Stonestreet not his 'Modern Family' character
Eric Stonestreet arrives for a taping of the "Late Show with David Letterman" in New York, Monday, May 23, 2011. Stonestreet sighs slightly when asked if some people are disappointed at finding out he's not gay like the flamboyant character he plays with such zeal on “Modern Family.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charles Sykes
MONTREAL - Eric Stonestreet sighs slightly when asked if some people are disappointed at finding out he's not gay like the flamboyant character he plays with such zeal on "Modern Family."
Some devoted fans of the TV sitcom have criticized him on Twitter for cussing or doing things they believe his character Cameron Tucker wouldn't.
Others who maintain they can't see him as anyone but Cam even said they were surprised to see him in this summer's "Bad Teacher," a raunchy comedy about a foul-mouthed, junior high school teacher played by Cameron Diaz.
"That's the sort of thing I've got to stop caring about," said Stonestreet, 39, who will be hosting a show at Montreal's Just For Laughs comedy festival next week.
"People are disappointed sometimes but I hope they understand that I'm an actor playing a character. They love the character and they might like me too if they give me a chance."
After all, it's not like he hasn't done anything besides "Modern Family." The Kansas-born Stonestreet has a lengthy list of TV and movies roles including a recurring stint as a technician on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
And his darker side was on full view in appearances on "Nip/Tuck" and "NCIS" in which he played murderers.
"The year before 'Modern Family' I think I killed three people on TV," joked Stonestreet, who won an Emmy last year for best supporting actor in a comedy series.
He's nominated for the award again this year, as are several other members of the cast.
"Modern Family" follows the loving yet nutty families of Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill); his daughter Claire; and his gay son Mitchell, who is raising an adopted Vietnamese daughter with his partner Cam.
Mitchell, played by the openly gay Jesse Tyler Ferguson, is an uptight lawyer while Cam, as Mitch puts it in one episode, "is the mommy-er of the two."
That's appropriate, considering Stonestreet says he based the nurturing yet linebacker-sized Cam on his mother.
The actor admits to being a little doubtful when the show's writers told him that Cam was "not over the top." He referred in particular to one scene in which he theatrically introduced his new daughter to the family as the theme from "The Lion King" blared and a spotlight shone.
"How is this character not over the top?" he said with a laugh in the telephone interview from Brussels, where he is currently shooting the thriller "The Loft."
Stonestreet brought Cam to life by honing in on things he recognized in the character.
"The thing I found that was familiar was my mom and how my mom acts and talks and sounds and reacts," Stonestreet says of his time getting a handle on the character.
Mixing her soft voice and gestures with his hulking frame, he figured, and "maybe those two things would work in opposition perfectly."
Stonestreet has incorporated a few other aspects of his real life into Cam as well. Fizbo the Clown, played by Cam in the Emmy-winning episode, was originally created by Stonestreet when he was a kid.
"I was dressing up as a clown at five," he said, adding his dad dubbed him Fizbo when he was eight. By the time he was 11, he was doing kids' parties and handing out business cards.
"Comedy's in my blood," says Stonestreet, who also once considered being a U.S. Marine or a prison administrator as career choices.
He says both he and Ferguson have received accolades from same-sex couples for their portrayals of Mitch and Cam, with some saying they watch it with their own kids and relate to the characters.
Stonestreet said the show, which also has two gay writers, is always looking to take views of the gay community and then twist them for comedic effect.
"It is a sitcom after all and we sort of have to make fun of stereotypes and we have to do all the sorts of things that people sometimes criticize us for. Otherwise it wouldn't be funny," he says.
"It always cracks us up when we read people's articles and reviews of things and how we perpetuate stereotypes. It's not like this is a drama. This is not a very special sitcom about educating people. This is first and foremost to make people laugh."