All In the Family
By Justin Ravitz
On ABC�s new mockumentary comedy Modern Family, redheaded cutie Jesse Tyler Ferguson plays Mitchell, a self-serious gay man who�s adopted a Chinese infant named Lily with his flamboyant, zaftig partner Cameron (Eric Stonestreet). The new family lives in suburbia, with similarly harried relatives (played by TV vets Ed O�Neil and Julie Bowen) nearby. In real life, the gay 33-year-old is living the bachelor life. He spoke to Out about Shelley Long, his �gay-for-pay� costar, and why they won�t be making out on screen.
Out: What�s in store for Cameron, Mitchell, and baby Lily this season?
We�re focusing less on the fact that they�re gay, more on the fact that they�re raising this child together and learning to be dads. A lot of the comedy is mined from that. We take our baby to a �Mommy and Me� class, which is hilarious: I�m trying to blend in for the sake of our daughter -- just fall back with the other mothers. But Cameron, my partner, wants to be fabulous and over the top. Then everything blows up in our face when a more fabulous gay couple walks in with their little African baby. That was a very fun episode to shoot. We also meet Shelley Long, who plays my estranged mother.
Oooh! What�s it like working with Shelley Long?
The moment she opens her mouth, she has that cadence that makes you think of Diane [from Cheers]. There was a dog on the lot whose name was Sam. She called out for it -- it was the most surreal moment I�ve ever had. She is absolutely genius.
How did you and Eric Stonestreet work on your romantic chemistry?
Eric is straight. I call him gay-for-pay. He is so game for this character. We just clicked. We hang out a lot. Ironically, after he got the role, we decided to meet up for coffee. We�re having coffee in the middle of the afternoon -- and we realize it�s Valentine�s Day! Just two guys, hangin� out, having coffee. No big deal.
The pilot didn�t have much PDA. Will you get more affectionate in future episodes?
You�re not going to see us in bed anytime soon. But honestly, none of the other couples show much affection. It�s network TV. But Eric and I are the most traditional couple, in a weird way. We�re squabbling parents. I think their normality is what makes them interesting.
The way Cameron and Mitchell are matched physically reminded me of �King of Queens� -- the big guy and a slimmer, more conventionally attractive partner, i.e. you. Did you guys talk about that dynamic?
We didn�t really discuss it. I think it�s a very real relationship. I know a lot of couples that you�re like �how did they end up together?� I read with all different types of guys -- different ethnicities and different sizes. Really, the chemistry is what dictated how the relationship was. I�m certainly falling in love with Eric Stonestreet more and more each day!
What was your family like growing up?
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had a lot of passion for the arts and not much of an outlet. I didn�t grow into myself until I moved to New York after I graduated high school. I�m from a very traditional family, one of three kids. I wish my family history was more colorful and elaborate, because I feel like all these great artists come from these tortured pasts.
What was your coming-out process like?
Not to rat on my Dad, but I had to come out four times to him. He kept forgetting and would ask about girlfriends. I�d be like �Dad, we talked about this!� I certainly don�t have the horror stories that some teens unfortunately have. It�s a process and they�re still learning -- but they�re nothing but supportive. They certainly have never turned down the love dial with me.
How old were you when you came out?
I was six. [Laughs.] No, no. I was about 21. My mom actually was the one that broached the subject. She said �I think you�re gay��
Your mom took you out of the closet?
Sort of. She definitely opened the door.
Modern Family airs on ABC on Wednesday nights. Check local listings for channels and times.