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'Modern Family': Eric Stonestreet reveals Cameron's clown-filled past

Cameron Fans of “Modern Family” are used to Eric Stonestreet.

As the lovable Cameron on the hit ABC comedy, the 38-year-old Kansas native frequently steals scenes with his spot-on quips and pitch-perfect performance.

And viewers will soon get the opportunity to not only learn about Cameron’s past, they get to see Stonestreet in a role he knows very well: a clown.

In the episode to air Nov. 25, Phil and Claire decide to throw Luke a memorable birthday party. But when Cameron shows up as a clown named Fizbo, all doesn’t quite end well.

Stonestreet called into Show Tracker to talk clowns, clothes and Kathy Bates.

You’ve said before that you base Cameron off of your own mother; what’s your fondest memory of her where you think, “That’s a Cameron moment?”

There’s a single moment in the pilot episode where it was this inspiration. When I walk in and see the mural that’s panted (in Lily’s featuring Mitchell and Cameron as Michaelangelo-esque naked angels with carefully placed drapery). The script said, “Cameron gasps” but all I could hear was my mom. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard my mother say, “Ohhh, my God.” I told my mom you’re gonna be happy to know that I got the part, and that I based it off you and there was that “Ohhh, my God!!”  It’s not as much based on her, it's just an anchor in something that’s familiar. Lots of actors do that with characters. She was the easiest and most forward thing in my mind, her mannerisms and her body language.

Soon we get to see Cameron show his skills as a clown, which I understand taps into your background.

I wanted to be a clown as a kid. That’s very well documented, you’ll even see some old pictures of me. By 5 I was wearing clown shoes and makeup. My birthday is in September, and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey always came to town. I was always fascinated by clowns. When it was explained to me that they were people in makeup, it made perfect sense to me. That’s what I wanted to do.

Where are you hoping the writers take Cameron in the future?

I think they are so good. They have the difficult job. It’s hard for me to sorta say. I like that they take Cameron and Mitchell in a way that wasn’t stereotypical. We’re a comedy, we’re making a comedy, and stereotypes are going to make their way in. But I think what is great is that Jesse (Tyler Ferguson, plays Mitchell) and I are very conscious are spinning those roles on their head. I just love the idea of creating a well-rounded, versatile character.

Cameron’s always so fashionable. His button-ups are to die for. What store would Cameron be spending all his hard on money at?

[Laughs] It’s funny. I think all his shirts would be custom made. Cameron would have his own tailor. I think his tailor would call him each week and tell him to come over. The budget of 20th Century Fox says his shirts come from Macy’s. It’s one of the biggest highlights of my day … seeing what he will wear.

There has already been an impressive stable of guest stars with Shelley Long, Edward Norton (appearing with Elizabeth Banks in tonight’s episode) and now Minnie Driver. Who’s on your wish list?

If I could pick one person to play Cameron’s mom, my dream would be Kathy Bates. Her as my mom from the farm and being the loving supporting mom would be incredible. I have no idea if TV is on Kathy Bates’ radar. They are so good to get great people. But I hope they keep finding great unknown people. I can sympathize with them. Going out for roles and not getting them in favor of someone more famous. That was me eight months ago.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photo: Eric Stonestreet. Credit: ABC
 
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