Sean Stoker, Staff Writer [email protected]
Photo Credit: Laura Fox
As a teen from the mean wheat fields of Kansas, Eric Stonestreet dreamed of becoming a clown. At the tender age of fifteen, he started performing in clown makeup and a purple afro wig at children’s birthday parties, parades and other local events. At one such event, he found that the supply of balloons he used to hand out to kids had run out. Two small kids approached him hoping for balloons of their own. As a consolation prize, he offered the two kids a couple shamrock stickers from a St. Patrick’s Day gig he had recently put on. Satisfied, the kids skipped away and Eric thought that was that. Minutes later, a friend approached him in a panic.
“Eric! Are you handing out stickers to these kids?”
Not sure what the problem was, Eric pulled out his stickers to inspect them more closely. To his horror, he realized that the shamrocks he had given away were superimposed with the phrase, “F%!K me, I’m Irish.”
Mortified, Eric stammered out as best he could, “I-I-I-I didn’t know. I just wanted to make people laugh!”
Undeterred by this speed bump in his quest for comedy, Eric Stonestreet continued looking for success, finally finding it in his well-known role as Cameron Tucker on ABC’s hit sitcom “Modern Family.” For those unfamiliar with the series, it centers around a large, nontraditional family, including: The elderly patriarch, who is married to a hot young Columbian bombshell with a tween-aged kids of her own; his gay son and his son’s partner (Stonestreet), together with their Vietnamese adopted daughter; and the patriarch’s daughter, who belongs to the only traditional family.
Stonestreet’s character, Cam, is a lovable man-diva, full of sassy wit and manipulative charisma. Arguably a large part of the draw of his character is the stark contrast between his moments of measured pleasantry and his full-fledged meltdowns and freak-outs.
Having quite the following among the Wolverines, Eric Stonestreet graced our halls with his presence and spoke to nearly 400 UVU students on Apr. 7, inviting all in attendance to ask him any question they pleased.
Stonestreet roused cheers from the audience as he entered, which quickly gave way to laughs. He projected a persona that was at once dynamic while at the same time self-deprecating, evidenced by his remark that he hoped the podium was “bomb-proof” because he believed he was “about to bomb” his speech.
Much of the discussion centered around the life of an actor and the experiences Stonestreet has had working on what “Adweek” called one of the 100 most influential TV shows.
Due to the nature of the “Modern Family” premise, there was some discussion of what impact the show has had on the LGBT community. Eric Stonestreet, a strait actor, portrays Cam, a gay man, opposite costar Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Cam’s partner Mitchell.
“We try not to take [the gay rights debate] too seriously on the show because first and foremost our job is to make you laugh and entertain you. We don’t want to preach to anybody, we don’t want to, as they say, ‘shove it down their throats,’ we want to open people’s hearts and minds through laughter and show that people are people independent of their sexuality,” said Stonestreet.
Stonestreet expressed humility at the fact that many members of that community have reached out to him with gratitude for what his character has done.
“I have kids that come up to me and tell me that Mitchell and I made it easier to come out to their parents, and parents that come up to me and tell me that Mitchell and I helped them to accept their child… you never think as an actor that you’re going to get the opportunity to touch people’s lives in that way.”
Stonestreet shared how he deals with the disappointments that often accompany his line of work. He stressed the importance of confidence on the front end of an audition, but the contrasting ability to leave the whole thing behind as you walk out the door.
“It took 13 years in Los Angeles before I got the job that I have now,” Stonestreet said in his introduction, detailing that in all that time he had various small roles in shows like “Bones,” “CSI” and “West Wing” but until he was cast as Cam in “Modern Family” he had never had an acting job that had lasted more than eight days.
“I would never let the highs get too high, or the lows get too low so I could keep an even keel, and [my failures] weren’t seemingly failures.” Stonestreet said. “I was never tethered to the idea of being an actor as much as I was tethered to the idea of finding success in my life. It just so happened that I found it being an actor.”
Eric Stonestreet announced that he is currently working on an as-of-now untitled animated film starring the voices of himself, Louis C.K., and Kevin Hart. The project is slated for a 2016 release to theatres.
“Modern Family” airs on ABC on Wednesdays at 9/8c.