By Adam Sandel
The flawless ensemble cast of ABC’s hit comedy “Modern Family” is a weekly wonder to behold. For the past two years, the cast has shared the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.
Yet even among his talented co-stars, Eric Stonestreet is a standout in his portrayal of the highly emotional, high-maintenance gay dad Cameron Tucker.
His larger-than-life (in more ways than one) performance earned him a 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, as well as a 2011 nomination (co-star Ty Burrell won this time) and two Golden Globe nods.
The plus-sized Cam and his diminutive redhead husband Mitchell (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson) are like a gay Laurel and Hardy, struggling for family and societal acceptance while raising their adopted daughter Lily.
It’s a testament to the skill of the show’s writer/creators Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd that they’re not afraid to play with a few gay stereotypes while making Cam and Mitchell just as funny, flawed, and endearing as the other characters.
It’s a testament to Stonestreet’s skill that the straight actor is able to consistently hit the right note between over-the-top drama queen and believably sympathetic character. In interviews, he’s cited his mother as inspiration for the character who can be overly grand, self-involved, and long-suffering all in the same scene.
Do Cam and Mitchell reflect certain gay stereotypes? Absolutely. Are they negative stereotypes? No more than Ty Burrell’s bumbling straight dad Phil or Julie Bowen’s control-freak mom Claire.
While LGBT audiences may be justifiably sensitive to how they’re portrayed in film and television, the success of “Modern Family” proves that great writing and skilled performances always trump (and overcome) the risk of offensive characterizations.
Cam and Mitchell’s Greatest Hits:
In Season Two’s episode “The Kiss,” Cam and Mitchell finally had their first on-screen kiss, but only after exploring Mitchell’s fear of expressing affection. The blame for this lands on his dad Jay (Ed O’Neill) and climaxes with an uproarious slapstick scene involving the whole cast.
In Season Three’s “Little Bo Bleep,” Mitchell is horrified by Lily’s sudden dropping of F-bombs before being a flower girl at a friend’s wedding – and by Cam’s uncontrollable urge to laugh every time she does it.
In Season One’s “Moon Landing,” Cam and his father-in-law Jay share an unexpected “booty bump” in the men’s locker room.
And the best line of any episode? Cam and Mitchell fly into a panic when they lock baby Lily in the car in Season One’s “Run for Your Wife.” On the phone with roadside assistance, Mitchell shouts, “We locked our baby in the car and people are judging us!”