not-stupid “Hello!”—and then dove right into my questions, not wanting to waste time with too much small talk.

I only had time for three questions, which I’d agonized over for a week. I had narrowed it down to asking about how he coped with writing such a personal memoir, how his career as an actor had prepared him for the publicity tour, and at what point he decided to come out as bisexual. He answered thoughtfully, in no hurry to rush me out because I was a student. He answered with interesting commentary about how being an actor affected other aspects of his life, such as writing and sexuality.

I wished I’d had even more time to talk with him so I could ask him to expand on some of his ideas. My nightmares about an angry actor throwing me out of the room clearly were pure fantasy. And his giant thumb bodyguards turned out to be perfectly nice, too.

So about that thing called “luck.” Part of getting the interview was luck, but the rest was taking the initiative to use that luck and turn it into opportunity. Life gives you a lot of luck, but not everybody takes advantage of their situation. Arcadia has offered me so many valuable opportunities—FYSAE, Preview, and now this—that I’ve taken advantage of. Sometimes it’s at my mother’s urging, but most of the time, it’s because of my own search for adventure and new experiences.

I can no longer say I’ve never interviewed anyone. In fact, I have a rather impressive interview to add to my resume. And the next time I interview someone, I’ll remember that time I sat across from Alan Cumming, and how scared I had been. The interview turned out to be a memorable experience; in fact, most things I’m nervous about end up being really great. The scariest part is seeing the opportunity, and taking a leap toward it.