Jesse Tyler Ferguson talks 'Take Me Out,' 'Modern Family,' more
Jesse Tyler Ferguson admits that baseball was never his favorite national pastime.
"I was dragged to games by my dad and was always a little bit bored by it. I like the ceremony of it, but I wasn’t really a fan of the game itself," says the actor.
That changed a little bit during the pandemic as he spent hours watching games and documentaries about the sport to prepare for his role in the Broadway revival of "Take Me Out," which opens April 4 at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The drama, which was originally set to open in spring 2020, is written by East Meadow native Richard Greenberg and stars Jesse Williams as a baseball player who comes out of the closet and Ferguson as the team's gay money manager.
Also during the pandemic, he and his husband, lawyer-producer Justin Mitka, became parents to a son Beckett, now 21 months.
Ferguson, 46, who earned five Emmy nominations for his role as Mitchell Pritchett on the long-running sitcom "Modern Family," recently spoke with Newsday's Daniel Bubbeo about the play as well as his TV role and making a fashion statement with bow ties for his foundation Tie the Knot.
How does it feel to finally get to do this showing after waiting for two years?
It’s a great feeling. I’ve never experienced something like this where I’ve gotten to marinate in the material for two years. … When we came back, with the entire cast there were these very rich performances. We didn’t pick up where we left off. We brought more to the roles. It was sort of an inevitable thing. We’re all in a different place in our lives personally and emotionally. Some of us became fathers over that time. It’s a bit of a blessing actually. I feel like I know this play better than any other piece of work that I’ve done.
There's a lot of nudity in the show. Are you happy or disappointed that you’re one of the few actors who gets to keep his clothes on for the whole show?
I’m obviously very happy. [Laughs.] These poor guys, they’re eating their salads and they’re working out, two times a day sometimes. That being said, I am trying to keep up with them. I am ordering my three bean salad for lunch during rehearsal. I don’t want to be eating carbs in front of them.
And you’re such a food person, too. You do the blog Food Between Friends with Julie Tanous and the two of you came out with a cookbook last year. When did you develop such an interest in cooking?
I always wanted to go to culinary school but I never had the time to do it. I became very close friends with Julie and she’s a chef, so she taught me the stuff she learned in culinary school and I learned to like cooking. I find it to be very meditative and I love cooking for my friends and family.
Do you have a specialty?
Not really. I try to stay versatile. There are certain things I go to a lot, but I’m not a maverick in any certain nationality.
On the other side, has there been a particular kitchen disaster you can recall?
I did cook the Thanksgiving turkey with the bag of giblets still inside, but I don’t think I’m the first person to do that.
You did “Modern Family” for 11 years. Do you miss doing the show?
I miss the routine of it and I certainly miss the cast and crew very, very much, but the character I was happy to say goodbye to. As an actor I’m always looking for ways to stretch myself and try new things. And there is certainly a deep comfort in playing Mitchell for so long but it stopped becoming challenging for me. For someone who’s always looking for something that scares me, that certainly wasn’t going to be it for any longer.
Congratulations on becoming a dad. How are you enjoying it?
It’s great. It’s really hard. Everybody always tell you it’s hard, but it’s harder than I thought it was going to be. Every day is just like this new journey and new adventure. Beckett’s at an age where he’s doing so many new things every day and it’s been really exciting to watch.
We have two things in common: We’re both Libras and I also like bow ties. How did your affection for bow ties come about?
I started wearing them when I was going to red carpet events and I was kind of bored with just a standard black bow tie, so I did something out of the box and started playing with color and design. So when I had the desire to start a foundation to give back, it seemed like a natural marriage to combine my passion for marital equality with fashion and bow ties. It’s been a really fun process with that. though I’m not as involving with the designing of the bow ties as I was before. But I certainly do have a large collection of bow ties.