Q&A With 'Modern Family' Actor Eric Stonestreet

The 'Modern Family' actor is devoted to his dog. Plus, how he stands up to cancer.

Medically Reviewed by Will Draper, DVM on December 15, 2012
5 min read

Eric Stonestreet, 41, stars as Cameron Tucker in the ABC comedy Modern Family, the award-winning series now in its fourth season. Stonestreet has won two Emmy Awards for the show, plus Television Critics Association Award and Golden Globe Award nominations.

When he's not playing a gay, stay-at-home father with a wicked sense of humor, Stonestreet takes on the role of a straight, working dad to 13-year-old pup Coleman Hawkins. A DNA test (a gift from a friend) shows Coleman is half beagle, half Jack Russell, and Stonestreet insists he is extraordinarily intelligent.

It's hard to say which of the two -- the farm-boy-turned-Hollywood or the large dog in a little body -- has the bigger personality. And the pair converse and bicker, in their own way, like any long-time couple. But at the end of the day, it's clear to any outsider that the members of this modern family couldn't be more madly in love.

Where did Coleman Hawkins' name come from?

"He was already named on the rescue web site when I got him in 2001. Coleman Hawkins is the famous tenor saxophonist from Kansas City, where I'm from. And I like the idea that he has a first and last name."

How much do you find yourself talking to Coleman?

"An embarrassing amount. I have full-on conversations with him. I talk to him because he looks at you and listens like a person. One of the funniest conversations we ever had -- I came home from work one night and saw him peering out the window. I went into the house, and he's nowhere to be seen. I found him in bed, under the covers. I said, 'I just saw you in the window! You can't pretend you're asleep!' And I thought, 'I can't believe I'm having this conversation with my dog.'"

Some people have voices for their pets, like when they are recounting what the pet would say if he could talk. Do you have a voice for Coleman?

"It's more of an attitude than a voice. I always say, if I was able to tell Coleman that he only weighs 22 pounds, he'd be shocked and call me a liar. He thinks he's a 65-pound dog. He's a pretty confident fellow."

What are your worst habits with Coleman?

"I followed The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete, and I was really strict with him the first six months, so he knows I'm the alpha in the relationship. If an emergency comes up and I don't get home in time to let him out, and he absolutely has to go No. 2, he always does this in the guest bathroom. We recently moved into a new house, and he's already figured out where the guest bathroom is."

Do you ever give him people food?

"If I'm having beef or something he can eat, I'll throw some on the patio when he's not looking and let him scavenge for it. But I never give him anything from the table or hand it to him."

What's your routine when you come home from work?

"Typically Coleman meets me at the door, I drop off my keys, he does his business, and he runs around a bit. In the old house, when I'd go on big auditions before Modern Family, I'd tell Coleman that I was going off to find work so I could get him a bigger yard. So when we left that house for the last time, I had an emotional moment. I told him I made good on my promise to him. I'm happy I could do that."

Who wakes up whom in the mornings?

"With Modern Family, I go to work so early that I usually have to wake him. I wake up at 5:15, and he's always astonished -- face hair matted down -- like, 'Are you kidding? What have I done to you that you are waking me up this early?'"

Does he come to the set with you?

"He has, but it kind of feels like a jail to him because he has to stay in the trailer. He travels with me sometimes, but I don't like to disrupt his routine. It's not normal for a dog to hop on a jet and go to 35,000 feet."

Other than dog love, what relaxes you when you're stressed out?

"I have a drum set in my living room like other people might have a piece of furniture. I get some aggression out and have some cathartic time, and that helps me with stress. I know it sounds cliché, but there's no doubt that Coleman is the glue that's held me together in a lot of tough times. He's always there, he's always a willing listener, and he gives good feedback."

Is exercise part of your routine?

"I don't love jogging. When I work out it's usually with weights, and it makes me feel like I'm young again. I turned 40 and wanted to lose some weight, so between July and November, I lost 35 pounds."

What's your favorite comfort food?

"I'm not a sweets person. Every once in a while a piece of dark chocolate with an almond sounds good, but for the most part, tacos and steak sound better. I like mac and cheese and mashed potatoes, and I grill a lot. Brussels sprouts are probably my favorite vegetable."

What do you always carry in your bag that goes to the set with you?

"I don't really carry a bag. We make fun of [co-star] Jesse Tyler Ferguson because he carries a bag that has everything in it, and then loses it. I go with a ball cap and my jacket and iPhone."

If everything goes well on the set and all the planets are aligned, what's your perfect schedule look like?

"Makeup time at 6:15, shooting by 7. We shoot really quick on the show; we're done before a lot of shows are even started, usually by 1:30 or 2, rarely past 5."

You're an ambassador to Stand Up to Cancer. Is that inspired by a personal connection to cancer?

"My mom is a cancer survivor twice, and I lost both my grandpas to cancer when I was young.

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