After a decade or so of doing bit parts in films and TV (often as a murderer in crime dramas), Eric Stonestreet landed a dream gig in 2009, when he was cast as Cameron Tucker, husband of Jesse Tyler Ferguson's Mitchell on ABC's smash-hit sitcom Modern Family.

The 44-year-old Kansas City, Kan., native - who likes to describe himself as openly straight - has Modern Family to thank for his two Emmy Awards and a role as Duke, the Newfoundland dog, in The Secret Life of Pets, the animated flick that raked in $103 million last weekend at the box office.

On Saturday, Stonestreet will appear at the SugarHouse Casino. We chatted with him about the gig; playing Cam; and his costarring role with ex-Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Your performing background is in clowning and improv, and not in stand-up. What will you be doing Saturday night?

I always enjoyed interacting with people. The show is a hybrid of that. There's a little bit of stand-up - I certainly don't call myself a stand-up - to start the show and get the ball rolling. It really comes down to the audience's participation, and we go from there.

I never really know where the show's going to go. I never know what questions I'm going to get, but there's nothing off the table.

I think we're all fascinated - I certainly was - with Hollywood and being in that town and how things go. It gives people the up-close-and-personal chance to ask me anything they want to know about the business . . . or how I got to where I am. It's like having me over to your house with . . . 400 people.

What questions are you asked the most?

"Where's Lily?" is probably the number-one question I get in life. And I have to politely explain to people that Lily [Cam and Mitchell's daughter] is a character on a TV show, as is Cam Tucker. I also get "What's it like working with the cast?'" and "Who's the funniest person in the cast?"

So who is the funniest cast member?

I will tell you that everyone has a funny personality. There's no way the show is as good as it is if we don't all have a great sense of humor and are funny people in real life. But I think the person who cracks us up the most, for different reasons, is Sofia [Vergara]. She looks the way she looks and she's super self-aware and super self-deprecating. She gets how funny the things she does by accident are. She just makes fun of herself. It's hard not to think of her as the funniest person behind the scenes.

As a straight man, did you have any reservations at all about playing a gay character?

I never had reservations about it. All I ever wanted to do was get a great job on a TV show. When I read Modern Family and started looking at what was available - I obviously couldn't play Gloria, I couldn't play Claire. When I saw the character of Cam, I was like, "I have to have a shot at this," because I thought it was a character that would be a really fun to play. It's not like I had built a career out of playing characters like Cam. It was the first chance I got to do it.

Actually, when I got the role, my mom was really happy I was not going to be a killer anymore - I was going be this lovable gay guy on a half-hour sitcom.

Do you feel a responsibility to the gay community because of Cam?

Absolutely. We've always taken [our roles] as seriously as we can. Some of my most cherished moments with fans are when somebody will come up and say, "Because of Mitch and Cam, my parents accepted me," or "Because of Mitch and Cam, I was able to come out in a more fun and less-pressured way."

Parents with gay kids have written me notes saying, "Because of Mitch and Cam, my son has [something to say] to bullies at school: 'Well. You like Mitch and Cam on that show, and my dad's not that different from those guys.' "

Do you have any connections to Philly?

I shot a commercial for AT&T in Philadelphia early on in my career with [former Eagles' quarterback] Donovan McNabb. It was basically a commercial where I had trimmed his shrubs into a statue of him dropping back to pass. I knock on his door and tell him to come out and look at it, and when he comes out and looks at it, he says, "Yeah, but that's not my yard."



Eric Stonestreet 9 p.m. Saturday, SugarHouse Casino, 1001 N. Delaware Ave., $69, 877-477-3715.EndText