BWW Interview: Stage and Screen Star Kevin Cahoon Talks Joining Cast of GLOW for Season 3
Kevin Cahoon will co-star on the new season of Glow when it drops August 9th. Cahoon starred on Broadway as Ed the Hyena in The Lion King and went on to be the stand by for John Cameron Mitchell in the original production of Hedwig. He also played George in The Wedding Singer, The Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and was in the revival of The Rocky Horror Show.
On Glow, Cahoon's character is named Bobby Barnes, he portrays drag versions of Liza, Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, and Evita in his club act. Bobby is loosely based on a real performer, Kenny Kerr, who was a Las Vegas mainstay and his show ran for years. Cahoon took a moment to speak with us about joining the cast of Glow!
So you must be excited about the new season of GLOW coming out.
I am thrilled, I really am. I'm so excited. It's a great role. It's such a fantastic show and really just is a dream.
Your character Bobby Barnes sounds so interesting.
Absolutely. It's 1986. He's a single father, he's a female impersonator off of the Las Vegas Strip, so that thickens the plot right there. And female impersonation at that time in Las Vegas was a huge, huge thing. This is pre-Drag Race and it feels like a completely other art form than what Drag Race is. It really was female impersonation, which is a fascinating thing. And I spent a lot of time on Youtube looking at clips. You can see them on the [Phil] Donahue show, Sally Jessy Raphael, and you can see the performances on these shows and it's really, really fascinating. And a lot of them would say, 'Well, this is just my uniform, like a policeman would wear a uniform to go to his job.' This is what I were to go to my job. So you can see that at the time, they were navigating a fine line of you know, will mainstream audiences accept me, or will they not accept me? It was a whole other world then.
I feel like now it's become so mainstream that a lot of people may not remember what it used to be like. So having a show like this that shows the way it started is really important for people, especially younger generations, to understand where it came from.
Absolutely. And then if you throw into the mix, you know, the beginning of the AIDS crisis at the same time, it really is a rich world be able to play a character in. It was a really devastating time. Liz [Flahive] and Carly [Mensch] who created the show and write the show, along with the writing team, really did an incredible job.
How did you find yourself in this role?
I was in L.A. and I was doing a production of "The Tempest" with the L.A. Philharmonic that Barry Edelstein directed, this huge production of "The Tempest." I got an audition and they said, 'Can you come in tomorrow and audition,' and they wanted you to do the sides - two scenes - which were both lengthy, and then they wanted you to come in with three female impersonations. And I, with my rehearsal schedule for "The Tempest," I said, 'I can't because I'm in rehearsal, but I can make a tape,' and they said, 'great.' And then I sort of just went to work and dived in headfirst. But I thought, 'Well, I'll give them five female impersonations. I'll hire a pianist and we'll underscore the whole thing and we'll sing some songs.' So I spent, I ran around L.A. to all of my friends...[I went to] the Garry Marshall Theater, my friend Dimitri Toscas is the artistic director there. And I said, 'Hey, can I rummage through your costume shop for an hour?' and he said 'absolutely.' So I did that and I was staying with some friends and I used their box of costumes that they had in there and I just pulled together. It was around Halloween so I went to a big shop on Hollywood Boulevard and I bought a couple of wigs and came up with my five female impersonations and hired a pianist, had a friend come over, we videoed it, we spent a good amount of time on it. There you go. I sent it to them and they said, 'Hang on one sec, we have to get approval from one other person,' and then they did and it happened. And I'm so grateful.
For my audition, I did Cher, Shirley MacLaine, Loretta Lynn, Carol Channing and I did a little Tammy Faye Bakker, because I thought, 'Oh, it's 1986 and who are the famous women of 1986?'... So those were the five I pulled for the audition.
You end up getting to do Carol Channing on the show, along with Barbra Streisand, Evita and Liza Minelli. What was your process for finding those characters and what did you find challenging in performing as those iconic women?
Well, that's just the thing. They're iconic. Everyone has a understanding of who these women are and the stakes are high. So it really was countless hours of watching YouTube. When I got in my car, I was listening to 'Liza with a Z,' every single time I would, because you can drive in L.A. for an hour to get anywhere. So I had lots of time in the car just to get it in my ears and body. And what's also interesting about these shows, if you watch them, the Las Vegas shows of female impersonation of the day, sometimes they are just doing their stand-up act, these performers, dressed as these women. So it's not a continual impersonation throughout the evening. Like them opening one of the songs as one of the ladies, and then it drifts into their own ideas, their own act, their own thoughts, their own beliefs. It's a fascinating thing to watch and that's something else that we tried to correlate.
That is interesting. I didn't know that.
Yeah, Bobby's sort of dreams and ideas and opinions and humor come out just by being dressed as women. It's a suit of armor for him. He would step up to the plate and be himself while dressed as these iconic women. Which I think drag is liberating in that way. I've done enough roles in drag that I understand that. It's empowering when you're able to express a side of yourself that maybe you're not in your boy drag.
What was it like getting to perform alongside Geena Davis?
Oh my god it was incredible. I love her. She's a pro, she's a dream. And my first day on set was also her first day on the set and it was a huge scene in the first episode, and it was a dolly shot that sort of picks up on all of the characters that you're going to meet throughout the season. So the set was full of every single cast member in the show, every single crew person in the show, and Geena and I had our first scene on this set together. I'm dressed as Barbra Streisand, she is dressed as her character, we kept looking at each other, like, 'Oh boy they just threw us into the deep into the pool here.'
I hear there will be a musical number with you two, correct?
Well, that is a possibility. I would say anything could happen. Anything could happen.
So what are you hoping that audiences take away from your character during the season?
It would be lovely if they were reminded of what a single, gay father's life on the Las VEGAS STRIP was like in 1986. He was always wanting to play the big room and they would never let him play the big room. He was always stuck in the lounge. Even though his show was a hit and a sellout, there was homophobia there, there was a fear. It was those performers who broke the ground for where we are now. It was their voice that allowed us to get to this point. Drag is mainstream and beautifully so. So, that's what I would like to take away to be, to remember those pioneers, really. Of course, drag has been always been part of the world since, oh my gosh, the Greeks, the Romans, the beginnings of time. But I feel like they cracked the door for mainstream culture.
I know, it's so exciting when you can finally see it all to come together after waiting.
Absolutely. I've done a little ADR, I've seen little tiny snippets, but I'm really, really excited to see the whole thing.
In the meantime, any plans on every coming back to Broadway?
I would love it. I would be there tonight, I really would. As an actor, you just never know. You wait for the right project and the right audition and the stars to align. I would love it. I would love it.
We would love to have you back.
Thank you, I will be there. John Cameron Mitchell has his 'Origin of Love' concert tour that he's doing around the world and he just did three nights at Town Hall for Pride Weekend. I guested on the final night there at Town Hall with John. We did "Angry Inch" with Matt McGrath, just the three of us, and gosh. There's nothing like a live audience.