NEW YORK (AP) — When Jesse Tyler Ferguson last starred on Broadway, he had to spell. This time around, it’s more about counting.
The “Modern Family” star takes on more than 40 roles in the one-man show, “Fully Committed.” He joins the ranks of a select few that have walked the Broadway planks alone.
Ferguson admits this is a completely different experience than playing Leaf Coneybear in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” a decade ago.
“What really makes this a unique play is that it’s not monologues. I’m not spending a lot of time with each character — I’m in dialogue with these characters,” Ferguson said of the play that takes place in the basement of a trendy Manhattan restaurant.
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Ferguson had to give each of these characters a unique voice.
“There’s a French maitre d’. My hostess, I’ve put her from east London, so she sounds a bit like Adele,” he said.
Ferguson told The Associated Press more about his return to Broadway and the success of his hit television series.
AP: Being in this one-actor play, do you feel like you’re a part of special club?
Ferguson: Oh gosh, I haven’t thought about being part of a special club, but I guess I’ve seen some amazing one-person shows. Sarah Jones in ‘Bridge and Tunnel’ and Jefferson Mays in ‘I Am My Own Wife.’ These are the performances I think about when I think of one-man shows. To even categorize myself in that same echelon of talent is — I would never do it. But I do remember watching those performances and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s astonishing.’ So to be in that process, to be actually working on something similar to that is mind-blowing to me and, if I think about it too much, I get really stressed out.”
AP: Was it daunting when you first saw the script?
Ferguson: When you look at a script and it’s just dialogue and it reads like a play, and then you realize, ‘I am all of those characters,’ it’s incredibly daunting. It’s one of those things on the page I can’t understand how it’s possible to do, so I had to go watch Mark Setlock’s performance, which is archived at Lincoln Center, thank god. And I was able to see that, yes, it’s possible, and yes, it’s as hard as I thought it would be, but it is doable.
AP: The play takes place at a fancy restaurant; did you ever have a bad experience in one?
Ferguson: Obviously the type of restaurants I researched for this play, specifically, like Jean-Georges or Daniel or Eleven Madison Park are never going to have a bad experience. Those people are amazing and the staff is astonishing. It’s almost as if you’re part of a play when you’re dining there. But you know, I’ve gone to some lower rent places, had some bad service at McDonald’s.
AP: What about shifting gears between doing a television show and a play?
Ferguson: The main difference from doing a TV show, which is one of the things that I love about live theater, is that I am in control of my performance. On ‘Modern Family,’ sometimes we do eight to 15 takes of a scene, and then the editor gets to decide how that all pieces together. And onstage, I’m the master of my own domain.
AP: Do you think success on a network television show is the exception these days?
Ferguson: Well, yeah, the show does very well on network television, and I’m thrilled. I find there’s great TV on many platforms, you know, on Amazon, on Netflix, and fortunately, ABC as well. I feel very fortunate to be on a network show and be holding that flag. Great scripts are great scripts, and you find them where you find them, so hopefully there’s just even more expansion of where you find great entertainment.
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