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Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Broadway, Bathroom Bills, and the Hollywood Closet

The Modern Family star , now on Broadway in Totally committed, talks about being out and famous, a campaigner–and married.


Yes, Jesse Tyler Ferguson says, he has invited Gwyneth Paltrow to find Fully Committed, his 90 -minute, one-man Broadway show that invokes the Goop chatelaine by name.

Ive gratified her before, shes really lovely, Ferguson said in a phone interview. I wanted to reach out and let her know, if she hadnt heard, shes made reference to, and invites the state party to comeI suppose shed get a kick out of it.

In Totally committed, the Modern Family star plays Sam, an actor who, between auditions, takes reservations from the rich, pushy, and assistants-of-the-famousincluding Bryce from Gwyneth Paltrows officein the basement of a fancy restaurant.

Bryce is extremely shrill, and insistent not just about what food his boss wishes to eat, but how she willand will notbe lit.

When not tackle these ogres, Sam must also deal with the demands of the restaurants monster, egotistical cook, and its wheedling, needy personnel. And theres Sams lovely daddy, also ringing in to ask when Sam is coming home.

Ferguson occupies not only Sam, but the voices of all those people ringing him up to coax and admonish him, from a rude society maven to sweet old lady to clueless out-of-towners. The challenge for Sam is not just to retain his dignity, but, surely more impossibly, make some life-capital out of it for himself.

For Ferguson, the zippy, intense, hour and a half he is on stage is akin to going to the gym. There are moments at the start of the play when I dont want to do it. Its a lot of work, then you start doing it, then youre like, Im glad I started this. By the end, its Im really glad I did thatexactly how I feel about going to the gym.

Inhabiting the voices, racing around the stage, marshaling the right lines, even doing chin-ups on some tubes, is mentally and physically exhausting, told Fergusonbut as long as the audience is enjoying it, it carries him along.

On two-show days, Ferguson takes sleeps between proves, has coffee, and does jumping jacksindeed this indicate, which has the same demands of a workout, has led him to the gym and a trainer to hold him in shape for the arduous performances.

Playwright Becky Mode wrote Totally committed in 1999, in an earlier, less demented iteration of foodie culture, and the version Ferguson performs has been updated.

Now we have celebrity cooks, Open Table, the cuisine has changed so much, the standard of Michelin and James Beard-winning restaurants has changed, and the play had to rethink that, he said.

Like Sam, Ferguson, who grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to New York to pursue his acting dream, had to do lots of odd tasks to keep himself afloat: babysitting, shop-work in Times Square, a coffee shop, bartending. I did what I needed to do to get ahead, Ferguson told. There were periods when I would go off and do a indicate, and come back to that job that I had believed I was leaving for good. That I can relate to Sams situation: It was exactly the same.

Like Sam, Ferguson was in the position of trying to get home to family for the holidays, but prevented by the demands of his job: In the play, Sams relationship with his daddy is one thing “mustve been” rewritten and deepened.

Ferguson has parlayed renown, borne by Modern Family, which premiered in 2009, into impressive LGBT rights run: In 2012 he and his spouse Justin Mikita began the fashion-centered Tie The Knot campaign, set up to create funds for marriage-equality campaigning.

With marriage equality now won, Ferguson and Mikita, who married in 2013, have expanded Tie The Knots focus to raise money for international campaigns for marriage equality, as well as campaigning on broader LGBT issues in the U.S.

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