Jesse Tyler Ferguson and the MODERN FAMILY

JTF 1In my reading of scripts and watching of pilots for the new shows this season, one of the comedies stood out among the others as the one that needs to be watched by everyone I know and everyone I don’t know because it’s genius.  That show, MODERN FAMILY created by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, finally premieres tonight on ABC and I can’t wait for everyone to see it!  Told as a mockumentary, focusing on what the new “modern family” is and starring Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet, along with a brilliant cast of others, the show feels like something we’ve never seen, but so familiar and welcome at the same time.  Among the many names you might recognize is Jesse Tyler Ferguson (THE CLASS), who stood out as one of my favorite things about the pilot (and there are so many things in this show that I loved, so that’s huge).  He had some time to chat with me late last week about the show, what to expect, why you’ll love it, and the surreal moment involving a dog and Diane Chambers.

How are you today?
I’m good.  I saw your tweet!

Did you?
I just discovered the search button on Twitter, and it’s a dangerous thing!

Eric (Stonestreet, Jesse’s partner on the show) replied to my call for questions, telling me to ask you about your BeeBee….
He told me he was going to ask you that.  We call each other Beebees.  Kind of like that Jessica Simpson/Nick Lachay were very clingy to one another in that show, and they always called each other BeeBee and it’s sort of been adopted!

I have to say, I’m so excited for this show – I think I’ve seen the pilot like 8 times now, because I can’t stop watching it
Oh nice!

I can’t wait for a second episode!  For people who haven’t been so lucky, how are you describing the show?
Well, I’m sort of describing it as a cross between a Christopher Guest sitcom, well, basically a Christopher Guest sitcom, family sitcom.  I think people try to hard to be like “oh it’s kind of like THE OFFICE, it’s kind of like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT” but it’s really unlike anything that’s been on TV. It’s its own thing. It’s incredibly smart, it reveals many surprises.  I’m such a fan of the show.

I think it’s really a good sign that people involved with the show are as excited as fans and viewers are going to be.
Every script we get, we just think, oh this one’s better than the last, which is such a good feeling.  We never feel like we’re on a rocky road with it.

What originally drew you to the role – I’d imagine it had something to do with the first script?
Exactly!  I was not planning on doing a television show.  I had some theater things going on, and I kind of cleared my schedule for that for next year, and I was not auditioning for any pilots this year.  This one, my manager was like, I think you should just read this one, I found it really interesting.  He downplayed it, like, it has a cool twist at the end, just read it, let me know what you think.  And I read it on my iPhone during a winter storm in New York in a cafe, and I could not stop reading it.  I was glued to my iPhone.  I called him, and I was like, I have to audition for this.  And he was like, you have an audition for the role of Cameron, which is the role that Eric is playing, but I said, I’m really more interested in Mitchell.  He couldn’t get me an audition for Mitchell.  I go in for the audition, and Steve Levitan and Chris Lloyd said, you know what, you’d play a great Mitchell, why don’t you come in for that.  I was like, thank you!  No one listens to me and 6 months later, I’m actually playing the role.  It was a script you could not ignore.  It was so well-written, so well-realized.  Even that initial seed worked.

Modern FamilyWhat can we expect beyond maybe the pilot?
With the pilot being so funny, I think everyone, and probably a lot of the critics, were nervous as well, like can they keep this up?  Every script that we get is better than the last.  The depth of creativity that they have is astonishing.  With me and Eric specifically, we’re playing this color of not just a gay couple, but two new dads, figuring out what that means for us, and how to raise this child, being gay, and yet trying to be as normal as possible.  So you see us as a Mommy and Me class, and you see us dealing with first parent things, taking her to the pediatrician because we barely bumped her head, and trying to not lose our calm with her.  It seems so simple in vocalizing it, but the way they’ve written it is with so many layers of comedy, it’s really astonishing what Chris Lloyd and Steve Levitan are capable of.  We just have the best writing staff and the actors bring so much to it.  It’s kind of a joy to watch the whole show unfold.

The cast itself is so fantastic – you go from one person to the next and they all impressed me. I’m so excited to see where everyone goes!
I’m with you!  It was nice to come back from the pilot and not have any recasts. I think that’s very common, with oh you know, we have to reshoot this scene with Ed O’Neill, because he wasn’t working out.  It just wasn’t going to happen.  Everyone was so fantastic and I think it was a perfect marriage of cast and writing and timing and the network has been really supportive of us, and that’s been wonderful.

And already, you guys are attracting huge guest stars!  You have Shelley Long and Elizabeth Banks!
I know!  We just shot with Elizabeth Banks yesterday which was so fun.  And Edward Norton’s coming in. Working with Shelley was kind of surreal, I’m not going to lie, it was kind of amazing.  She actually called out to a dog, and the dog’s name was Sam, and that just made me cough up my coffee.

Why do you think viewers should tune in?
I just feel that it’s unlike anything that’s been on TV or is on TV now.  I mean, there’s a lot of great options on television right now, but this stands alone as being very unique and having a very specific voice.  I think there’s not really a great family comedy on TV right now, and this can fill the void.  With THE MIDDLE, Patricia Heaton’s show, I think that’s also a very strong comedy, so the family comedy is making a comeback, and I definitely want to be a part of it.

Check out the series premiere of MODERN FAMILY tonight on ABC after an all new episode of DANCING WITH THE STARS!