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Cast giving away some funny 'Family' secrets

Walt Belcher Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 04:00 AM

If you think watching "Modern Family" is fun, you should see what goes on while they're making it.

"I break up easy, and there have been scenes that I didn't think we would finish because we were all laughing so much," says Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays the uptight lawyer Mitchell Pritchett on the hit ABC comedy.

The 34-year-old actor who plays one-half of television's most popular gay couple says, "The writing on the show is so good, and the whole cast is funny, so we have a good time on the set."

Fans of "Modern Family" will get a chance to see some of those break-ups, goofs and bloopers when four of the cast members take the stage Wednesday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall.

"We will show some pieces from our gag reel, bloopers that you don't see on TV, we talk about the show and we take questions from the audience," Ferguson said in a recent telephone interview.

Also expected at this appearance — the only one in Florida — are Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell, who play married couple Claire and Phil Dunphy, and Eric Stonestreet, who plays Mitchell's partner, Cameron Tucker.

Other members of the ensemble couldn't make it. They include Ed O'Neill as grumpy family patriarch Jay Prichett; Sofía Vergara as his much-younger wife; and Rico Rodriguez as her 13-year-old son.

Mitchell and Claire are siblings, Jay's grown children from his first wife. Jay struggles to accept that his grown son is gay — but he's working on it.

"One thing about this show is that it's very relatable, because we're all members of families with sometimes complicated relationships, which can be difficult and rewarding at the same time," says Ferguson, who is openly gay.

Stonestreet, 38, who is straight, won an Emmy for his role as the fun-loving and emotional Cameron. He has described his character as a "huggable, affectionate guy with a big heart."

Now wrapping up its third season, "Modern Family" is the top-rated TV series among adults 18 to 49, easily topping Fox's "American Idol."

"The cast has become very close, which is great because we spend a lot of time working together," Ferguson says. "It's rare for us to do one of these panel presentations. Three of us did one about a year ago, and it went over so well that we've booked a few more during this hiatus."

"Modern Family" has wrapped production for this season. The season finale is set for May 23. "I can't tell you what happens, but the writers have come up with a great episode that is funny and moving," Ferguson says, "And it may shock some people."

Ferguson says the success of "Modern Family" has been like catching lightning in a bottle. Good writers and a good cast came together with stories and characters that viewers could identify with.

He is also gratified that Mitchell and Cameron have become role models for gay couples, presenting a positive image of adoptive gay dads. "It's nice to have a job, but to have a social impact is beyond what most actors anticipate," he says.

Stonestreet has said that he and Ferguson have becomes friends for life because of the show, and he considers himself a straight version of Cameron.

Ferguson says he personally is not as uptight as Mitchell. "I live Mitchell's uptightness. I find people who take themselves very seriously are funny, so I was drawn to this character. I also like to see him crack up. It shows his vulnerability."

He also likes that Mitchell's relationship with his father is "complicated and messy" because both men are trying to understand each other.

"People who come to see us at the theater will see that we are not exactly like our characters," he adds. "They will see who cuts up the most and who laughs the most. During a scene, for example, I can catch a glimmer in Eric's eye and know that he's going to start laughing."

In 2010, "Modern Family" won Emmys for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (for the pilot episode), and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Stonestreet). In 2011, the series received 17 Emmy nominations, and won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Julie Bowen). In 2012, the show won the Golden Globe for Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy.

"Cast of Modern Family Live"

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N. McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater

Tickets: $49 and up; (727) 791-7400 or rutheckerdhall.com

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