An Exclusive with ‘Modern Family’ Alum Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Image via Luke Fontana

Nothing surpasses the joy of engaging in a splendid conversation over an exquisite meal, and that is precisely what Modern Family alum Jesse Tyler Ferguson offers through his podcast, Dinner’s On Me

Currently in its second season, the award-winning actor flips the script by interviewing his celebrity friends and colleagues, revealing intriguing facets and a different side of their personalities. Whether it’s reminiscing over Modern Family episodes with co-stars Sofia Vergara and Ed O’Neill or delving into tough and lighthearted topics with notable figures like Bryan Cranston, Kristen Bell, and Jim Parsons, Ferguson and his guests serve up captivating discussions that leave listeners hungry for more.


Ferguson recently took some time out of his busy schedule to catch up with Instinct and talk more about the podcast, how it originally came to fruition, and his aspirations for listeners. Additionally, he also reflects on the enduring impact of Modern Family, shares his thoughts on a potential reboot, and touches on his current role that keeps him busy non-stop: fatherhood. 

Thank you for taking some time to chat with me, Jesse! You are currently working on the second season of your Dinner’s on Me podcast. How has that been going?

It’s been going great! We’re in our second season now, and I’m thrilled that we get to continue doing this. A podcast host was never a job that I saw myself doing. The producers approached me about this idea that they had, and I loved it. It’s this idea of taking a friend out to dinner and just having a great conversation over a meal, and I liked the idea of taking these long-form conversations out of the podcast studio and bringing them out into the world at different restaurants. Taking the people that I’m having a conversation with out of their comfort zone.

So, it’s been wonderful, and I’ve had some very surprising conversations with people that I’ve known for a long time. I’ve also gotten to meet people that I’ve always admired. With Season 2, I’m meeting a lot more people that I don’t know. Almost every single person the first season was someone I was already kind of friends with. I’d call in a favor just so I could make my first season fabulous, and it’s just sort of a testament to how great my friends are because almost all of them said yes. I had a great lineup of guests, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to match that bar. I opened the second season with Ed O’Neill, and it’s only gone up from there. I’m very pleased with how everything’s been going. 

‘Dinner’s on Me’ Cover Art

What do you ultimately hope listeners take away from the podcast?

I think it’s interesting for listeners to sort of hear these people that they admire or might just be discovering for the first time in an atmosphere that’s not so formal. What I love about the podcast is that you hear us in a restaurant. You hear other patrons, you hear martinis being made, you hear plates being delivered to tables, you hear the waiter come up to the table and ask us what we want and if we have any allergies. You do sort of feel like a fly on the wall or a third chair at the table, and then what usually follows is a pretty intimate and revealing conversation.

I feel like people let their guard down when they’re having a meal with a friend, and I feel like these conversations are not quite as buttoned up as other conversations I’ve heard on podcasts or in interviews. I attribute part of that to the fact that we’re out in a restaurant together and sharing a meal. I definitely see a different side of my guests, and they certainly share stories that they’ve been telling for years, but then there’s stories I’ve never heard before. 


Listening to Dinner’s on Me, you can tell how relaxed your guests are, and I would agree that being out and sharing a meal attributes to that. Food can be such a universal language. 

Yes, for sure, but it can also make my guests a little nervous at first. A guest sent me a voicemail the other day asking if we really eat during the podcast (laughs). Some people are nervous to eat in front of a microphone. I had Dax Shepard on, who is a very accomplished podcast host himself with Armchair Expert, and he is always nervous about eating anything in front of a microphone when he’s conducting an interview, but sometimes he’s had a really long day and hasn’t had a chance to eat, so he has to eat something. He’s so nervous about making any sort of mouth sounds into the microphone, and we’re like, not only do we expect you to do that, but we embrace it. I have to give a shout out to the editors who do a great job of not over indulging with the mouth sounds. They’re pretty subtle.

What is your absolute favorite kind of food?

I love Mexican food, Italian food, Indian food – things with lots of bold flavor and spice. However, in my older age, I’ve developed a lot of heartburn, so it’s not necessarily the food I should be eating, but it’s what I love.

Image via Jesse Tyler Ferguson

You have had quite a roster of stars on the podcast including Bryan Cranston, Mandy Moore, Jim Parsons, and Weird Al Yankovic. Who is a dream guest you would love to have on a future episode?

I’m trying to get Quinta Brunson. I adore her and Abbott Elementary. I don’t know her super well, but we’ve met, and I admire her so much. I saw her at an event awhile back right when I was about to start this podcast, and when I told her about it, she was like, oh, podcasts scare me so much. In my head, I’m thinking, you’re one of my dream guests! I kind of left her alone, but then recently, I sent her a direct message on Instagram being like, would you possibly reconsider? I feel like I know what I’m doing now and I would love to have you on. I love your show so much. So, I’m hoping she’ll say yes. Then another dream guest is, of course, Michelle Obama. 

In addition to Ed O’Neill, you’ve had other Modern Family co-stars like Julie Brown, Sarah Hyland, and Sofia Vergara. Any plans to have Eric Stonestreet on soon?


Yes, Eric and I have been trying to make a date work. We did have a date on the books, but then the Hollywood strikes happened, so we decided to postpone. Like, we can’t have you on and not be able to talk about Modern Family. That’s just ridiculous. He mostly lives in Kansas now, so I’ll have to catch him when he comes back to LA, but he’ll absolutely be a part of the podcast at some point. 

What was your first meeting with Eric like? Was there an instant connection?

The first time I met him was when they were testing people to play the role of Cam. I was cast before he was, so I was reading with several different actors to play Cam, and there was definitely chemistry and sparks when he came in. He’s obviously very funny, but I felt there was something different about this guy. It feels natural. I didn’t know if he was gay, I didn’t know if he was straight, I didn’t know anything about him since we never met before, but when he ended up getting the part and before the first table read, we went and had coffee together just so we could get to know one another. We picked a cafe near my house, and when we met up, we noticed there were all these couples together at the coffee shop with roses and balloons with hearts on them. Then we realized it was Valentine’s Day (laughs). Both of us were single and didn’t have a significant other, so it was just a regular Tuesday to us!

Image via Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Sounds like you two were meant to be! Mitchell is the role that truly catapulted you to stardom. Did you ever imagine Modern Family would become such a pop culture phenomenon? 

I don’t think any of us imagined that. I was lucky enough to work with enough seasoned actors who had been in this business a while. Aside from the kids, Eric and I were probably the greenest people. Everyone else had all been through this before and sort of implemented that if this was meant to be, it’s meant to be. It can be great on a page, but if it doesn’t turn out, it happens. These things can fall apart. Look at Arrested Development. It was such a genius show but couldn’t find an audience.

So, I think we were all prepared to just let it be what it was, and nobody knew that we had something special. We felt that there was a deep connection, and we know that the pilot was very well received, but you never know what’s going to happen next. You never know if the audience is going to stick around. I don’t think it was until the second season after we’ve been nominated for another round of Emmy Awards where it was like, okay, maybe we are here to stay for a while. 

What do you miss the most about Modern Family?


I miss having somewhere to be every day. Actors never have what we would consider a full-time job, so being able to have that for 11 years and know that I needed to be somewhere was very exciting. I don’t know what it feels like to have a job every day. Not since I was working in a gift shop in Times Square trying to make ends meet when I was 21 years old. So, that was nice, and of course, the relationships we all developed were incredibly meaningful. Not just with the cast, but also the crew and writers. It was a very tight knit group, and that last episode was very very emotional for us to shoot. 

Do you think there will ever be any kind of reboot?

I don’t know. I would love to come together and see everyone again. We haven’t been able to come together as a full group yet. We’ve come close to a full reunion, but there’s always someone missing. Just being in the same room with everyone again would be very special, but yeah, I don’t know. It still kind of feels too early for a reboot, and I honestly don’t know what more there is to say. There was talk about a Mitch and Cam spin-off and a very good script was created, but the network decided to not go forward with it. Maybe they were like, I’m not sure if this couple specifically has anything more to say, or maybe we weren’t the right couple to sort of be the new gay couple on TV. I think there’s room for more representation, and I’m happy to sort of stand aside and just hold the door open for the next group of people.

Image via Jesse Tyler Ferguson

After Modern Family, your life went down a different path and you are now the proud father of two boys. How have you and Justin adjusted to parenthood?

Um, we’re doing fine (laughs). I think we’re doing good! I mean, we love being dads, but we’re exhausted and there are times where we mourn our old life. We used to live in a trendy area on the Eastside of LA, and now we’ve moved to the suburbs with the kids. We do miss who we were before kids, but we also can’t imagine our lives without them. I’m at this stage where I’m just so excited to see the types of people my kids will grow to be. They’re already showing so much personality and adopting so much of who we are, and it’s an exciting time. I feel like I’m saying the stereotypical things that all parents say, but it really puts my career into perspective and prioritizes things in a different way. 

Has it been at all challenging to balance a Hollywood career and fatherhood?

You know, I was lucky to sort of leave Hollywood for a little bit as soon as the pandemic lifted, and I went to do a play instead. I was in New York, and theater is my first love. It always has been, so I felt very lucky to go back to a community of people that I started off with and be amongst the theater community here in New York, be part of the Tony Award season, and just be part of a play that was so well received. That was like a nice palate cleanser, and then I came back to LA when the strikes happened. So, it’s interesting because since Modern Family has been off the air, we haven’t had a great run of time for me to truly get back into Hollywood, but I’m excited to see what the next chapter holds!


What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your parents that you hope to pass on to your kids?

Oh, gosh. I feel like they’ve taught me how to be a good parent, but they didn’t mean to do that. When I’m parenting, I sometimes think about what my mom and dad would do, and I think they were on to something there. I would sort of just take their lead, and I don’t think they even intended for that to be the case. I do sometimes find myself saying things like, where have I heard that before? Oh, right, my parents said that to me. So, I think some of their tactics were very smart, and I’ve definitely found ways to sort of follow in their footsteps when it comes to parenting.

Image via Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Who’s the fun dad and who’s more of a disciplinarian?


I think Justin would agree that I’m a fun dad and he’s the disciplinarian. 

Do you currently have any Broadway productions or anything else in the works right now that you would like to mention or plug?

No. We finished Take Me Out a while ago, and there’s nothing happening with that. We’re talking about maybe trying to turn into a TV series, but that’s sort of in a holding pattern at the moment, and I have some things that are coming up that I’m excited to start working on, but the podcast has been my big project at the moment. I’m really glad I get to focus on this because like I said, I’m new at it and it’s something I want to give my full attention to. 

Dinner’s on Me is available on all podcast streaming platforms. Stay up-to-date and connect with Ferguson by following him on Instagram and TikTok.


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