Talking Music, Burlesque, and Acting with Kat Cunning

>> Kat Cunning is the triple threat. An actress, dancer, and singer. This talented lady is originally from Portland, Oregon. Her creative pursuits started with dance, "I had dreams of other things but it's such an eat/sleep/breathe pursuit that I didn't really try anything else until I got my first dance job. I wasn’t the best dancer in the company and in an effort to keep the job I bluffed and told the director I could sing," she explained. The director gave her a song in the show and the NY Times reviewed it, she was so good they asked to hear her album! She has been doing it all ever since, "I’ve been lucky and learning on the job since then. I feel like dance, acting, and music all inform each other. The same principles apply to them all; bring pleasure, craft, and ownership to whatever you do and you can’t go wrong." You’ve released a handful of incredible singles, including your latest ‘Stay On The Line”. Do you have any plans to release an EP or studio album in the future? If so, can you give away any hints as to when we might see the album or another single?

Yes! You can look forward to an EP in the coming year! Really excited to enter the music world with this project.

Earlier in the year, you wrapped up your North American tour with singer-songwriter LP. Not only was it your first tour, but it was also completely sold out! How did it feel to go on tour for the first time, and to sing for so many people?

It was incredible. Music has been full of so many firsts for me and it was really validating to get a taste of what life will feel like when I’m on LP’s level. If you are unfamiliar, she has the voice of a rock and roll angel, the look of Bob Dylan (meets Shane from The L Word) and her fans are die-hard. To share the stage and get my first tour chops in sold-out rooms like the 9:30 Club and Brooklyn Steele and Mtelus opening for her was crazy. It was an idyllic intro for sure. Season 2 of ‘The Deuce’ started earlier this month. How does it feel to make your television debut on this show, and to be cast in a reoccurring role as Christina Fuego?

Life changing. I grew up watching a lot of these actors and having the guff to imagine improving with them- acting with them and being on their level. It’s a little more intimidating in real life than I expected, but it’s also totally exhilarating. Everyone was super supportive on set and excited to be lending themselves to David Simon’s fabulous writing. I found it grounded me to focus on the story we’re telling. The Deuce takes a hard look at misogyny and sexism in the 70’s and often illustrates situations that sex workers and all kinds of women are not foreign to, today. I think it’s such an important show and I’m glad it’s in the hands of the right people. I still black out when I watch my own scenes. Too surreal. Can you tell us a little bit about Christina, working with the star-studded cast (James Franco!?), and what we can expect on this season of ‘The Deuce’?

It’s a hoot working with James. He’s really brilliant. Actively reading or plotting up until the second he walks into a scene and then he really keeps you on your toes as a co-actor. Maggie Gyllenhaal was amazing to work within the few scenes I got to share with her. It’s wonderful to see how she approached conversations and questions about the script and found the elasticity in every scene. As far as Christina Fuego, I wanted to make sure that she walked into this role without an ounce of shame. She loves what she does, she doesn’t take shit and she is every bit as wild and unpredictable as Frankie. It was important to me to make her a romantic instead of a ditz- an equal and a feminist of a different color.

You’re a graduate of the SUNY Purchase Dance Conservatory and got your start in Baroque-Burlesque Operas with Company XIV. In addition, you’ve worked on Broadway’s ‘Les Liaison Dangereuses’ and went on to star in your official Broadway debut as Lila in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Paramour’, which is amazing! How has your past dancing and acting experience influenced your current role on ‘The Deuce’?

Christina is like the more straight more genuinely girly version of me. I don’t know that if I lived in the 70’s that I wouldn’t be in her shoes. She considers herself an artist and I think she has a deeply theatrical experience with what she does as a burlesque dancer. She has more of a 40’s costumed approach to her style because that’s her thing. She can control the audience with the flick of her wrist. In my limited experience with burlesque, I feel like a drag queen, an anthropologist, and a god. Not far off from how I feel in my own work. I'm empowered by the creativity, the power and the rhythm of it all. For me, it was easy to find the connection to her, and I'm glad there's been enough breadth to her role to explore the good stuff.

Outside of dancing, singing, and acting what else do you enjoy doing? Is there anything in particular that keeps your creativity flowing?

I love dancing with pretty girls, drinking a good scotch, wide open spaces and shooting portraits. If your singles were desserts, what would they be?

Peaches. Oozy with a harsh pit. How does your sexuality contribute to your writing, art, and personal development? In your opinion, why is it important that we embrace our own sexuality? Maybe it's the Scorpio talking but I think that sex is at the center of all things, good and bad. It's the leading cause of humans. It's a major part of love and happiness. Most of us want it. I think that means it deserves some attention. I want to encourage discussion so that we can learn from each other, and I want to make examples of the good consensual sex and relationships I've had. As a queer artist, I don't want to target only queer audiences. Our country is divided in a lot of ways: gender, race, class, etc. We have to bridge the gap with conversation, and sex is one of those universal opportunities we have to do that. I am also telling my stories because visibility is crucial for any marginalized community. Whatever freaky thing you’re into, you’re not alone. There’s a counterpart and a community for you. Everybody deserves that.

Who are you listening to currently?

King princess on repeat ATM. Holy is my Jam. Also, GO OFF FLORENCE. Loving Big God.<<

Listen to Kat Cunning HERE!

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