Alan Cumming, an actor for all ages

Scottish actor Alan Cumming says, in a way, he is aging in reverse. CBS News

(CBS News) If you haven't seen Alan Cumming in "The Good Wife," don't worry: You've almost certainly seen the 47-year-old actor in something else at the movies, on stage or on TV. Serena Altschul has a Sunday Profile:

Alan Cumming ia an actor for the ages . . . all ages. Whether he's playing to kids looking for a few laughs, or adults looking for action or drama.

So when Altschul sat down with Cumming, she had a lot of ground to cover, from "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" to playing a computer programmer in the James Bond film "GoldenEye." ("It was such fun - Boris Grishenko"). Or "Josie and the Pussycats," in which both Cumming and Altschul appeared.

When Cumming is asked a simple question, you never know where it'll lead.

"Your body of work," Altschul began, "when we look at all of the - "

"Are we talkin' about my body already, Serena?"

"We had to get there eventually, didn't we?" she laughed.

Every week on TV, Cumming plays Eli Gold, a bare-knuckles political consultant on "The Good Wife."

"What's it like for you getting into his character - he's explosive, he gets angry, he really gets in there. Is that fun to play him?" Altschul asked.

"I like him," Cumming replied. "The good thing about him is he's very repressed. I love having a laugh with the crew between takes, and then when I do him I'm very . . . a lot of eyebrows!"

But Cumming always comes back to the theater - this year, in a provocative one-man production of "Macbeth." After all, it was theater that first made him a star in this country.

He played the Master of Ceremonies in "Cabaret" in 1998. "It was an amazing thing for me. It kind of completely changed my life," he said.

Cumming and Altschul sat down in the same building where he performed in "Cabaret." In the late '70s it was the notorious club "Studio 54." It has since become a theater.

"Cabaret" became a nationwide sensation, and Cumming won a Tony Award. "You know what I thought was amazing? I would go to somewhere in the middle of America - this is before I'd done films that they knew - and I'd go into the cafe and they'd say, 'You're the "Cabaret" guy.' And I'd say, 'Oh, did you see the show?' And they're like, 'No.'"

Cumming was raised far from the big city lights, in a smallish town in Scotland.

"It wasn't a town," he said. "I grew up in a country estate."

"Country estate" sounds like the setting for an idyllic Scottish childhood. It wasn't.

"I have so few memories of my childhood," he said. "It's really weird, it's because I didn't want to make them memories because it was so painful."

Cumming says he and his big brother were terrorized by their father, who tended the forest at the estate.

"My childhood wasn't happy. My dad's very, you know, troubled person and violent and stuff like that. And I think in a funny sort of way I had a very - it sounds weird, but a very balanced childhood. I had my father telling me I was worthless and my mum told me I was precious.

"And so, you know, I didn't believe either of 'em!"

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