The star of ABC's hit comedy 'Modern Family' says he's just a guy from Kansas who's fortunate enough to have opportunities on TV. We beg to differ.
Photography by Deborah Wald
Eric Stonestreet loves pigs. And Rockmount Ranch Wear shirts. And historic firearms. And his gig playing a gay dad on one of the most popular shows on TV.
Eric Stonestreet is full of surprises.
He wanted to be a clown. He studied to be a prison administrator. And though he’s now recognized for his portrayal of one half of the most famous gay couple on television, this farm boy from Kansas is straight.
A star of one of television’s most successful and highly acclaimed comedy series, Stonestreet shines as Cameron Tucker on ABC’s Modern Family and bagged the 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the show’s first season (that same year, Modern Family won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy). Since then, Stonestreet has been nominated for an additional Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards. And that’s just in the first three seasons of the breakout show, which is constantly among TV’s Top 10.
Such huge success could turn the head of any actor, but not Stonestreet. When he makes the late-night rounds with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon, an unmistakable Midwestern modesty and earnestness come through. It’s authentic: Raised far away from the red carpet and Hollywood glamour, Stonestreet grew up on a farm in the Kansas City, Kansas, area, where his family raised cattle and pigs.
The family ranch began as a hobby for Stonestreet and his brother and sister. They were in 4-H as children and had to raise livestock as part of the organization’s requirements. As a kid, Stonestreet was terrified of cows, so his father bought him several feeder pigs; soon two dozen more were delivered to the small farm and Stonestreet became a very busy boy indeed.
“I always wanted a job to do, “ he explains. “We built a fence after the pigs arrived and my responsibility was to take care of them before and after school. I was the only kid in my neighborhood that spent weekends fixing fences, burning feed sacks, and baling hay. My dad always had a passion for animals and instilled a love of them in us. We were living in the most rural part of Kansas, but still in the city limits, and my pig operation was probably illegal.”
With their own 5 acres and access to an additional 40 acres of adjacent pastureland, the family gradually evolved the feeder pig operation into raising sows and boars. “The most pigs I had was seven sows and one boar,” Stonestreet says. “So at any given time, seven times 14 — as pigs can have 12 or 14 piglets at a pop — I could have 90 to a hundred little pigs running around on the farm.”