Quick Wit: Michael Cumpsty
One of the stars of Copenhagen talks science, music, politics, and anatomy with Christina D'Angelo.
He's been a recurring character on Star Trek: Voyager, a regular on L.A. Law, has frequently wrestled with the language of Shakespeare in productions of Hamlet, Cymbeline, and Timon of Athens. In addition, he's raced Anglican demons in David Hare's Racing Demons, and suited the role of the suitor in the Broadway revival of The Heiress. Several seasons ago, Cumpsty also bellowed against the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Roundabout's award-winning Broadway revival of 1776. Now Cumpsty, a handsome, British-born actor possessed of virile charm and not-too-shabby countenance, co-stars with Philip Bosco and Blair Brown in what promises to be the most cerebral, visceral play of the season, Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, directed by Michael Blakemore. If you were a figure skater what showtune would you skate to? I just went to see Les Miserables for the very first time the other night to see Gregg Edelman--you know, we worked together in 1776, and we had such a great time. So since I've not been able to stop singing the songs from the show, I guess I'd have to pick "Do You Hear the People Sing?" What are your three favorite books? Well, I don't know if it's one of the best books I've ever read, but it parallels my life so closely that I'm going to say John Fowles' Daniel Martin. It's about an Englishman who is trying to get into an American frame of mind and into show business. And Jung Chang's Wild Swans was astonishing. Right now, I'm obsessed by the character I'm doing, Werner Heisenberg, and I'm doing a lot of research and reading biographies. There's a brilliant book that's quoted by the playwright as his principal source that's written by David Cassidy called Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg. It's some 600 pages, but the last 200 are just appendices and notes so you don't have to read that. The book is really fantastic. Who is the devil: George W. Bush or John McCain? I really like John McCain. He really attacks the fundamentals of how government works and wants to restore the principals. I definitely think Bush is the devil, he's really an idiot. What is your favorite line from a play or film? I saw Road Warriors 17 times. There's a scene when Mel Gibson is trying to tell the feral people where the gasoline is and he says "You wanna to get outta here--you talk to me." What is the most annoying thing an audience member has ever done while you were on stage? Oh, people in the front row whose cell phones ring and they actually take the call--really incredible. Once, in the final scene when I was doing The Heiress with Cherry Jones, at the most important part of the play when we don't know if Cherry's character will answer the door or not, a woman in the front row said, "Mmmm, nice couch." And another time, while doing 1776, a woman in the second to last row opened up a brown paper bag and passed fried chicken down the aisle! What is your favorite ethnic dish? Veggie curry. What is in your CD player right now? It's funny. I never really listen to theater music, but the other day I was listening to John Raitt's "Soliloquy" from the original cast recording of Carousel--it's truly magnificent. What is your favorite cocktail? Oh, I love Mojitos. I just discovered them about a year and a half ago. I also love Cosmopolitans, and by the way, I make a fierce margarita. What is the most important thing in your medicine cabinet? Dental floss. I'm a big flosser. What is the first thing you reach for when you wake up? A glass of water. Name five of the best cities that you've visited. Capetown, South Africa. I lived there between the ages of 9 and 16. The wine region there is astoundingly beautiful. Rio...Paris...Amsterdam--the Van Gogh Museum moved me to tears and I'm not one to get that emotionally moved by things like that. The colors, the emotions, it was so moving. And, of course, as an Englishman, I have to say London. Autumn or spring? Autumn. Morning or night? Night. Bonus question: Name three female Heads of State, living or deceased: Golda Meir, Israel. Margaret Thatcher, England. Indira Gandhi, India. Do you think I have a fat butt? (laughs) No, I don't think so.