There’s more than meets the eye and ear when it comes to Sofía Vergara, who plays Colombian trophy wife Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC’s Modern Family, which returns September 21 for a third season. Next seen on the big screen in New Year’s Eve and The Three Stooges, the two-time Emmy nominee explains why she supports the Latin gay community but didn’t want gay children of her own.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: Thanks to its positive representation of a gay couple, Modern Family has earned an extended family of gay fans. Are you aware of your gay following, Sofía?
Sofia Vergara: Yes, and I love it. I’ve always had plenty of gay fans, even back in Colombia, probably because I’m voluptuous and a little over the top. Gay men always tell me how fabulous I am. I think they want to be Gloria.
What about lesbian admirers?
Oh, there aren’t that many, are there? That’s flattering. All my fans must be very respectful, because I’ve never had a guy or a girl come up and grab my ass.
What does that support mean to you?
It’s great. But it’s a reality that more and more people are coming out, so I think it’s important to return their support.
You filmed a PSA for GLAAD’s “Be an Ally and a Friend” campaign.
Yes, because we should all be tolerant and respectful of people’s sexuality. We have to appreciate each other’s differences and accept people who have the courage to accept themselves. That’s beautiful.
Why did you shoot your PSA in Spanish?
Well, imagine how hard it is for Latin guys and Latin kids to be gay. Most of us are raised very Catholic, and the macho figure is very strong in our culture, so it’s still more taboo and a million times more dramatic to come out. Many gay friends have told me how hard it was for them to be open in the Latin community. Nothing’s going to change from one day to the other, so it’s a matter of doing things little by little. That’s why I love the gay couple in Modern Family. People always tell me, “We’ve never seen a normal, loving gay couple before!” They think gay people are just running around naked, partying in nightclubs. So it’s good for older people, especially those who aren’t exposed to a lot of gays like we are in the big cities, to see gay people portrayed in a beautiful way.
Growing up in Barranquilla, Colombia, what was your exposure to gay people?
I don’t know if they were all in the closet, but there weren’t many. The only ones I remember were my hairdresser and the makeup artists in my town. But then I made a close gay friend in my early 20s after I moved to Bogotá, and he’s still one of my best friends. Now most of my friends are gay.
How did your conservative Catholic upbringing influence your views on gay people?
I had the opportunity to be educated and to travel around the world with my family, and those things help. The more that you’re exposed to different things, you stop seeing them as weird. Besides, my family never had a bad experience with gays, because the gay people we knew were amazing, hardworking, and professional. The only thing is that, when I was younger, I remember thinking, I hope my son or daughter isn’t gay. Not because it’s a bad thing but because I knew how hard it is in the Latin culture to be gay. Life is already difficult, and it’s hard enough to find someone and be happy, so I thought that being gay would just triplicate the trouble.
You’ve been a part of gay-inclusive projects before Modern Family. You appeared in The 24th Day opposite James Marsden and looked right at home drinking at a bar with a gay friend. Was that art imitating life?
Oh, yes. Gay men make fantastic friends for women like me. They have a similar sensibility, you can go shopping together, and you can talk about boys together, but they take less time than us to get ready — well, sometimes.
Are you close with Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson?
Yes, we’re super-good friends, and we have a great time together. He’s one of my favorites on the show. He also has a very handsome boyfriend [Justin Mikita], and I always tell Jesse that I want him.
You’ve been getting to work with funniest gay actors in Hollywood: Jesse in Modern Family, Neil Patrick Harris in The Smurfs, and Sean Hayes in The Three Stooges. Coincidence?
I don’t know if it’s something in their DNA that makes them so funny and special, but I guess that’s why we make such a good match onscreen.
Have you ever played a gay role?
I did a movie called Grilled with Ray Romano and Kevin James that went straight to video. I played a transsexual, a guy who had gone all the way with the operation to become a woman. I had a great time playing that character.
Was it a challenge?
No, because I look like a transsexual anyway. I’m a woman, but I’m super-exaggerated with my boobs, my ass, my makeup, and my accent. When I get ready for an event, I always look at myself in the mirror and say, “I look like a transvestite!” I love it.
You also had a brief stint as Matron Mama Morton in Chicago on Broadway in 2009.
Oh, she’s definitely a lesbian. They don’t really say it in the show, but as a guard in a jail for women, she has to be, right? That was amazing, because I had never acted or sung on stage, so it was a big challenge for me. It’s really hard work, but I’d like to come back to Broadway again for a couple months.
Speaking of lesbians, the media has tried to create something of a rivalry between you and Glee’s Jane Lynch, who beat you in last year’s Emmy and Golden Globe races for Best Supporting Actress. This was exacerbated, of course, by your costar Ed O’Neill’s controversial comments in the press that seemed to question the worthiness of Jane’s performance. What’s your relationship with Jane really like?
It’s great. When we see each other, we kiss and hug each other. I really admire her. Her role on Gleeis amazing, and you know what? She deserved to win. I love her. But yes, the media does seem to want us to have this funny rivalry, and I don’t mind.
When you last appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Lady Gaga, who was sitting beside you on the guest couch, pretty much hijacked your interview. What was going through your mind?
I was so surprised. I thought she was going to be stiff and serious, and I was afraid it was going to be hard to do the interview with somebody just sitting there, not giving me something, because being funny on those shows is hard enough as it is. But she was hilarious! She was so sharp and amazing. I became a huge fan after that.
Who’s your celebrity girl crush?
I have many, but I love Halle Berry. She’s perfection. Every time I see her, I want to give her a standing ovation because she’s so flawless.
Since your acting debut in a bikini for a Latin American Pepsi commercial at the age of 17, your curves have been a major player in your career. Although you’ve earned many accolades for your performance in Modern Family, have you worried that people might not take you seriously as an actress because of your overt physical sexiness?
No, because I’ve never wanted to be taken seriously as an actress! That never even crossed my mind. I don’t want to be serious. I’m not hoping to go read for a part in a serious movie, because I know the roles that I can play: They’re funny, and I love it. And I have no training in acting. I always knew I was funny, because I was the class clown, my family laughed at me, and I loved being ridiculous, but I never thought I’d make money out of being funny either. With my crazy accent, I’m so blessed that I even got a part like in Modern Family.
So you have no desire to work with a dialect coach, strap down your breasts, and do a period drama?
That could be fun, but it’s not keeping me awake at night.
The Advocate, October 2011 issue; extended online version.