Colin Firth may feel bad about taking gay roles away from gay actors, but Modern Family star Eric Stonestreet doesn’t share that guilt. On ABC’s hit comedy series, which has been picked up for a second season, Stonestreet proudly plays Cameron, the more flamboyant half of a gay couple raising an adopted baby, opposite out actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell. Also known as Dr. Benson in the 2003 indie Girls Will Be Girls, the 38-year-old Kansas native explains how he’s personally pushing the gay movement forward — with or without prime-time PDA.
Advocate.com: First of all, thanks for introducing the term “moon landing” to popular culture. What was it like to touch bare butt cheeks with Ed O’Neill?
Eric Stonestreet: [Laughs] I tweeted the day that episode aired that if you set goals, work hard, and always believe in yourself, you too can touch butts with a TV icon someday. It was blurred out on TV, but we really did touch butts. He was like, “You fine with this?” I was like, “I’m fine with it. Are you fine with it?” And he was like, “Yeah, let’s do this!” So we touched butts, and it was great.
Twitter obviously makes you easily accessible to fans. What kind of feedback have you gotten from gay viewers about Modern Family?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I had prepared myself that people might think Cameron was too flamboyant, too broad, or too stereotypical, but we’ve always felt we take it to that line but then twist it a bit. Gay couples have approached me at the Grove in Los Angeles just to say “thank you.” At Starbucks I was approached by two women pushing a stroller who said, “We’d like to introduce you to our baby.” I’ve been blown away, because I was expecting a little bit more blowback, if you will, than what we’ve received from the gay community and even from people who are opposed to gay rights.
Have you gotten negative feedback from right-wingers or religious zealots who don’t believe gays should adopt?
There is that out there, but I don’t pay attention to it and neither do the writers. This is the best way I can put it: If there are any crazy conservatives who have a problem with watching two men raise a baby with love and care, they can just turn the channel to CSI, watch people get raped and murdered, and they’ll be fine.
Do you feel like you personally have the power to influence or change conservative Middle American opinions on gay issues?
Absolutely. Our main goal is to make people laugh, and we don’t want to shove anything in anyone’s face, but for sure we acknowledge and appreciate the opportunity to also educate people. The writers, Jesse, and I have all talked about it and agree that the faster we can shuffle down the fact that these guys are gay, the better. We’ve been successful at just highlighting that these guys love each other, they’re in a committed relationship, they’re neurotic, they’re excitable, and they’re nervous about raising a baby and doing the right thing. The fact that they’re gay really goes in the background, which I think is a positive step. The sooner people stop thinking of people as gay and start thinking of people as people, the better off we are.