Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Sophomore slump? Eric Stonestreet doesn't get it — but assures you it will not apply to Modern Family. "I don't know why people sort of expect you to stumble, but I can tell you that that will not happen with us," he tells TVGuide.com. "We're still going to be great this year."
Check out photos from Modern Family
After premiering last fall to near-universal acclaim, the ABC comedy became a breakout hit, culminating in an Emmy win for comedy series last month that dethroned three-time defending champ 30 Rock. It became only the 10th show to win comedy series for its freshman season and gave ABC its first win in the category since 1988.
"I've said it before and I say it now, not in a conceited, cocky way, but I think our show is really good," Stonestreet, who won the comedy supporting actor Emmy, says. "If we agree to the fact that we give each other awards in this industry, and one of them is for best comedy, I don't think we can be denied a comedy award. We felt really confident about our chances and we felt [proud] of our work. We were happy to win."
Now, as Season 2 premieres, it's time to back up the award and build on the momentum. Stonestreet feels no pressure since the show's philosophy has not changed: write what you know.
"I love that we're telling stories first. It's not, 'Let's do this because this would be hilarious,'" he says. "It's, 'Let's tell this story because it actually happened.' We have writers who are not only funny people, but people who are experiencing exactly what our show is about. ... I learned early on, listening to the writers and creators, when somebody pitched something, they'd say, 'Well, that doesn't really serve the story.' It has to be organic. I can say with a certain amount of certainty that our show is right back where we left off. The stories are hilarious; the situations are hilarious."
Wednesday's premiere will find Cameron (Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) tackling a do-it-yourself project for their daughter, Lily. And yes, it was inspired by one of the writers' experiences. "Mitchell's really dangerous with power tools, but doesn't know it, and he's putting my life in danger," Stonestreet says. As for the other families, Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen) are trying to sell their old station wagon that they got when they were first together. And Jay (Ed O'Neill) and Gloria (Sofia Vergara)? "I honestly cannot remember!" Stonestreet says. "But that's the cool thing about our show because it's so simple that they don't have to run the episodes in the order of which we shoot for you to watch and enjoy them. This episode wasn't the original premiere."
Nathan Lane to play Pepper on Modern Family
(For the record, on the season premiere, Gloria must contend with a new woman in Manny's life: his date.)
The initial Season 2 premiere was going to feature Nathan Lane as Cam and Mitchell's flamboyant and oft-mentioned pal, Pepper. That episode, in which the couple tries to get out of attending a brunch at Pepper's house, is now running third, Stonestreet says. Later in the season, fans will get to meet someone else in Cam's life: his Southern-bred mama, played by Celia Weston. "She gets along with Mitchell a little too well!" Stonestreet says. "She's really sweet and raised a guy that's willing to be himself at all times. Cam definitely gets his loving personality from her."
Speaking of loving, Cam and Mitch will also have their first on-screen kiss — a liplock born not out of a Facebook campaign, but — you guessed it — an organic story line. Stonestreet says the kiss had been planned long ago, but never fit into any of last season's plots.
VIDEO: Cameron gets a little too sporty in Season 2 of Modern Family
"It's an idea that's been in the queue that takes time to flesh out. [It's a story] about affection and what affection means to Jay, what it means to Mitchell, what it means to Claire," he says. "It's not just a gratuitous kiss. There's an episode where I'm in bicycle shorts the whole time. That's one of the first ideas they pitched last year when I met with the writers in a "get-to-know-you" meeting. We just now shot it. It's the same deal with the kiss — stories take time. You have to wait."
Stonestreet, who has been acting for more than 10 years, has also patiently waited for his mid-career breakout and sees his Emmy win as an "acknowledgment of a long career." "I was very grateful and was very happy to know I always stayed positive and kept chugging along and got rewarded with this great show," he says. In his speech, he promised to give the trophy to his parents in his native Kansas.
"They didn't believe me and I told them, 'You know, I wouldn't have said it in front of millions of people if I didn't mean it,'" he laughs. "I'm going to keep it until Christmas and take it home for the holidays and give it its resting spot there on their mantel, where they eat breakfast every morning and dinner every night. ... make their home a little more modern."
Modern Family returns Wednesday at 9/8c on ABC.