Jesse Tyler Ferguson kicked off 2011 by introducing his boyfriend of a few months, lawyer Justin Mikita, to the press. The couple was heading into Elle’s Women in Television event, where they hadn’t planned on making any pronouncements. “We were holding hands as we went around a corner, and suddenly we were on the red carpet,” says the Modern Family star. “I wasn’t going to stop holding his hand.” As the year comes to a close, Ferguson and Mikita are still going strong. And as his character, Mitchell, is deciding whether he and Cam should have a second child, Ferguson and Mikita are also adding a member to their family. “A friend of ours just had a litter [of Maltese–Shih-Tzus], so we drove down to Torrance,” the actor says. “My dad never let us have a dog, so it’s very exciting to me.” Almost as exciting as being named Out’s Artist of the Year?
“Jane Lynch must have said, ‘I don’t want it this year, stop showering me with praise, please give it to someone else,’ ” he jokes. “And I was, like, fourth on the Someone Else list.” Hardly. As the real-life gay half of TV’s most lovable (fictional) gay couple, Ferguson is in a unique position among actors. “To have job security and to have it on a show that people are looking to as a cultural touchstone for gay marriage—that’s extraordinary,” he says. And it’s only heightened by Modern Family’s Emmy streak; this year, the show won best comedy series for the second time. “I’m always being stopped on the street,” Ferguson marvels. “Someone recently thanked me for changing his uncle’s mind about gay people. ‘He loves your show so much, I felt OK to tell him I’m gay.’ It’s astonishing.”
Photographed in Los Angeles by Gavin Bond, September 28, 2011