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3. Be Funny, Biting, Sweet, Ironic, and Just This Short of Sappy


3b. Upend stereotypes, sometimes by embracing them

Mitchell’s diva-loving husband Cameron is planning to go out for the evening with Gloria, his Latina mother-in-law—he’s certain they have a lot in common. But there’s a flashback explaining why Cameron’s nervous about the evening: At a party, he’d made an accidentally racist-sounding remark in front of Gloria.

Cameron: Honestly, I wish that tart would go back to Columbia and take her weird little Brown friend with her.

CL: Something similar had happened to our writer Brad, who had referred to “a Brown person” as obnoxious and managed to alienate half a party who didn’t realize this African-American person had gone to Brown University.

Eric Stonestreet (Cameron): The show has two characters that can say things like this: Jay, a traditional guy, and Cameron. It’s a brilliant stroke, really, because Cameron is a forward-thinking, progressive gay man who says borderline stereotypical-racist things—and it’s complicated, because it’s clear that my character is a good person.

CL: There’s a lot of Eric in Cameron. Early on, we asked all the actors about special skills, and Eric was a football player in college. He was also a clown named Fizbo. He grew up on a farm, he plays the drums. We added all that to the character’s background, and the sports thing enables him to bond with Mitchell’s dad in a way Mitchell never could.

SL: Right away, to have a gay guy who played college football, that opens up the character to an audience.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell): I’m very protective of Mitchell and Cameron, of their relationship. I would like to see them show more physical affection—we film scenes several ways, including kisses—but at the same time we’re moving cautiously, because it’s sort of a gay Trojan horse in people’s living rooms.

Sofia Vergara (Gloria): They wrote the character of Gloria specifically for me: I’m from Barranquilla, I’m divorced, I have a kid. People do often ask me if she’s a stereotype. But I think it’s fabulous that she’s passionate, she’s loud, she’s voluptuous! I wouldn’t want to be described as quiet, with no ass, and boring. So maybe I am a stereotype—my mom is and my aunt. So what?

SL: We haven’t established yet how Gloria met Jay. The weirdest version was that the day his divorce was finalized, he was feeling fragile, and she was the bikini bartender.

SV: The first time they came to me, they said they met at Hooters. And I’m like, What, no—why? Does she have to be a Hooters girl? They said, “Okay, you’re right.”

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