Many (including your very own TV Addict) have called MODERN FAMILY the funniest new show of the season, but so to was THE CLASS (Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s short-lived CBS comedy). Which is why we have to start off this interview by asking the obvious, albeit slightly awkward question. Just how nervous are you to be kicking off the Fall starring in the ‘it’ show of the season, again!
Jesse Tyler Ferguson: Oh God I’m thrilled about the buzz, but I’m trying not to think about it too much because of course it’s terrifying. Not as terrifying as being on a badly buzzed about show mind you (See: Ferguson’s mercifully short-lived FOX ‘comedy’ DO NOT DISTURB), but there is a lot of pressure. Especially among the cast, who were kind of nervous that subsequent episode wouldn’t live up to the quality of the pilot. Thankfully, I can assure you that the episodes we’ve been shooting thus far have been equally as good and the quality we’re maintaining is pretty fantastic.
Were you at all apprehensive about jumping back into series television after your last experience on the aforementioned DO NOT DISTURB?
The short answer is extremely apprehensive. So much so that I was anticipating going back to New York and doing theater and I actually had stuff lined up which I was very excited about keeping my schedule free to do (Fun Fact: That ‘stuff lined up’ was the lead in the musical adaptation of Will Ferrell’s Elf in which Ferguson was slated to play the titular role.) But then my manager called and said, “I’ve got a really great script, just read it.” But he completely downplayed it which was hilarious because we both freaked out after I read it as I wanted to a part of MODERN FAMILY so badly. And everything sort of fell into place. I went out for the role, I got it and I’m so excited. Really this script was the only thing that could have made me go back to television.
I imagine raising an adoptive child has opened up the story-telling possibilities?
That’s kind of the most interesting color that me and Eric are playing right now (Fun Fact: Eric plays Cameron, Ferguson’s fIctional TV husband, who incidentally will be joining @jessetyler to live tweet tonight’s season premiere on the east coast at @ericstonestreet). Rather than focus on two gay dads adopting a baby, our story is really about two new fathers who are going to have to raise this little girl the right way and not stand out too much for her sake. There is this great episode coming up where we take her to ‘Mommy and Me’ class and I sort of want to blend in with the other Moms while Eric’s character wants to be a little more presentational and I of course beg him not to and hilarity of course ensues. There is another episode where we take her to the Doctor because we bump her head against the door. Fortunately she was wearing a summer afro wig at the time and you’ll have to tune in to see why.
Chris and Steve [Creators Christopher Lloyd and Steve Levitan respectively) are kind of like a bottomless pit of ideas and humour, turning the simplest family situations into such rich comedy so we’re definitely in good hands with them. Plus we have Shelly Long coming up as my estranged mother and the reason why she’s estranged is equally interesting and hilarious. And we just shot an episode with Elizabeth Banks who sort of plays mine and Cameron’s best friend who we haven’t seen in a while because we’ve been so busy with the baby so we decide to go out for a night of drinking together and she just kind of crumbles into this heaping mess of drunken nausea.
Even though you’ve alluded to the fact that MODERN FAMILY is not just about two gay dads, do you feel any added pressure knowing how powerful a medium television is and that your and Eric’s portrayal of gay parents may have a profound effect on people’s perceptions?
You know I’m trying not to put too much social pressure on the show and the characters right now but it’s completely impossible to ignore that Mitchell (Ferguson’s character) and Cameron do resonate in a different and groundbreaking way. Not only am I thrilled that their stories are being told, but that they’re being told so eloquently and with so much humour. I know that I’m holding a bit of a torch for a large part of America that hasn’t been given the same rights as everyone else but at the same time I’m trying not to bring so much brevity to it so that the show, the series, these characters can breath. At this point I think that it can only do good and I’m hoping that the Gay and Lesbian community are proud of it and see that we’re trying to represent a very real facet of society in a very funny, humane and hilarious way.
And finally, although you’re up against it at 9PM on Wednesdays, being a Broadway vet (Fun Fact: Ferguson originated the role of Leaf Coneybear in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) I have to ask you about GLEE.
Since we’re competing against it I think ABC would have my head if I went on the show! But I have seen it, and think it’s great. I have a couple of friends on the show — Lea Michele, Matt Morrison, Jayma Mays — so I’m thrilled for them and I’m a huge Jane Lynch fan so I would tune in even if she was the only one on. I would love to be on it, but I shouldn’t say that publicly because it will probably get me in trouble.
MODERN FAMILY premieres Wednesday September 23 at 9PM on ABC (CityTV in Canada)