'Modern' Face of Gloria: Sofia Vergara on Her 'Hot Temper,' Cancer Diagnosis and Having More Kids

"Modern Family" actress discusses the similarities between she and her character

November 1, 2011, 5:43 PM

Nov. 2, 2011— -- Actress Sofia Vergara plays the voluptuous Gloria Delgado-Prichett on ABC's hit comedy "Modern Family" -- a role that was based on, well, her.

The stark similarities to the character she plays on TV and the real life she leads are almost astounding and fun to watch -- both are lively Colombian women with thick accents, are divorced and have a son from a previous marriage.

"Every time that I get a script ... I'm like, 'So, how am I gonna play this?'" Vergara said in an interview with "Nightline" anchor Cynthia McFadden. "I always think of my -- about my mother and my aunt, and I guess that's how I try to play [Gloria], because I try to play her like a real Latin woman. ... So I think it does have a lot of myself."

Not to mention that Vergara -- and Gloria -- are loud, funny and perfectly sexy women who can turn more than a few heads.

"I always felt like I look, you know, with extra boob than normal women, with extra butt," she said. "I always have, you know, make-up and the hair, and I love big jewelry, so I feel like that."

Vergara admits, again much like her character, that she has a "hot temper," one that can "scare" the men if they haven't gotten to know her yet.

"I can turn around and scream and get angry, but I turn around and I forget about it," she said. "So it's, like, one second that I get angry or fiery, and then I forget. Once they know me, they're like, 'Oh, she's fine.'"

However, Vergara is more than just the hot Latin mom she plays on TV. She is a covergirl and a successful businesswoman with her own production company. She developed a new line of women's clothing and accessories for Kmart that's intended to be affordable and fit women with curves. As Vergara puts it, she is "bringing sexy back to Kmart."

"It's like who has money now to spend thousands of dollars on an outfit? No one," she said. "But still, women want to look cute, want to look beautiful, want to look sexy. I have always believed, like, if you have taste, you can get away with buying things that are, you know, in not -- a crazy price."

Although Vergara is a breakout star, the 39-year-old actress has not been an overnight success. She has been working hard to make it for the past 22 years. A natural blonde, she grew up in Colombia and played with Barbie dolls as a little girl hoping to one day have the same figure. It might be hard to believe now, but Vergara said her childhood nickname was "palillo" -- Spanish for "toothpick."

"In my culture, a skinny girl has nothing going on," she said, laughing. "So I was very scared, always concerned that I was never gonna- - fill up, you know, all those fabulous outfits that my mother had ... I would never even wear skirts or anything because I thought I was too skinny."

But Vergara didn't have to fret about her looks for long. Modeling scouts discovered her on a beach at age 17 while she was with her family and quickly placed her in a Pepsi ad, which launched her career. More than two decades later, Vergara is still the face of Pepsi.

PHOTOS: Sophia Vergara Through the Years

But at the time, family came first for the actress. She got married at age 18 and had her son, Manolo, her only child, the following year. Vergara said having her son is what has kept her grounded.

"I was always more concerned about being a good mother and working to make money, not just, you know, to be famous and crazy," she said.

So is she the same kind of mother at home as she plays on TV?

"I try to learn from [Gloria], actually, because she's very passionate and she's -- I think-- the most important for her is to see her family happy," Vergara said. "I wish I was more like her."

Sophia Vergara on Family and Personal Hardships

Despite her sunny disposition, Vergara has endured many tragedies in her life -- her older brother was murdered in Colombia, and her younger brother has battled drug addiction. Her way of coping is to stay upbeat.

"When you have a responsibility, like a kid or like a family, you cannot give yourself the luxury of going -- getting depressed," Vergara said. "So I think it's more like a unconscious thing of just, you know, keep -- let's keep going, let's keep going."

While she makes a habit of smiling constantly now, Vergara went through an especially difficult time in 2000, when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 28.

"I was very young. and when they tell you that word, it's, like, 'What are you talking about?'" she said. "You always think, 'death.' You don't -- that's all you think when they tell you that. So it was -- it was pretty scary."

Vergara continued, "I never felt sick. ... You want to be treated when you're feeling sick, when you're uncomfortable. When you're perfect, to make the decision of going through all these, you know -- operations and treatment, it's a nightmare, because you're feeling healthy."

Since divorcing her first husband, Vergara has been linked with some of Hollywood's elite stars -- she famously dated Tom Cruise, Mark Wahlberg and Enrique Igelsias. But these days she is dating a man outside the Tinseltown glamour -- 36-year-old Nick Loeb, a wealthy businessman from Florida.

And despite turning 40 this year, Vergara hinted that having children with Loeb was not totally off the table.

"If I stay with him, he's young ... he's never had kids, so I'm sure he's gonna put pressure on me," she said. "But -- right now, I can't. I mean, I'm doing -- you know, in the middle of 'Modern Family,' which is my priority. I don't think anyone wants to see Gloria pregnant."

It's clear the comedic actress doesn't take herself too seriously, but the role she plays both on- and off-screen has made an impact.

"I think all the women should be a little bit more like Gloria," she said, laughing.

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