September 23rd, 2009 by thetvchick
Modern Family is an innovative, hilarious look at different facets of one extended family. I cannot say enough good things about this show. It uses the mockumentary style that we see so often these days, but it does so in a truly unique way. The New York Times called the show groundbreaking, and I would have to agree. (Groundbreaking and awesome!) I recently had the chance to interview Jesse Tyler Ferguson, (who plays Mitchell) and ask him about the upcoming season and his thoughts on the show.
What drew you to the role of Mitchell?
Well I was not auditioning for any sitcoms this year, I was clearing my schedule for theater stuff and that was just the way it was going to be. And then I read the script and I was like okay, I’m auditioning for this one show because it’s funny and I like it. And my manager completely undersold it to me. He was like “I think you might like it.” And I loved it. I initially went in for the role of Cameron, which is the role Eric Stonestreet is playing. And I had my eye on Mitchell, and I asked if I could audition for Mitchell and I was basically told no. And so I went in, and then Steve Levitan and Chris Lloyd said “You know what, you would make a really good Mitchell,” and I was like thank you, I’ll come back in two days. So I came back in two days and I got the part. And it was just, it kind of just—everything just felt right. I just kind of knew how to play him. I knew what to do with it. I knew how I wanted his voice to sound and they fortunately agreed that that was what they wanted as well. It was the most painless process for a script that so many actors I think were clamoring to be a part of…I felt that I was lucky enough to just sort of fall into it very easily.
Do you see any of yourself in Mitchell?
Oh yeah. I mean, I’m not playing him very differently from myself. He’s a little more uptight and trepidacious than I am. I’m a little bit more lax. I think the humor of him being so serious and uptight is…I think people who take life that seriously are hilarious. Honestly. I just laugh at them. I’m just like “you’ve got to chill out.” So I’m not like him in that respect, but I think you know, I think if I was a new dad, I would be certainly as nervous and wanting to do everything as perfectly as possible. I think I would share his same set of values with raising a child. Yeah, he’s very easy to play. He sort of fits on the plate really easily for me.
The show tackles a lot of important issues. Especially with yours and Cameron’s gay adoption. How do you think the show is able to keep a balance between the humor and tackling important issues?
I think the show does a really great job of doing that because it doesn’t shine a spotlight on those issues. It kind of deals with it, and it doesn’t make a big production out of the issues. It’s just very matter of fact with it and I think that their sort of commonality—I think that’s what makes them edgy, that we’re not having a big parade around these guys are gay. They’re just gay guys. They’re adopting a baby, they’re in a loving relationship. But you know, I think through that ease with those issues, we are kind of resonating loud as we would had we made like a big production around these issues. Because this is the fabric of our lives right now. And this is how they fit into this family and the society. And it’s just a slice of American life. It’s certainly not representative of American Life [as] a whole but it’s definitely a facet of what America is now and I think it’s definitely rustling some people’s feathers. But again, they’re those serious people and I’m kind of like “you guys, are you serious?” Come on, it’s 2009. Obama’s president. Let’s get with it. Let’s do this.
The mockumentary style of television has been done before to various levels of success. Why do you think it works so well with Modern Family?
I think we handle it with a little bit more—I love the Office, I’m a huge fan of The Office. I think Parks & Recreation is great. Our tone is just different. We’re not doing anything better than them, it’s just different. It comes from a more—kind of a—it’s a little more heartfelt. You know, The Office, it’s got a little more bite in certain areas. But I find our show to be more in line with like a Christopher Guest movie than I do with The Office or Parks & Recreation. To me, they don’t compare to one another at all. But it is—it’s a format that’s been used a lot. And I think that it’s the perfect vehicle for us to kind of get as far into these characters as we possibly can.
What do you think makes the show so unique? What makes it different from every other comedy we see on TV?
It’s just kind of an interesting new hybrid that we’re introducing. I mean, there certainly hasn’t been a family comedy in recent years that I can remember – a new one – that has kind of dealt with, certainly it has never dealt with all these facets. The closest thing I can think of is Brothers and Sisters, that has sort of dealt with this slice of life. But it’s got a whole different thing going on—it’s brilliant in its own right. It’s unlike anything that has been on TV. I’m having a hard time actually putting my finger on just why it’s so different. And I think it’s because I’m living in the bubble of the show but I think it just feels different and new and people are calling it groundbreaking which you know, is awesome and terrifying but I hope that it is. I only hope the best for it.
What has been your favorite part of filming the show?
Honestly, I love going to work so much every day with that cast and the crew and the writers. And I think my favorite part is just getting each new script because honestly each one’s better than the last. I mean they just keep getting better and better and I think the ball was set so high for the pilot, that I think everyone-the cast included and the writers were all nervous about keeping this balloon in the air. And each episode just keeps getting better than the last. They’re kind of a bottomless pit of ideas and jokes and I feel like we’re in such good hands with the show runners and it’s very exciting. I’m very excited to see where it’s going to take off to.
Do you see similarities between your career on Broadway and working in television?
It’s similar in the fact that I’ve kind of—you know—was able to work steadily in that format and grow. And my turnover rate has been just about as high as my turnover rate with the Broadway stuff…a show a year. But other than that, it’s completely two different mediums. And I’m enjoying [it]. I’m still learning about TV. I still feel like I’m very new to this Hollywood thing. I still feel like I’m on vacation when I’m here now. I’m like “I got to get back to real life, in New York.” But this is what real life is now.
What is it like having Ed O’Neill play your father?
Amazing. Short answer. He’s Al Bundy, he’s a TV legend. He’s awesome and so generous.
Can you give us a little teaser (
without spoiling too much) of what we can expect in the rest of the season, and from your character in particular?
Well Cameron and Mitchell sort of – well, they’re plight is just being new dads and they want to be the best dads possible. We take Lily to a Mommy and Me class. There’s a whole episode where we freak out because we bumped her head against the door jamb and fortunately it was covered by this Donna Summer wig. You’ll have to tune in to see why she was wearing a Donna Summer wig but it’s funny. We meet my matriarch. Shelley Long plays my estranged mother, and we realize why she’s estranged and what my relationship with her means because I’m sort of the mama’s boy of the family. They’ve got great stuff coming up.
Modern Family premieres tonight at 9 pm on ABC. This is truly a can’t miss show, so be sure to tune in!