Modern Family is quickly becoming a favorite show of mine. Since the pilot, I had high expectations for this comedy, and they have all been met. The show centers around an atypical family, and their interconectedness and everyday lives. It is incredibly hilarious, heart-felt, and full of great moments. Ed O’Neill plays Jay, the patriarch of the family, who is married to a younger woman (Sofia Vergara) and his stepson Manny (who is 10 and drinks coffee, reads the newspaper and has a crush on his cousin). Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen play an “old” married couple, with three kids. And then there is Cameron and Mitchell, a gay couple who recently adopted a baby. Earlier in the season, I spoke with Jesse Tyler Ferguson who plays Mitchell. Recently, I had the chance to chat with Eric Stonestreet (who plays Cameron), about his role of a clown in this week’s episode, his improv background, and fan reactions to his character. I even got the scoop on a prank he plans to play on Jesse.
I love Modern Family. You have had such a great season so far. What has been your favorite part of filming the show?
I would say my favorite part of filming the show is honestly having a job. First and foremost because I feel like I’m sort of a working man’s actor, sort of a journeyman actor — I’ve been doing it for thirteen years. The best part so far has been having a job, everything else sort of — the love and support of critics and viewers is all really just icing on the cake for me. You know, obviously I love playing the character. The character is a great character. Not to simplify your question, but there’s so many good things that I could never pick a favorite. I just love working with the people I am working with, it’s a joy.
This week, you are going to be featured as Fizbo the Clown. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like to film, and whose idea it was — since I know you have a background in it.
Yeah, what happened was — during the pilot I was talking about my clown character that I did as a kid. I was very fascinated with clowns from about age five on and by age nine — my grandma Louise was making clown outfits for me, and by eleven I was performing at kid’s parties, and wanted to join the circus and perform for people all over the world. There’s an article that you’ll see in the episode of the show that’s a real article written about me, in Kansas City. We were talking about that, and the writers and producers of the show decided that they wanted to incorporate my clown character into an episode and now America’s going to get to meet Fizbo the Clown.
That’s awesome. You also have a background in improv, at Second City and Improv Olympic in Chicago, has that ever worked its way onto the show?
Oh of course, you know, we always get to play with the words a little bit. I mean obviously, it’s 98 percent scripted, and we stick to the script, but there’s always an opportunity to throw our own take on things, and we do it in interviews and we do it in moments. But yeah, absolutely there’s improv, but for the most part it’s all scripted. You know, really, my improv background suits me just for the style of the show, to keep it loose and free and natural and not too stuffy.
Your character Cameron is very beloved, and incredibly hilarious. Have you had any interesting fan reactions to your character?
(laughs) Well, you know, being that I’m different than Cameron in that I’m a straight, straight, female loving man…the biggest, fun aspect of it is some of the support that I’ve gotten from some of my male fans. It’s very much appreciated. And I take it all as a compliment, and I would say that’s probably been the biggest thing. Jesse [Tyler Ferguson] gets very jealous, because girls are after him, and guys are after me, and we need to figure out how to switch those two things around.
You and Jesse (who plays Mitchell) have really great chemistry. Did that come instantly?
You know, I think it’s speaks to sort of — we’re both pretty normal, regular guys. I mean, Jesse has the New York Broadway experience, and I come from sort of the improv — guest-starring and commercial world of Los Angeles. But I think just we have a lot in common as far as what we think is funny, and we have a lot in common of how we care and treat other people, and yeah I think we just liked each other. I think that’s a fundamental element. It certainly, with actors, can be manufactured, not everybody on every show likes each other. We happen to have gotten a really great group of people that I think because of our journeys individually to this project — specifically our journeys in our careers — has sort of prepared us and trained us to not take anything for granted, take everything with a grain of salt, and just be very thankful and humble about all the success that sort of is starting to trickle in.
On such a funny set, I’m sure there have been some great behind-the-scenes moments. Have there been any great pranks?
I think we’re starting to get into that world now. I think we’re all familiar enough — I think I have a prank. I can’t tell you what the prank is but I have a prank that I want to pull on Jesse, that involves his stand in. We all have stand-ins that stand there very nicely while they light the shot. And I have a prank idea that I can’t tell you publicly what it is, because you’ll give it away, but you can tease that I have a prank coming on Jesse. But I think pranks are going to come in season 2 — if we are lucky enough to get a season 2 — when we’re all familiar with each other. But Ty is hilarious. Julie is the one we all have to watch out for. Julie’s the one with the wicked sense of humor.
Be sure to tune in tonight at 9 pm on ABC to see Eric Stonestreet play Fizbo the Clown, and other awesome things that come along with Modern Family.