Sunday November 18, 2012

NEW YORK -- These are not fun days for Cheyenne Jackson when it comes to his diet. He faces more restrictions on what goes in his mouth than an Olympic athlete.

"I don’t have any bread. I’ve given up sugar. I don’t eat dairy. And I haven’t had a drink in four months," says the actor, who also has a trainer and works out six days a week.

Such is the cost of playing a porn star onstage.

Jackson, the hunky star of musical comedies such as "Xanadu" and "All Shook Up" and TV’s "30 Rock," has little choice as he portrays an adult film actor who fancies himself an artist in the new Broadway play "The Performers."

Stripping down to his skivvies onstage has sent Jackson to the gym and ended all late-night snacking. Chatting in his dressing room, he is chiseled, his muscles bulging. It has been worth the sacrifice, he says.

"That’s what you have to do to make the character live," he says. "I did not want to be self-conscious at all onstage when I’m sitting out there with everything hanging out." Oh, and by the way, no prosthetics were used: "This isn’t ‘Boogie Nights,"’ he says with a laugh.

Written by David West Read, the romantic comedy centers on two couples forced to reevaluate what’s important in their lives when they meet at the Adult Film Awards.


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Jackson stars along with Ari Graynor, Daniel Breaker, Alicia Silverstone and Henry Winkler.

Jackson, who plays the stud Mandrew, says it was the most joyous script he’d read in two years. "It’s such a funny, sweet love story," he says. "It’s raunchy and silly and lovely."

That’s just what Jackson was looking for during what he calls this, his year of "going for it." At 37, he’s gotten married, played roles on TV and in several films. He’s even putting the final touches on his debut CD.

"I just feel more settled. I feel stronger," he says. "If something scares me, I want to do it."

So if the safe thing was to look for a musical -- he’s done six in a row in his 10 years in New York -- then he wanted to find his first play. And not a safe, polite play, either.

"I’m in this for the long haul," he says. "I want to work forever and I want to do a variety of things. I want to be like Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler -- people who can do every genre."

Evan Cabnet, who directs Jackson in "The Performers," says the actor’s natural boyish enthusiasm blends perfectly with the wide-eyed joy of his latest character.

"I don’t know a lot of people who could make this role that charming naturally. He does," Cabnet says. "Obviously, we feel blessed because he’s so incredibly talented. And no one in the American theater looks better in their underwear than that guy."

Jackson has had a very busy 2012. On the small screen, he has appeared in NBC’s "Mockingbird Lane," Bryan Fuller’s re-imagining of the 1960s sitcom "The Munsters" and a final "30 Rock" episode.

Up next is HBO’s "Behind the Candelabra," in which he plays Liberace’s boyfriend opposite Michael Douglas in the title role, and two indie films.

Jackson’s year of change will culminate in Washington, D.C. He’s due to sing music from the "Mad Men" era at the Kennedy Center with members of the National Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 31. That’s a sober New Year’s Eve for him.

"I’m not drinking now anyway so it’ll be easy-breezy," he says with a smile.