Alan Cumming on Why He’s Backing Pete Buttigieg, Inspirations for ‘Instinct,’ and His New Book

Leo Barraclough

Alan Cumming, whose CBS procedural, “Instinct,” starts its second season on June 30, is backing Pete Buttigieg in the Democratic nomination race for now, but that may change.

Cumming tells Variety at the Monte Carlo TV Festival: “I was one of the hosts on a fundraiser for Pete Buttigieg, who I really find inspiring…but I don’t know, it is early days. I feel like there are so many of them – it’s like a clown car.”

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Cumming adds that he “feels inspired” by Buttigieg because of the way the Indiana mayor “engages with people.” “American people are so unused to dealing with actual political issues on a daily basis. In Britain and especially in Scotland, people are very politically engaged in a way that Americans aren’t, and it is once every four years they have to actually do something about that,” Cumming says.

“They don’t like – it seems – people to sound like politicians, even though they are politicians,” Cumming says. “So I think [Buttigieg] has that in his favor. He has a very nice way of listening and not just hammering his message but actually engaging with people. And I find that very inspiring and I think a very healthy and hopefully successful thing. And also he’s young.”

That said, Cumming backed Bernie Sanders last time because there were only Sanders and Hillary Clinton as serious contenders, and “Bernie was more progressive, closer to my beliefs,” Cumming says. “But even then I thought he was too old but I thought his ideas were closer to my ethos than Hillary’s. Then I supported Hillary and then…here we are.”

Talking about how he approached his role in “Instinct” as Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a former CIA operative, author and university professor-turned-NYPD consultant, he says he was inspired by shows like “Miss Marple,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Hart to Hart.” “It’s heightened reality. They are not trying to be gritty realism,” Cumming says. “In the second season, the first murder is someone who gets frozen alive in her own cryonic chamber….There’s a little sort of kooky campiness to it.”

Cumming admits he doesn’t watch much TV. “I have no idea who half these people are here,” he says, referring to the other star guests in Monte Carlo, including actors from shows like “NCIS,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Good Doctor,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “Hawaii Five-0.” “The other night I thought Dick Wolf was Ice-T,” he says, laughing. However, he adds that he is watching “Fleabag.” “I love it,” he says.

As well as owning a bar in New York, Club Cumming, and a production company, Club Cumming Productions, with a number of projects in development, Cumming is an accomplished author, and is working on a new book. He followed his debut novel, “Tommy’s Tale,” with his memoir, “Not My Father’s Son,” which became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He also published a book of stories and photographs, “You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams,” and a children’s picture book created with his illustrator husband, Grant Shaffer, “The Adventures of Honey and Leon.”

His new book is another memoir, which will relate his experiences from when he first moved to the U.S., and will recount “lessons I’ve learned, mistakes I’ve made.” Asked what lessons he has learned, he says: “It is to be open to things. Don’t yearn. Don’t close off because you are scared. Try and walk into the world open to ideas and people.”

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