Alan Cumming reveals he was target of death threats over opposition to Donald Trump's presidency

Scottish stage and screen star Alan Cumming has revealed he was subjected to death threats after speaking out against Donald Trump’s presidency.

Alan Cumming is the first guest in the new series of The Cultural Coven podcast.

The New York-based actor recalls his growing fears about living in America under Trump in a new podcast interview in which he calls for a shake-up of the Hollywood film industry in the wake of the Halyna Hutchins shooting tragedy.

Perthshire-born Cumming speaks of his concerns over working conditions for crew members working for more than 15 hours a day on major productions and admits his sympathy for Alec Baldwin, the star involved in the accidental shooting.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Speaking on a new episode of The Cultural Coven podcast, which will be launched on Wednesday, Cumming tells of his hopes for the Scottish film industry with the creation of new studio facilities.In the podcast, hosted by Scottish actress Nicola Roy, Cumming also reveals plans to perform a Robert Burns-inspired dance shot at next year’s Edinburgh Festival, and a possible revival of his famous Fringe double act Victor and Barry with Forbes Masson to mark the 40th anniversary of their creation of the characters.

Alan Cumming staged a series of sell-out shows at this year's Edinburgh International Festival. Picture: Jessica Shurte

And he enters the independence debate again and suggests Scots are being treated as "oiks asking for too much" and "derided and abused" by the current Westminster Government.

The actor, the first star to be interviewed for the new series, was one of the most outspoken Hollywood stars during the Trump Presidency and threatened to leave the US if he was re-elected.

Cumming expresses dismay at how “polarised” the US became under Trump. He also draws a contrast between the impact of the #MeToo movement and the number of women securing positions of power in America, with growing moves to ban abortion in certain states.

He says: “As someone who is living in America right now, I am very aware that the situation we had with Trump could easily come back and come back worse.

Actress Nicola Roy's podcast will be return for a new series on Wednesday.

“At the end of the Trump era, I was really scared. I was getting death threats for posting things. It was a really terrible time. It was very, very polarised.

I felt like: ‘Why am I living in a country I’m scared to be in just for me voicing my political views?’

“Luckily now, the pendulum has swung a little bit and it feels like there is some decency and leadership.

“But I don’t take anything for granted. If you come from a marginalised group in society – I include women in that and queer people definitely – you’ve got to be vigilant. We’ve always had to fight and fight to retain our rights.”

Alan Cumming has just published a new memoir.

Asked about his support for Scottish independence, Cumming said: “I feel we have been derided and abused by the Westminster Government.

“Even if you don’t feel the same way I do about self-determination, how much worse could it actually be to have the sensible people who have been doing a good job governing Scotland continuing and going the whole hog.

"If you look at Nicola and Boris she is just in a different league. I can’t imagine why anyone would think otherwise.”

The interview with Roy was recorded the week after the Hollywood shooting tragedy. The 42-year-old cinematographer was shot on the set of western film Rust in New Mexico when Baldwin fired a gun loaded with a real bullet.

Cumming, who secured American citizenship in 2008, says: “Here in America, the union for crew members have been deciding whether to go on strike or not because of the long hours, which then make people slightly reckless or negligent.

"It’s a terrible, terrible thing, but the timing of it is actually incredibly prescient.

“I have been reading about this film. People have been walking off it because they had to do these 100-mile round trips to go to work and they were exhausted.

“I think people don’t realise that you work 15 hour days. We actors get to lie down in our trailers and are kind of looked after and pampered because we’ve got to turn it on when we’re on camera. But the crew have to do those days and longer sometimes.

“It’s not right. Things have to change in terms of safety and the mental health of people. which can really get affected.

“This is a horrible thing. I really do feel bad for Alec Baldwin, because how do you recover from that?

“But it’s actually quite timely. We probably need to look at why we do such ridiculous hours.

“Hopefully this will make a big review happen of on-set practices.”

Cumming also speaks out on problems with bullying in the stage and screen industries and the importance of calling out bad behaviour.

He adds: “I’ve always felt that if things aren’t fair you have to do something about it.

"Sometimes people behave to you how they think you’re going to behave. They think you’re going to be a sort of drama-queeny diva, partly because they would maybe like to do that. They associate power with being able to behave badly to people.

“I’m not like that and it really p***** me off when I see people who around me being mean to other people because they feel that being in my orbit means they can.

“Men get away with it (bullying) much more. If a man is really sh**** on a set or at work people say: ‘He’s so demanding, he’s such a perfectionist.’ If a woman does it she is a bitch.”

Asked about the potential impact of the new film studios which have opened, Cumming says: “Film people are dying to come to Scotland. To make it easier for films to shoot there is a no-brainer. It’s crazy we’ve left it for so long.

"It is really exciting. I’d love to work more in Scotland.

"You can be in so many different places in a short distance. That’s what film people need.

“I’ve shot tonnes of things in Vancouver because there’s mountains, there’s sea, there’s everything and there are great sound stages.

“It’s a really good investment. What then happens is that infrastructure builds up, you have crew who come to work there and they stay. People will come because of the great crews. It’s really important to train young crew members and people new to the business, so there is a longevity and a structure there.”

Cumming was asked about the prospect of working with Forbes Masson again and revealed they could take to the stage together next summer. Victor and Barry were the comedy-cabaret alter egos of the pair, who met at drama school in Glasgow and found fame by taking the characters to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. They later joined forces to create The High Life, a 1990s sitcom focusing on the cabin crew of an airline.

Cumming said: “One of the things we’ve talked about for a while is doing a musical of The High Life. We were talking about it before the pandemic but it kind of got waylaid.

“Forbes is a little worried that we’re getting too old but I think it will be hilarious that we’re still flight attendants hitting sixty or whatever. I think there would be a lot of flashbacks so that younger versions of us could come in and jump around.

“But Forbes and I are also talking about doing a Victor and Barry thing, because next year will be the 40th anniversary of us making up Victor and Barry. Isn’t that nuts?”

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.