Eric Stonestreet won two Emmy Awards for playing Cameron Tucker, a flamboyant gay man in Modern Family. To say it’s a convincing portrayal is truly a testament to Eric’s acting skills — considering he identifies as straight.
“I kind of always felt like I had to dig myself out of a bit of a hole and let girls know that I’m actually straight,” Eric joked in 2009.
Even though Eric says he’s “openly straight,” he has no problem playing a gay man on television. On-screen fiance Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who is gay, doesn’t view it as an issue, either.
“He is so game for this character. We just clicked. We hang out a lot,” Jesse told Out Magazine in 2009, the year Modern Family debuted. “Really, the chemistry is what dictated how the relationship was. I’m certainly falling in love with Eric Stonestreet more and more each day!”
The pair also has a running joke about Eric being “gay for pay.”
“He’s straight in real life, and they pay him X amount of dollars to be gay,” Jesse said on Inside the Actors Studio in 2011. “And wouldn’t anybody?”
Although Eric’s sexuality didn’t affect his willingness to play a gay character, Jesse said it did initially affect Eric’s portrayal of Cam.
“I love that he gets to be the one that’s a little more flamboyant. I think he does it really well. Although in his test, he did do one of those over the top z finger snaps,” Jesse told Out in 2011. “I’d already been cast, and at that point — everyone else in the room — we all wanted him to get the job so badly, but you’ve got network executives there judging, and then Eric pulls out this really flamboyant finger snap, and in our heads we were all like No! Do over! Do over! Take it back. But he got the role.”
Eric eventually scaled back on Cam’s effeminacy, but still received some criticism. (Fun fact: Eric says the character is based on his mother.)
“In the beginning, people said ‘Oh you’re too much…’ Maybe a few times somebody said that,” Eric told Larry King. “But then, Jesse, who plays Mitchell, we get to go out into the gay community and do a lot of fundraisers and things like that. And I meet people all the time that are Cam.”
In terms of his personal life, Eric dated Broadway performer Katherine Torkaz for three years before splitting in 2012.
He was then linked to Charlize Theron, but debunked that rumor on Twitter: “I wish people would stop spreading rumors that Charlize Theron and I are dating. Its starting to make Halle Berry jealous.”
UPDATE E! News reports Eric is dating Real Housewives of New York City‘s Bethenny Frankel! According to their sources, the pair began casually dating in spring 2015.
They have been pictured together several times in recent months after first attending an event together in May.