Eric Stonestreet says that knowing Modern Family’s end is somewhere in the near future is keeping the cast inspired and motivated — and possibly trying to squeeze in a Joe Manganiello guest spot before they wrap.
“All of the cast, we’re now sort of in the twilight of the show,” Stonestreet told PEOPLE while promoting the home video release of his hit animated film The Secret Lives of Pets. “Maybe we have one more season. Maybe we have two more seasons. Nobody really knows. So I think now what’s fueling everyone is that we’ve had this great opportunity for the last seven, eight years, and it’s coming to an end.”
“We’ve shot more than we’re going to shoot in the future,” he explained. “We’re at the end of the series, in a sense, and I think what keeps us going now is that we want to go out as strong, and positive, and great as we possibly can, whether that’s one or two seasons, three seasons, I have no idea.”
Stonestreet said he and his cast mates continue to “show up and be thankful that we got to do this job and that we keep getting to do this job. For me, it’s just going and constantly being surprised by what the writers come up with after seven years. People think the show has slipped, or whatever, and I think it’s absolute craziness! I think the show has been so consistent. It’s easy to write that the show has dropped off when you’re not the one tasked to come up with 200 episode ideas and three stories in every episode.”
“I’m just proud of the work that they do every week,” he added. “I know the cast shows up every week to shoot a show that we can all be proud of. That’s what keeps us going.”
There’s also the hope that Manganiello, a member of the offscreen extended Modern Family clan since marrying Sofia Vergara in November 2015, will be able to join them onscreen before the sitcom calls it a day.
“We love Joe!” said Stonestreet. “We love it when he comes by the set. He was over, he stops by and hangs out with us, and we love having him. Look, he’s got a busy schedule for himself, and it would have to be the right part for the right time. You know how TV works. It’s not like we can really slow production down to fit a lot of people’s schedules. So it all just has to kind of fit into the schedule as it can, but obviously, we would love to have Joe come hang out with us.”
“I think Mitch and Cam would certainly appreciate Joe being in some of their scenes,” he chuckled.
For his part, Stonestreet, who had primarily worked on television procedurals before landing his first big comedic role as Cam, is enjoying experimenting with different kinds of parts, including a recent dramatic turn in the HBO telefilm Confirmation and voicing the gigantic mongrel Duke in Secret Life of Pets.
“I don’t have to go out and try to pound the pavement like I did for 12 years to get another acting job, right away, and I’ll want to take projects as they come along,” he said. “I’ll tell you, if I could do animation after Modern Family, and just do animation movies and TV series, I might take them up on that because I know what it’s like to be on TV and have people notice me in places. If I could finish up my career by doing voice and stuff like that, I probably wouldn’t shake a stick at it.”
As he looks ahead to the future, Stonestreet remembered a sage piece of advice he received from another TV superstar when he landed the Modern Family gig.
“I was working on an episode of Monk with Tony Shaloub when I found out that the show was going to series,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Tony, you’ve been on shows for so long – what’s your advice to me? And he said, ‘Enjoy every minute of it because you are not going to believe how fast it goes, as the seasons go along, if it goes.’ I’ll tell you, I haven’t forgotten that, and he certainly wasn’t wrong.”
The Secret Life of Pets is now out on Blu-ray/DVD.