Eric Stonestreet: Modern Family's Moon Man

From bumping butts with a TV legend to being showered with equal praise by the stroller set and the bear community, Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet is thrilled to be pushing the gay movement forward.




Do you feel a responsibility to represent same-sex parents respectfully?
Of course, but I would feel that with whatever character I was playing because I always want to bring honesty to whatever I do. Jesse and I were both really excited about getting these parts, and when we heard the writers and creators talk about how they wanted the characters to be serviced, we learned that they have the utmost respect for them. We realize that there are people tuning in who are seeing themselves for the first time on TV, and that’s exciting.

When you were auditioning for Cameron, did anyone discourage you from taking the part or advise you to think twice before playing a flamboyant gay guy?
No, but I heard that there were other actors who didn’t want to do the part because of that. Good parts on a good show are so hard to find, so someone would be stupid and crazy to care if the character was gay. It’s a dream role. I wanted this part so bad, but they weren’t seeing my type of actor — a big guy — so I really had to fight just to get in the room.

Colin Firth recently spoke about how he feels that his playing gay in A Single Man hasn’t helped the gay actors in Hollywood who have difficulty landing both straight and gay roles, adding, “I think it needs to be addressed and I feel complicit in the problem.” Do you feel complicit in that problem?
I read that, and that’s interesting, but there’s a tried-and-true process of how actors get cast in Hollywood that’s been going on for years and years. When a project becomes available, casting directors — and a lot of casting directors are gay — bring in all kinds of actors and pick the person they think is best for the part. Sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I have the opportunity to help the gay movement in another way because I’m a straight guy who’s willing to put himself out there and be this gay character without any apologies. I can lead by example and say that this character deserves to be played honestly on TV, and it doesn’t matter if it’s by a gay actor or a straight actor. Saying that only gay actors should play gay parts doesn’t move the gay movement forward. There’s certainly no shortage of gay actors in Los Angeles. Maybe there aren’t that many gay parts for gay actors to play, but Neil Patrick Harris is playing a straight guy on How I Met Your Mother, Jonathan Slavin is playing a straight part on Better Off Ted … This town has a process of how actors get parts, and that’s just the way it goes.

Have you learned anything about gay people by playing Cameron?
Well, I’ve been surrounded by gay people my whole life — I grew up with a gay cousin, I went to Kansas State University and knew a lot of gay people in the theater department — so it’s not like I’m all of a sudden immersed in the gay community for the first time. But in this particular case, what I’m learning is being learned off-set with the great feedback I’m getting. I’m seeing how prideful and appreciative the gay community has been of the fact that we’re playing these characters honestly and without sensationalizing them. Cameron’s a dramatic, passionate person, but there’s a truth to the character. I look to myself for the character because I’m a dramatic, passionate person too, and that has nothing to do with my sexuality.

Tags: television