The first person I meet when I walk into soundstage five on the Fox lot in Los Angeles is Jesse Tyler Ferguson. He's wearing red-and-black flannel pajamas. (Watch next Wednesday and that will make sense.)
Ferguson -- who plays one-half of the gay couple on "Modern Family" -- is welcoming, witty and self-deprecating. He's also part of a larger cast that is based on one extended family on the ABC sitcom.
If you haven't caught up with the show, critics have almost universally praised it as one of the hottest new comedies this fall. Ferguson's character, Mitchell, is the son of the family patriarch, Jay, who's played by Ed O'Neill, better known as Al Bundy from long-running comedy "Married With Children." Jay is married to a much younger Colombian woman, played by Sofia Vergara.
Chaos ensues weekly.
Ferguson tells me he was up late before we meet searching the Internet for stories about himself.
"I've got to stop drinking wine after seven because I just get drunk and get online to start Googling. ... Bad news," he jokes.
Last night he came across a viewer who said his character should be killed off because he's such a "downer." But the mix of characters and true-to-life plotlines is what every actor in the cast says is key to the show's success.
That and great writing.
"We are trying to sort of capture slices of life," Ferguson says. "The writers really write from their own families, and they are incorporating a lot of our stories as well. And they wanted to feel very real. Not farcical. I think they are doing a pretty good job of balancing that real wackiness with that really subtle sweet humor."
His partner on television, Eric Stonestreet, agress with the assessment and describes himself in real life as "openly straight."
"People like to laugh. That resonates first. But I think also we are holding up a little bit of a mirror each week for people to take a look at. Because so oftentimes in life we just breeze past [moments] and don't acknowledge them, we just sweep them under the rug. ... On this set we celebrate them. We celebrate the awkwardness. We celebrate the dysfunction," Stonestreet says.
Colombian actress Sofia Vergara says she feels at home on ABC sitcom.
"For me being a stereotype of a Latino woman, I love it. I don't care. Yeah, I'm loud. I'm crazy. I'm passionate," Vergara says, with a laugh.
On the show, she has a son named Manny (Rico Rodriguez), who is wise beyond his 11 years and drinks coffee in nearly every episode.
"They had to put like tons of milk in it so I would actually drink it," Rodriguez tells me. "I just let it touch my lips so that it will leave a little mark. And I just lick it off."
On the day we visit, they're shooting scenes that take place on and around Christmas Day.
Ed O'Neill does at least a dozen takes of a bit that revolves around Colombian pastries called bunuelos. Each time he ends the shot with a different punchline about what the round dough looks like -- some of which are unprintable here. The producers, writers and directors listening on headsets just off-set roar with laughter.
Patriarch Jay also has a grown daughter, a mother of three named Claire, played by Julie Bowen. During the taping of the pilot, Bowen was actually pregnant with twins.