Eric Stonestreet saw your memes of him.
In early fall, a 2011 image of him as his Emmy-winning character, Cameron Tucker, on Modern Family began making the internet rounds. An image of Stonestreet donning a light pastel button down and smile of innocence, the meme can relay anything from “me walking out of the venue after spending $300 on a hoodie and tote bag” to “me waiting for the bartender to look at me so I can order my drink.”
“I enjoyed it,” Stonestreet tells Modern Luxury. “I cracked up at them. I think people were so creative and funny.”
The Kansas-born actor reflects on his 21st-century badge of honor from a lush Beverly Hills hotel room. With the end of the SAG-AFTRA finally over, he is finally free to dive into his most recent project, season 2 of The Santa Clauses, in which he plays Magnus Antus, the “Mad Santa” and antagonist to Tim Allen’s Santa Claus. The new slate of episodes kicked off on Nov. 8 and run through Dec. 6.
Modern Family wrapped its enormously successful run on ABC in April 2020 after 11 seasons. Still, more than three years on, pieces of Cam remain part of Stonestreet. He particularly loves that the meme proves Cam’s enduring ability to connect with people.
He adds, “I really enjoyed the ones where people that are in specific lines of work make the memes just for their work, that only their people can relate to. My niece is a volleyball player at Iowa State and I saw one that was clearly strictly about volleyball players. And it was all me, her uncle, so I sent it to her, and she's like, ‘You have no idea how accurate these all are.’”
What’s more, among talking about The Santa Clauses, holiday traditions, being a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs fan and more, Stonestreet and his team are keen to point out his shoes. It’s an impressive pair just from taking a glance: dark-hued alligator cowboy boots.
But more than a knockout pair of Lucchese shoes, the boots are a significant artifact of Stonestreet’s career as an actor. “These are the actual boots that I was married in as Cameron Tucker on Modern Family,” he reveals. “When we were doing the episode and they got my tuxedo they wanted to know what shoes I wanted to wear, and I said, ‘I'll bring a pair of my own cowboy boots to wear.’”
Read more below from our conversation with Stonestreet.
On Instagram, you described how much fun you had while working on The Santa Clauses. What was in particular fun about playing Magnus Antus?
I always wanted to play Santa Claus; I always thought that that role would somewhere come into my life. I wanted to be a clown when I was a kid, and some of that comes along with putting on costumes, so I had a Santa Claus suit when I was 17 or 18 years old, and so I [did] Santa Claus for my nieces and nephews.
My goal with the character was to have a seven or eight-year-old kid at Disneyland see me and be like, “I think I want to meet him.” And then reluctantly lineup, and go come meet me and be scared and intimidated by me, but also be excited to meet me because I'm fun and lovable and funny.
I've [also] always been a fan of Halloween and makeup and prosthetics and masks and things like that, and I have a lot of friends in that industry. Actually, the girl that did my makeup, Erin, she did my makeup years ago when I was on Nip/Tuck before I was ever on Modern Family. And she's good friends with a lot of the friends that I have in that world, so when I found out she was going to be my personal makeup artist, it was really fun.
I think people that know me [and] what would bother me and what doesn't bother me on a set, [like] people wasting time or taking too long, those things bother me. Me sitting in a chair for 45 minutes or an hour, having someone glue each piece of hair onto my face, for whatever reason, doesn't bother me because I realize that all that work is leading towards helping me create a character and create a performance that I hope people enjoy.
It's kind of embarrassing. And I almost said something when I posted it on Instagram, which was I couldn't keep my mouth shut during this process. But if you watch it, I'm talking the whole time. And it's not like she doesn't want to talk. But by the same token, if you watch it, it's just me being a chatterbox the entire time, and everyone who knows me commented that. Like Jesse [Tyler Ferguson] saw it, and he’s like, “Talking the whole way through.” My friends were like, “God, did she ever tell you to shut up ever?”
The Santa Clauses season 2 is rolling out just as we get into the holiday season. What are you looking forward to about this time of year?
The holidays, as you get older, get a little trickier because there's people that are missing from your holiday experience. We lost my dad two years ago. He wasn't always the most exuberant person around the holidays and seemingly the most excited and happy person around the holidays, but he was there. And I guess now in a weird sense of the way, I'm looking forward to spending the holidays with my mom and my sister and my brother and [my fiancé] Lindsay and the kids because losing my dad has taught me that the holidays are ever-changing, so we need to appreciate them as we have them and appreciate the people around us and spend as much time with them as we can when they're here.
Do you have any favorite traditions?
A lot of our tradition is centered around food like so many other people. You look forward to those certain dishes. We have a brand in Kansas City that's called povitica… It’s Croatian and Serbian, so we always celebrate with povitica of some kind and always look forward to that. We do a white elephant where we don't know who gets each other's name in the family. I enjoy finding moments of surprising people with helping them out in some certain way— people that may not be as fortunate as we are. My dad was a very generous person and taught me how to be generous, so I would say a tradition of some kind is finding a need in Kansas City and trying to fulfill that.
Alongside the holidays, it's football season. How's your journey been this season as a Kansas City Chiefs fan?
It’s great. It's been quite a great few years for me as a Chiefs fan— a lifelong cheese fan. I've been one since I was a kid and knew what football was. And I've had my ups and downs with the Chiefs, and we know that this is a great era—the Taylor era I guess you could say—for the Chiefs. But we're very excited. I go into every season, and have forever, thinking we're gonna win the Super Bowl. The difference now in the last four years is that we actually have a chance because of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce and coach [Andy] Reid.
Currently, you’re also raising awareness for vision health. Can you tell us more about your work with the More to See campaign?
I partnered with Iveric Bio, which is an Astellas company, and we, together are trying to raise awareness for AMD and macular degeneration. My mom has been diagnosed with AMD, which is age-related macular degeneration, which can progress into macular degeneration, which my grandma had. And my grandma had lots of health issues as she got older, she lived in 97. But the one health issue that was the most debilitating and hard to see and watch her deal with was macular degeneration. So AskAboutGA.com is the website where you can learn my mom's story, my story, my grandma's story. And what the goal is just to really drive people to the eye doctor and make sure that their eye health is taken care of and looked after, especially if you have GA (geographic atrophy) or AMD in your family. It can run in the family, so you need to make sure that you go to the doctor and have an eye professional check you out.
I’m not a a doctor, first of all, but what I can tell you is eye health needs to be a priority just like everyone else goes to the doctor for your yearly exam. It's important to see an eye doctor because so many people with AMD aren't diagnosed. Seventy-five percent [of people with GA are undiagnosed]. There aren't necessarily symptoms that you would realize until you go to the doctor and he looks in your eyes and says, “Hey, we need to address this.” And while there was nothing to really help my grandma, there are things that now are exciting for people that they need to talk to their healthcare professional about to see if it's right for them.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Courtesy Eric Stonestreet