In his latest film, The Green, which was just released on Video on Demand, the openly gay star plays Daniel, a caterer who lives with his partner Michael (played by Jason Butler Harner) on the Connecticut shore. Their lives are turned around when Michael, a high school drama teacher, is wrongfully accused of inappropriate behavior with a young male student.
"It's not a 'gay' film per se, it's a human film," says Jackson. "I get offered a lot of so-called gay movies, but most don't appeal to me or I don't really connect, to be frank. But when this came in, I just loved the relationship between Jason's character and mine, and I liked what it has to say about homophobia and fear and pre-judgment of people and about living in a small town. I'm from a very small town on the Idaho/Washington border where everybody knows everybody's business."
The film comes at a significant period in gay rights history: the U.S. Military's "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" rule was just repealed by the Armed Services, and gay marriage became legal in New York just four months ago, allowing Jackson to marry his longtime domestic partner, Monte Lapka, last month. Yet the actor, an Ambassador for amFar, admits the film's message is still timely. "Homophobia is still rampant in America," he notes. "That's exactly why I feel this movie is important right now."
Still, Jackson has long been open about his own sexual orientation, without any regrets. "I never made an issue of my sexuality. I got it out of the way so people can focus on what I'm doing," he says. "I think it really comes down to 'Do you have what it takes to make material come to life, are you interesting, are you good?' It's acting! With movies, I haven't always gotten the roles I've tested for, but then neither have half the other 35-year-old actors in America."
With his classic good looks -- Jackson would be the perfect choice to play the late star Rock Hudson in a biofilm -- it's not surprising that Jackson has found considerable work on television, including stints as the redoubtable vocal coach Dustin Goolsby on FOX'sGlee, actor Danny Baker on NBC's 30 Rock, and personal trainer Terry on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
"Television was never something I sought out, but what I found was I really loved the process," he notes. "I get bored very easily, so doing a long run of a Broadway show is hard for me. While I love the immediacy of stage -- whatever happens in the theater is a shared experience -- being in a show like Xanadu for 15 months can make it really hard to maintain that verve. On television, even with the waiting around, you're doing new material, and I like that you're constantly having to make it work."
And there's a bigger return to the stage on the horizon. "I really want to do a play. I wanted to do The Normal Heart and Seminar, but there were scheduling issues," he notes. "However, there is a play opening on Broadway in the spring that I plan to do, but my producer said we can't announce it yet. It's very exciting."
Coming up before then, however, Jackson will join the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall on Friday. November 18 for Cheyenne Jackson's Cocktail Hour: Music from the Mad Men Era. "I picked the songs and the order and it's my baby! There will be lots of Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack, such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, plus some Nat King Cole and Burt Bacharach," he reveals. "I've got some surprises, and some fancy guests, and there will be some chat. And my parents are coming in from Idaho and my brother and sister are coming from California. It's a dream come true."