Hear My Story: A GLAAD x Audible Interview Series - Part I: Alan Cumming & Adam Goldman

GLAAD has teamed up with audio entertainment leader Audible to co-curate and produce a five-episode written interview series featuring LGBTQIA+ talent from the Audible family.

Our first interview features the creative team behind Hot White Heist, Audible’s hilarious new podcast series, with director Alan Cumming and writer/creator Adam Goldman interviewed by Anthony Ramos, GLAAD’s Head of Talent. Hot White Heist was produced by Cumming, Goldman, Club Cumming Productions and Broadway Video.

Check out GLAAD’s interview with Cumming and Goldman below:

Spoken word art is a strong platform for elevating diverse voices, especially within the LGBTQ community. What do you think it is about this type of content that connects so distinctly across different audiences?

AG: I don’t really know what that question is about. I haven’t heard a lot of LGBTQ audio content, so I don’t really know. But I know that for us, this was a really great opportunity to involve a lot of really impressive and well-known and much beloved LGBTQ talent. There’s something very intimate about audio storytelling - you, know? It’s right there and you can listen to it on the subway or while driving. They’re right there with you. So I think there is something really cool about that. And we were excited to take that and run with it.

AC: I agree and I think we are under-represented in all areas. And I think it’s actually more that people are hungry - LGBTQ people are hungry to feel represented. And what’s great about this show is, sort of, part of its whole work is taking tropes and structures from entertainment that LGBTQ people would never have any access to and putting them right at the center of it.

So I think that it’s more about the fact Adam has written, you know, subverting the normal gender and sexuality rules of this genre.

For many LGBTQ people, inspiration is often drawn from the role models and idols within our community who have changed the way we are seen, heard, and represented in society. Is there someone in the community who has inspired you or your work? 

AG: In a larger sense, yes. You know, there’s something really fun about - One of my heroes is Tony Kushner and we got him as the narrator on the show and I think that was really amazing. But I think on a different track, part of what’s fun of Hot White Heist is that it’s an action-comedy, it’s an action heist movie where we’re centering queer people. There’s certainly aren’t a lot of examples of that out in the world and even actors and people. But I have to say - and he’ll think I’m blowing smoke up his ass - but Mr. Alan Cumming is someone whose work I have admired for a long time. And you look at Alan doing stuff - No, it’s true! You look at X-Men and like in James Bond although you weren’t exactly kicking butt in James Bond. We just don’t see a lot of examples of queer people and even fewer queer characters in these sort-of action, high-intensity fun rollicking thrill-ride roles. And that’s something that I was really excited to do and put all these actors who we were working with - Bowen and Bianca Del Rio and Shannon Woodward in these action roles. I don’t know - Alan, were there people in those roles who you admired?

AC: I just want to say, I don’t really like the notion of idolatry. Obviously it’s nice to - the whole problem is there aren’t enough people that are represented. And I feel that I, through necessity, have my own way, found my own path. And the idea that we have to look to other LGBTQ people to emulate them or to receive inspiration from. The reason that’s sad to me is because there are so few.

Actually, what I’ve done in my life is in general - I think the idea of naming these people, sort of in a way copy their existence or their path. What’s important is to find your own path and make your own stories. So I don’t ever have any answers to that question of any particular people and I used to make them up. And now I just don’t.

Thanks to services like Audible, access to LGBTQ stories & content is now easier than ever. What kind of LGBTQ story still needs to be told / heard?

AC: I feel that we live in a time now that with the press of a button, you can see every area of society, you can watch shows of every genre, historical time. We are not represented properly in that. We have to keep fighting for equality. Equality is not just about legal rights, it’s not just about marching for those things. It’s about also seeing ourselves properly represented. And until we don’t feel surprised to see queer - until this is not novelty, this thing called Hot White Heist is not a novelty. When I did that show Instinct, it was ridiculous to me that I was the first ever gay leading character in a network drama. Things like that.

Until those things don’t matter anymore then we have to keep reminding people that we are not represented. And that we don’t see those stories. And you know, we evolve. I think that’s the thing. People evolve, culture evolves. And if we’re not represented enough to begin with, who are we going to have our evolution represented to?

AG: To further what Alan was saying, there has to be so much of it that it doesn’t matter that some of it is good, some of it is bad. Some of it is sci-fi, some of it is comedy. An ideal world would be a world where GLAAD doesn’t have to exist. There shouldn’t be the case of needing an organization speaking up for everything and policing all this stuff, you know?

It’s not to say something about GLAAD, it’s good that they exist because of the environment that we live in. But I think it’s reductive to say, “I wish there was a gay Star Trek” - I do. You should just have to say that there’s more, more, more, forever. And obviously, this presents as a systemic problem, as we know. Now, more than ever, people are learning it’s putting queer people and people of color in positions of power so they can make decisions about who gets represented. And we have to work from the bottom up and prove, for example, that you can make this queer heist story that’s fun and entertaining for everybody so that there will be a profusion of this kind of storytelling.

AC: Can I also say, I also think that it needs to be about integration as well. It’s really interesting to me when I watch programs from Britain compared to programs from America, in terms of the way that race is dealt with. That when we do something here, over the last year, it’s like, we now see many more shows with people of color. And that’s great. But usually it’s just people of color in that thing. And I think it’s the same thing with the way queer people are represented. It’s a queer show where queer people are integrated as we are in society. So in a way, it’s slightly “ghetto-izing” to kind of just do shows that are about a bunch of queer people doing things on their own - as fun as this was. I think ultimately, the aim would be to not only get more things but to get properly integrated so that people who are not white and straight are represented fairly in an environment where they are not only with other people like them.

Speaking of LGBTQ content, Hot White Heist will be released this month - congratulations! Would you mind sharing more about that project, and what you’re looking forward to about its release?

AG: Hot White Heist is a sperm bank heist. That’s sort of the joke that sort of pitches itself, “It’s a sperm bank heist.” So basically, Hot White Heist takes this idea that there’s a secret government sperm bank hidden under The Space Needle in Seattle under lock and key behind very tight security. The US government has been storing sperm samples from some of our greatest minds and also some politicians in case of emergency. What that emergency would be, I don’t know. And a lesbian cult in Montana finds out about this secret sperm bank and they decide they’re going to steal some of these sperm samples and sell them to some nefarious figures for top dollar so they can buy an island that they’re calling “New Lesbos” where all people can go and have fun and be alone. And they hire a ragtag group of people from across the LGBTQ spectrum to carry out this heist. So it’s like a scrappy, fun comedy in that way.

And I think the thing that makes it interesting to me is there also a conversation going on underneath that about, kinda like what Alan was talking about, “Should queer people want to live on an island by themselves? Is being queer about carving out a space for yourself in an inhospitable world? Or is it about having a party on a tropical island? Is there something in between there?” So we actually do get into some of that conversation. You put it in the middle of this comedy thing so it doesn’t feel like eating your vegetables but there is queer theory in there too. So that’s sort of the basic shape of it.

AC: I’ve been a fan of Adam’s for a long time. We’ve worked together on a few projects. He came to my production company with Hot White Heist. We were working in conjunction with Broadway Video and then they told us about their deal they have with Audible and thought that would be a really good way to get that idea out there and to actually get a chance to work it and develop it and make it happen. Audible very kindly bought it.

And so I was attached to direct it. And so I directed it and I also played a sort of AI security version of myself in an elevator.

AG: More than everything else, Hot White Heist is a showcase for Alan's voice as a robot.

What do you hope listeners take away from Hot White Heist?

AG: You can't control what people are going to take away from it and I don't want to get into that. I think what I can say and what I am really proud of, one of the things I am most proud of, is that I wrote this show with the help of a bunch of really smart, largely queer comedians and writers. And we wrote it in a really difficult time, in the middle of 2020 when there was a lot going on with COVID and with protests around Black Lives Matter and all of that stuff. And we managed to make something really fun. And that's what I want.

It's like the movie Clueless, which is one of my favorite movies. When you watch it, and it's just a concentrated stream of sunshineif sunshine into your brain. And that's what we want. We want people to turn this on and have a good time and laugh.

And I think we pulled it off. So that's the thing that I feel happiest about and what I hope people will take away. Is that they can press play on this and for three hours or whatever - you know, six basically half-hour episodes - you can just enjoy yourself. It sounds easy but it takes a lot of thought to make it happen like that. So let us know how we did.

As people who have found success across live performances, television, podcasts and more, what draws you to spoken word platforms like Audible, and how are these projects unique compared to the others?

AC: God, that's a whole lot of questions in one bit! I've always done a lot of voice stuff. Like I've done lots of animated films, I used to do lots of radio plays for the BBC and everything. It's always been part of me - I've done lots of audio books. I'm actually - sorry to drop the awards - I am in the Audible Narrator Hall of Fame. Over the pandemic, I've done a lot more Oral things have been a much larger part of my life because the other things stopped.

I love it so much because, you know, because it's about imagination and you have to create a world with just your voice and you have a very intimate relationship with the listener because you're actually talking into their ears. You know, whispering in their ears. And I really enjoy that. I think of myself as a storyteller-for-hire and there's no purer way of telling a story than talking to someone. And that's what I love about it!

And also, you don't need to get into hair and makeup! This past year, I didn't have to go anywhere. I've got myself a homemade studio in my house. And you also don't have to deal with other actors, and you can just work on your own. Which has been a great boon, I have to say.

But the great thing I think is that now, what is happening in the podcast arena is that we are going back to time of... I think podcast came into prominence mostly because of things like serial - those sort-of investigative and factual things. And it was more about interviews and personality interviews and stuff. And those are still obviously a really big part. But what has started to happen and why Audible started to do projects like this is and doing Hot White Heist. is now there's these very elaborate, huge production value stories and it really is great. I used to love doing, and these are my fondest early memories as an actor, was doing Jekyll on Radio 4 and things like that and doing all these great plays. And I feel now, this is the sort of contemporary version of that. We're getting to these really great stories but with even better production values because of where we are in the world now because of the way of - it's not the BBC. Audible has more resources now. And that to me is so exciting. As we go into this new arena, I'm meeting all these people who are so good at it and willing to kind of create your vision, your Oral vision. And I think that is really exciting; I'm intrigued by the notion of creating worlds in that way.

Especially in a time when people are so hungry for it. It feels like this is the time more than ever when people are listening to things. And it's exciting for us to have this in the mainstream arena, this very queer story.