LARUICCI X INTERVIEW MAGAZINE
Dove Cameron and Alan Cumming on Schmigadoon!Sex, Sleep Patterns, and
Alan Cumming’s electrifying performance in 1993’s Cabaret held a global theatrical audience hanging on his every note. Dove Cameron wasn’t born until three years later, but like so many nascent theater nerds, she eventually fell in love with the film, too. “You were just this unbelievable, unfettered, feral expression of feminine and masculine sensuality and power and submission,” she told Cumming, her co-star in the trippy musical comedy Schmigadoon!, over Zoom last month. Filming the show, whose “frenzied” second season premiered on Apple TV this week, the two have become close friends, bonding over boys, politics, and their shared love of all things camp. So, before Cameron went back into the recording studio to finish up an album that’s been gestating since her singles “Boyfriend” and “Breakfast” exploded online, she took a beat to field questions from Cumming about her winding path from Disney-blonde child actor to full-fledged pop star. Below, the two enjoy a serious and occasionally bawdy chat about meditation, Cameron’s world-beating career ambitions, and why kids just aren’t having enough sex these days.
DOVE CAMERON: Hi.
ALAN CUMMING: Hello, lovely. How are you?
CAMERON: Is that a bald cap?
CUMMING: No, this is my real head.
CAMERON: You’re lying.
CUMMING: I shaved my head. Look.
CAMERON: You let them do that?
CUMMING: I had to for my art, my darling.
CAMERON: For your art.
CUMMING: I wear a toupee in this film, so there’s a scene when I had my toupee off and so I had to shave it yesterday. Thank God I was able to keep it until the Oscars party.
CAMERON: Well, I was going to say, your hair looked fabulous the other night.
CUMMING: Well, it was all shaved underneath. Did you have a good time after I saw you?
CUMMING: Coy smile.
CAMERON: But we shan’t talk about that now.
CUMMING: No, I’m glad your needs are being met.
CAMERON: I miss you already.
CUMMING: I know. When are you coming back to New York?
CAMERON: In literally four or five days.
CUMMING: I want to ask you, as a top international, probing journalist. How’s your album coming?
CAMERON: Wow, he’s so briefed on the questions. My album’s coming great. Right after we get off this interview, I’m headed straight back into the studio. You get a new song that you love and then you top it the next day and then you decide that the old ones are trash. So it’s just about finding enough.
CUMMING: So why haven’t you had an album up until now?
CAMERON: That’s a good question. I mean, I really only started writing regularly around the time that “Boyfriend” came out. And it was the first song I ever sat down to write in terms of forming a project.
CUMMING: I remember when we were shooting and you had the little thing on your phone and you could see the downloads, the streams, and it was like a epileptic fit-inducing thing.
CAMERON: Every 30 minutes you go, “How many streams are we at now?”
CUMMING: I loved it.
CAMERON: You love it. You’re my manager.
CUMMING: Totes. So I’m going to tell you my sort of interpretation of what’s happened to you.
CUMMING: So you were a child actor, a young person, Disney things. And then you were segueing into being a grownup actor, and this sort of pop thing exploded. Are you in a funny state because it’s gone in a completely different direction? Or was this your evil plan all along?
CAMERON: No, I think I’m in a funny state, if I’m honest. I always wanted to do music, but I think by the time “Boyfriend” took off, I had kind of made peace with the fact that it was never going to really do what I hoped. I had it in my mind that if I was going to have a music career, it would’ve been when I was on Disney. So I was just kind of enjoying my time making music, with no plans for what would happen. I was signed to a label, but I was sort of making peace with the fact that I wasn’t ever going to be on the stages I had hoped to be on when I was younger.
CUMMING: Right. And then shit hit the fan.
CAMERON: And then the shit hit the fan. And I sort of had to scramble to learn how to be a music artist while I was also out promoting the records, which is sort of the backwards way to do it.
CUMMING: People know you from the “Descendants” films, so there’s a special connection they have with you from a child-like thing. “Boyfriend” must have changed the whole… I guess that audience has grown and are now your music fans.
CAMERON: Yeah, I just knew there was this expectation from parents and from young kids that knew what the image of Disney was. I grew up knowing what it is. Everybody knows what it is. So, it’s kind of easy to fall in line with it because it’s not a mystery what people want from you. I needed to be a certain archetype of young women.
CUMMING: Did you feel squashed and constrained by that?
CAMERON: I just sort of looked at it as “this is my job.” Almost like when you’re representing a firm or you’re living under your parents’ roof, you just know what’s expected. So I didn’t feel squashed by it. I just knew that there was going to be a day when I stopped doing that. I assumed that people would see through it a little bit into sort of the parts of me that people see now. I didn’t know this at the time, but I felt very repressed and I didn’t know what my expressed self would be because I’d never dared to explore that. But once I started to find it and I lost the blonde hair, then “Boyfriend” came out and I came out of the closet. All of those things happened at the same time, as big moments of self-discovery tend to.
CUMMING: Yes. That’s when we got to know each other. And I remember being over in my hotel room having dinner with Ari [DeBose] and Kristen [Chenoweth] and and I remember you wanting to talk a lot about being bi. You were really searching and trying to find who you were in a funny way. And then it all sort of happened.
CAMERON: That was a huge transition personally. I had gone through a big breakup with a man.
CAMERON: I had never even thought about living my life queer because I was so in love with men publicly. And so I think it all happened exactly as it was meant to, just one right after the other. But I think it was a big culture shock for other people.
CUMMING: So then “Boyfriend” came out, and that was bonkers. Was “Breakfast” the next song that you’d written?
CAMERON: Actually, yeah. “Breakfast” was the one I wrote the next day, I think, which is why they sound kind of sonically similar. We took a long time to choose the next single. We shot a music video for “Breakfast” that was just very sexy and very “pop” girl. It was fun and I liked it. But then Roe v Wade happened.
CUMMING: I remember you sending me pictures from the set. So then when Roe v Wade happened and you thought, “Fuck that, I’m going to do something more political”?
CAMERON: It was when we were up in Vancouver and it was so fucking depressing. I felt so desolate and it was so heart-wrenching to see all of the news stories pouring in. Every day when I was at work felt like this little escape, except it’s hard to feel confident going out and living as a woman when you’re watching everyone’s rights being stripped away. So I didn’t want to just put out a music video that was something for people to watch for three minutes. I wanted to contribute to the narrative and make women feel that they could watch this video and have something to stand on, and feel like someone was creating with them in mind, right? Because I so often feel like music and film are forms of escapism. And I think that’s absolutely necessary. But it’s also important to not feel abandoned and neglected by that.
CUMMING: I think what you did was the mark of a true artist. You were affected by something and you decided to make your next piece of work some form of reckoning and protest about it. When I think about it, I’m so shocked by the lack of protests from the pop world during Trump. It’s really disturbing and disappointing. So I thought that was a brilliant thing you did. And how’s your love life?
CAMERON: How’s my love life? It’s good. I have many updates to tell you when we’re both sober and not doing an interview for Interview mag.
CUMMING: Okay. But it’s not a special person?
DOVE CAMERON: Not especially special. I would say there’s maybe a few potential special people.
CUMMING: Good. I’m glad you’re sewing your seeds and having fun.
CUMMING: I’m all for it. It’s so terrible. I feel like this dirty old man, but I’m always encouraging young people to have more sex.
CAMERON: I don’t think that’s dirty. I think that’s very kind.
CUMMING: I just feel some of you are not having as much as you should be having.
CAMERON: I think that’s cool for this generation especially, because people aren’t out and about meeting people and feeling the magic of the moment. I’m not encouraging any unsafe practices, but I do think—
CUMMING: Yeah, there’s been some extenuating circumstances.
CAMERON: Well yeah, some people were isolated. I think we all need to be a little bit more connected.
CUMMING: That’s absolutely true. So, what’s your day like? What do you eat and what do you do? Talk me through it, Dove Cameron.
Laruicci Bull Necklace
CAMERON: I never wake up at the same time. I can never get a sane sleeping schedule, but I feel like that’s just all of us, isn’t it?
CUMMING: Are you sleeping better?
CAMERON: Kind of, yeah. I think that anxiety is the thing that keeps me up. I think I’ve told you this.
CAMERON: Yeah. I think as long as I make sure I get outside during the day, as long as I’ve had a full day where I feel creatively expressed, and as long as I do a good wind down, I’m better. But it really is dependent on my mental health, because when you’re depressed you don’t leave the house and then you don’t get the proper sunlight and then you’re all off course. But I’ve been good.
CUMMING: Do you meditate?
CAMERON: I try to. I think you meditate a lot more often than I do.
CUMMING: I don’t do it as much as I should. But I really think about it. Yoga is a good sort of meditation. I’ve got back into my sort of gym thing with my virtual trainer. He’s a real person, but I just don’t see him. And just having a regular time when I’m not on show, when I’m not doing things for other people or working. Even if it’s going down to the hotel gym or just doing yoga in my room, I really think of that as my time and something special.
CAMERON: I find that when I go to the gym every day, I have to stop halfway through because my brain is so flush with new ideas because of all of the chemicals that the exercise is giving me. I write like a mother fucker when I’m working out. When I’m working out, I could write a whole fucking book in a night.
CUMMING: That’s funny. Do you feel like you have too many ideas?
CAMERON: Absolutely. I have way too many ideas. That’s part of why the album process is taking a long time is because I just want to do so much.
CUMMING: So who’s the person guiding you in that? You’ve got the producer, or is it someone from the record company?
CAMERON: I’m really lucky with Columbia, they kind of just let me do whatever I want. They aren’t really involved in the creative process. They more so just take what I send them and say, “These are our favorites and can you go back in and see what else you could do with this,” or what have you.
CUMMING: But who’s the person that says, “Okay Dove, by April 15th, you need to have given us 10 tracks and then we have to start the marketing campaign.”
CUMMING: Do you have a date?
CAMERON: We have outlines. We’re trying to drop the album this fall. And then I would either go on a short tour in the fall or a big tour at the top of next year.
CUMMING: Does that mean your acting life goes on ice for a while?
CAMERON: Well, kind of. They all have to take turns with each other. This album is obviously the big thing that really matters right now, so it’s taking precedent. But with films and TV there are certain things that we might know six months in advance, and those things we can carve out time for. But sort of how our job is, it’s like, “Hey, there’s something and it starts in three weeks in Albania and then you’re done.” I just can’t take those anymore. It would delay the album like, six months.
CUMMING: Is this the kind of balance that you want to maintain, or do you feel this is more of a finite thing, being an international super-duper pop star?
CAMERON: I want to try to maintain it a little bit. I think once the album’s done and the tour is done—I’m hoping it’s going to be pretty sizable [tour]. I want to do the U.S. I want to do all of Latin America. I want to do the E.U. I want to do the U.K. I want to go to some parts of Asia. I want to do it all and just really wring myself dry for four months or so.
CUMMING: That’s fun.
CAMERON: You can come. Come see me in Tokyo.
CUMMING: So I don’t know if you know, but we are in a show called Schmigadoon!
CAMERON: Oh my god. Shut up.
CUMMING: What was it like for you this season? Because it was a very different experience for me. The first season we all had to quarantine and we were all in this little sort of bubble, this kind of theater camp bubble. And this time it was a bit more frenzied, wasn’t it?
CUMMING: Interestingly, because the subject matter of the first one was 1950s Hollywood musicals. And this one’s all dark and weird and jangly, because it’s the sixties and the seventies.
CAMERON: But that’s our favorite. It was a much heavier lift and we weren’t quarantined anymore. Everything was much less straightforward. But without saying too much, I was so happy to have so many different storylines with so many different people. I feel like our wee storyline is one of my favorites.
CUMMING: So cute. And I think what was so great was Schmigadoon!, the first season, was so beautifully well-crafted and clever. And his one’s got a darker edge, it’s more biting and sort of dangerous. And I think that not only reflects the musicals of that era, but it’s also an interesting progression. I’ve never done this before. What do they call it in America, when it’s the same people?
CAMERON: An anthology?
CUMMING: Anthology, yes. I really like it and I’ve enjoyed it as an audience member very much, because I love seeing the same people and thinking, “Oh, what are they going to be like this time?”
CAMERON: Both of our characters really do a heavy switch and that’s so fun.
CUMMING: I’ll say.
CAMERON: I mean, I got my own number this time, which was really, really fun.
CUMMING: I think it’s pretty clear that from the trailer that you’re doing a sort of Sally Bowles-esque person. What was that like? Was that exciting?
CAMERON: Yeah. Obviously, speaking to you, I grew up loving “Cabaret” so much and obviously I grew up watching the film, watching whatever bits and bobs I could find of your performance online. I was definitely one of those kids who was besotted by “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” I was always sort of hiding this weird, creature-esque “Rocky Horror Picture Show” girl.
CAMERON: You were so perfectly cast in that role. You were just this unbelievable unfettered, feral expression of feminine and masculine sensuality and power and submission.
CUMMING: I’m comfortable in that as well. I think that’s the thing that people really respond to, reveling in the joy of it rather than it being a shameful thing. America has so much shame about sex.
CAMERON: Totally. I think that’s why you have been so resonant in so many of your characters. You are very present in yourself. So many of those cultural things that burden us and stick into us, you represent something outside of that. For a lot of people, and for people like me, that was such a beacon to see.
CUMMING: That’s nice. I don’t quite understand why I never had shame about sex. I think that’s the one good thing my dad taught me, actually. I saw someone who was dealing with his sexuality and how it was difficult for the people around him, because he was so sort of voracious and I saw that, well, there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just what you are. So just try and be good. But it’s not something to be ashamed of, and it’s obviously pretty fun.
CAMERON: I also think that’s part of why I fell so in love with you.
CUMMING: That’s also why you gather with your little tribe. I always feel that when we are in a room together, we’re both like, “Oh my god, what’s going to happen now? Here comes trouble.” All right, my darling. I enjoyed probing you mercilessly.
CAMERON: Thank you for doing this, Alan.
CUMMING: I love you so much. When will I see you?
CAMERON: I’m back in one week! We’ll have dinner, a sleep over.
CUMMING: Yes, I’m going to the theater. Maybe you’ll come with us one night.
CAMERON: Oh, I would love to go to the theater and then we can go get pickles at that one place.
Laruicci Bull Necklace
Hair: Jacob Rozenberg using Balmain Hair Couture at The Wall Group
Makeup: Kale Teter at The Wall Group
Nails: Juan Alvear using OPI at Opus Beauty
Set Design: Cooper Vasquez
Photo Assistant: Clay Campbell
Lighting Assistant: Ryan Petrus
Styling Assistants: Mia Afonte, Akai John, and Alexandra Harris