Interview with Emmy nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson has been a true supporter of Broadway and off-Broadway theatre over the years and is an extremely talented stage actor to boot. He is currently starring on Broadway in the one-man comedy play Fully Committed at the Lyceum Theatre, in which he takes on around 40 different roles over the course of 90 minutes.
He is, of course, internationally known for his five-time Emmy-nominated recurring TV role as Mitchell Pritchett in "Modern Family," but has been previously seen on Broadway in 'The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee' and 'On The Town.' He has also been a regular fixture in The Public Theater's 'Shakespeare in the Park' programmes, among various other off-Broadway stagings including Vineyard Theatre and New York City Center.
We caught up with Jesse to see how he is enjoying Awards Season so far, whether 'Fully Committed' might have a further life in London and who his Tony picks are...
Thomas Hayden Millward: Congratulations, Jesse, on one of the standout performances of the Broadway season in ‘Fully Committed.’ How on earth do you even remember all those lines, all those different character voices and physicalities, as well as the order in which everything comes?
Jesse Tyler Ferguson: I’ve been working on the piece since October of last year, trying to memorize everything! There’s been a whole lot of marinating myself in the play. But it does get easier each time I do it.
THM: Of course, you have such a fantastic career in television with “Modern Family.” What keeps drawing you back to the theatre?
JTF: My love has always been being on stage. That’s where I started and I’m always drawn to coming back to it. I’ve been lucky enough to do ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ many times on my summers off, but this is the first time I’ve been able to be back on Broadway in about ten years. I’m so thrilled to be here.
THM: I missed ‘Fully Committed’ during its off-West End run in London…
JTF: Yes. Mark Setlock also directed that. He was the original star of ‘Fully Committed.’
THM: Could you see yourself making a West End debut?
JTF: I would love to! With the right show, I think that would be fun.
THM: Might ‘Fully Committed’ be that right show?
JTF: Possibly! I do play a few British characters in that show. I would be quite nervous doing my British accent in front of real Brits. I recently asked Cynthia Erivo if it was OK. She said it was fine. She actually said she was impressed.
THM: Well, you’ve got a good stamp of approval right there. And what do you think of her American accent?
JTF: Oh, it’s flawless! She’s amazing! She truly is a star!
THM: I just can’t get enough of ‘The Color Purple’! I also saw ‘Waitress’ recently and lo and behold, who should be sat in the row in front of me on his day off? Jesse Tyler Ferguson!
JTF: Oh, really? I loved ‘Waitress’! I’m a huge Sara Bareilles fan and I’m also a huge Jessie Mueller fan, so I was an easy sell for that show.
THM: So you’re full of praise for Cynthia Erivo and Jessie Mueller. Their category at the Tonys – Leading Actress in a Musical – is certainly a fierce one. Who would you put your money on?
JTF: Gosh! They’re all unbelievable performances. I have very good friends in that category, so I won’t even breathe somebody’s name…
THM: Is it like trying to choose between your children?
JTF: It truly is. They’re all just outstanding and phenomenal.
THM: Well, I lost count of how many times I burst into laughter during ‘Fully Committed.’ You truly have comedy acting down to a tee. Would you be interested in taking on more dramatic roles in the future?
JTF: Oh yeah. If the roles are good, I’m more than happy to do it, whether they are funny or dramatic.
THM: Well, I’m sure you’ll be ‘fully committed’ for a long time to come, Jesse. Good luck with the remainder of your run.
JTF: Thank you! It was good to meet you.