Foodie and Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson is a dream in his one-man Broadway show Fully Committed—or a nightmare, if you weren’t wanting to dredge up memories of former service industry jobs. Managing the reservation line and playing all forty of the characters—from desperate patrons to an egomaniac chef—Fully Committed is a hilarious, touching peek behind the curtain of restaurant life. We spoke with Jesse about the show, what he’s learned about the service industry through playing this role, and the one area where LA dining has New York beat.
In this one-man show, you play 40 different characters. What is the preparation like?
This was unlike any role I have ever had to prepare for because I had the responsibility of creating not one role but forty unique individuals. I started by finding the voices of the characters. I worked with a dialect coach to create unique sounds for each of the characters. A lot of the prep was pure memorization. I had 90 plus pages of dialogue to learn. It was an overwhelming task but I just took the script in pieces. I gave myself plenty of time to learn the play—I started my personal work on the play about 7 months before the first preview performance.
Has Fully Committed changed any of your ideas about the service industry?
I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of people who work behind the scenes of the food and wine industry. I visited quite a few reservationist offices so yeah, anytime I make a reservation somewhere or anytime I walk into a restaurant I am thinking about all the unsung people in those dingy offices who are helping to make the restaurant operate smoothly.
Is food a creative outlet for you? Do you find any creative similarities between cooking and acting?
I love cooking. I find it extremely relaxing. Sometimes when I am throwing a dinner party I can get in over my head and over prepare….but I love being able to bring family and friends together for a home cooked meal. I work a lot from cookbooks and recipes in magazines or online. I tend to repeat recipes and then tweak them to personalize them. Many of those ideas are on my food blog [jessetylerferguson.com]. I think cooking and acting draw from different pools of my creativity. I suppose there is sense of improv and thinking quickly on your feet in both cooking and acting.
Having relocated from LA with your husband Justin Mikita, perhaps you can settle this once and for all: Which food scene is better, New York or LA?
Well we are still mainly in LA. While doing the play we have been living in NYC. Both food scenes are very vibrant and I like them both for different reasons. I think there is a bit more classic refine experiences available in NYC. On the flip side, I haven’t found any sushi restaurants in NYC that rival those in LA. Sorry, I can’t choose which one is better.
Photos by Joan Marcus.