Jesse Tyler Ferguson Talks 'Modern Family' Gay Kiss, Doing Shakespeare with Pacino
By Nicki Gostin Posted Jun 23rd 2010 12:00PM
The 34-year-old, who plays uptight lawyer Mitchell Pritchett -- one half of the show's gay couple, which has Facebook clamoring for a big kiss -- on the ABC hit, is back in New York City to appear on the airy stage of 'Shakespeare in the Park.' He is featured in both summer productions -- 'The Winter's Tale,' and 'The Merchant of Venice' with the one and only Al Pacino.
Here, he chats with PopEater about memorizing those dastardly Shakespeare lines, his chemistry with his onscreen husband and the 12,000 Facebook fans who are dying to see Cam and Mitchell smooch.
Are you going to offer Pacino a few acting pointers?
Yeah, Al really needed a good long summer with me to learn how to act. This is my third 'Shakespeare in the Park' and the first time I was offered it. That's never happened before; I've always had to jump through hoops and audition for these roles, and this was the first summer that they trusted me enough to do it. I guess I've paid my dues.
I still don't get how people memorize Shakespeare.
I'm always so intimidated by it, thinking I'm never going to learn this, and for some reason I end up learning it quicker because it's like poetry. Once you understand what you're saying, it's very easy to memorize. It's getting over that hurdle. I bought the 'No Fear Shakespeare' version of 'Merchant of Venice.' Basically, on one side of the page it has Shakespeare's dialogue, and on the other is plain English. I was ashamed to have it until I saw Al Pacino carrying around the same book on the very first day of rehearsals. I was very comforted.
Do you wear a lot of sunscreen during rehearsals?
Yes -- we rehearse during the days. They provide us with 30 SPF, but that's not enough for me. I have a stash of 70-plus.
Do you wear a big floppy hat?
Yes. The other day we all were. I said we were all channeling Katharine Hepburn.
'Modern Family' is one of my favorite shows.
It's been great. It's been interesting coming back to New York with the success of 'Modern Family' under my belt. It's been quite a different experience walking through the streets. It's great, but it does make getting from point A to point B a little harder.
You have such great chemistry with your onscreen husband, Eric Stonestreet.
I did a chemistry read with several actors. I had the privilege of working with several other actors to find the right Cam. Eric came in and really hit it out of the park. You could just tell the minute he walked in the room [that] he was special and different. We just really got along. He's a really kind person and has amazing friends, which I think is a testament to who he is as a person. He's a very easy person to like off screen, so I think that carries on to our onscreen chemistry. He's not gay and I am and it's pretty amazing we can make people believe we're a couple and very much in love. There is a lot of love between us.
It's a bromance.
What do you think of the 'Let Cam & Mitchell kiss on Modern Family' Facebook campaign?
I'm all for progressive movement within the show. I appreciate the passion that some of the fans have. The fact that there is even a campaign on Facebook just shows how many people really love the show and the characters and want to see them happy. I think the writers are proceeding in a very wise way. There's a great PDA episode they're writing about Mitchell's issues with public displays of affection. Viewers shouldn't be expecting a big, 'Gone with the Wind' romantic kiss. It's very beautiful and poignant. The writers are so good, they're really taking that criticism and they're going to run with it and try and create a talking point with it.
Do you have a favorite aspect of 'Modern Family'?
I think that's what's so great about the show is they take everyday life and make them into talking points. This issue is, "Why is it weird that two gay men haven't kissed on TV?" They're going to make it into something that's not a big deal but something very subtle and hopefully cause some discussion, and I think that's great.
Your background is musical theater. Do you want to do 'Glee'?
I love the show. I have tons of friends on the show. I think it's a pretty direct conflict with my show right now.
Does your mom do anything besides look for embarrassing childhood photos of you to use on the show?
Every once in a while the producers call and say, "We need pictures depicting this stage of your life," and usually when they ask that, they want something funny or kind of embarrassing. In my mom's eyes, every picture is precious and adorable, so I kind of have to beg her to search for the more embarrassing photos. Honestly, I was such an awkward kid growing up, and not to cue the sound of the violin, but I didn't have a lot of friends. So the fact that I can put some of these childhood photos on TV and sort of embrace my awkwardness is actually very empowering. A lot of my high school colleagues are watching the show and the fact that they can see this kid that maybe they made fun of at the time on TV in their living room is kind of vindicating.
Previous 'Modern Family' Interviews:
♦ Ed O'Neill Finds Gay Kiss Controversy 'Half Amusing, Half Annoying'
♦ Talking About the Naughty Bits With Eric Stonestreet
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