The hilarious Emmy-winning best comedy "Modern Family" is taking the environment seriously. “We’re trying to become a paperless production,” says Eric Stonestreet. “We do our table reads on iPads — all the actors have one,” courtesy ABC. “Our craft services buy in bulk rather than buying individually wrapped snacks,” adds the Best Supporting Actor Emmy winner, who offsets the gas guzzling Ford truck he drives by diligently recycling his trash. Co-star Ty Burrell is living in a green apartment building. “We don’t turn on the lights till like nine at night because it has solar tubes. And my wife always makes sure we have our canvas grocery bags.”
Coming up, an earthquake shakes things up in the second season of "Modern Family" on ABC. “Phil didn't do something to earthquake-proof the house that he promised he had, and spends most of the episode trying to cover up,” says Burrell, who loves the bumbling but well-intentioned character, which was written with him in mind — something he finds “not particularly flattering, but hilarious. Even if he's causing a good deal of chaos, he feels he's doing the right thing. Phil lives a blissful rainbow of a life. I’m far more neurotic,” he confesses. “Phil is not a cynical character at all. I find it amazing how much it affects my off time, in a positive way.”
This season will introduce new guest and recurring characters. “We’re going to meet our friends, former friends, exes, Cameron’s mom,” says Stonestreet, who’d originally envisioned Kathy Bates or Delta Burke in that role, but would now rather give someone less famous a shot. “Nobody knew who the heck I was a year ago, and I’d love to let people discover somebody new, like they did with me,” he explains. "Family"’s success has opened more doors: Stonestreet just shot "Bad Teacher" with Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz, playing Diaz’s roommate, a MMA fighter and weightlifter. Burrell will play a world champion oleo carver, a “meek and quiet” man married to Jennifer Garner in "Butter," which hits theaters in April.
“We're green. We have all those fluorescent bulbs in the house,” says Jerry O’Connell (pictured right). “We looked into solar but to be honest with you, it's still a little out of our price range and I don't know if the technology is there yet.” His wife, Rebecca Romijn, drives a hybrid and was raised very green, he reports. “My mother-in-law carries a glass bottle around that she refills, and is very much about saving the environment. She suggested that we use cloth diapers, but the way our children go number two, I don’t think there are enough cloth diapers in the world!”
O’Connell co-stars with Jim Belushi in CBS’ "The Defenders," about a pair of Las Vegas lawyers, premiering Sept. 22. Fortuitously, he’d taken a year of night classes at Southwestern law school when he got the role, an experience he called “invaluable,” but one he had to put on hold since it was impossible to continue while working on the series. While he was the primary caregiver for his twin daughters when Romijn was working on "Eastwick," the roles have now reversed, and the girls are home with their mom. “I do miss them a lot, but the set is not a place for kids. Nobody wants babies around, and they make noise between takes,” he explains, noting that at 21 months, they’re “at a crazy age. Everyone says ‘it gets better,’ but that has not been my experience. So there’s a part of me that’s grateful to get out of the house.”
“We recycle, we take our Whole Foods bags to Whole Foods, we’re conscious about using too much paper,” enumerates Boris Kodjoe (pictured left), one half of the married spy couple in J.J. Abrams’ new NBC series "Undercovers." Organic “very clean” nutrition is on the household menu — Kodjoe follows a sugar-free diet to accompany the mixed martial arts, calisthenics and yoga he does to prepare for his physically demanding role. “Every episode I have at least one or two fight scenes. I have to be in impeccable shape,” explains the German-born former pro juniors tennis player (herniated discs ended his court career).
“It’s a dream come true to play this guy. He’s the alpha James Bond type character. He’s a loving husband. I get to be funny. I get to be tough. I get to kick a*ss,” raves Kodjoe about his role in the series, premiering Sept. 22, although the racy scenes with co-star Gugu Mbatha-Raw are less fun to shoot than to watch. “There’s a guy with his belly hanging out with a boom in your face. It’s really very technical, tougher than it is doing a fight scene. It’s so not sexy and intimate,” he says. “But if it comes out sexy on screen, we did a good job.”
Rob Morrow is doing his green part by reusing unsoiled napkins and paper towels and canceling his newspaper delivery for every day but Sunday, “I read the rest on my iPad. I maybe read 30 percent of it, and there was a huge stack of paper,” he explains. Morrow and Maura Tierney (pictured right with Morrow) play old friends turned courtroom adversaries in the ABC series "The Whole Truth," premiering Sept. 22. “I love his passion and joy for the way he proceeds with his agenda. He seems to really relish the argument,” Morrow says of his defense attorney character. While he hadn’t planned to jump into a series so soon after "Numb3rs," expecting to concentrate on directing, the role “seemed too good to say no,” says the actor, who credits hard work, luck, learning from his mistakes, staying viable for his ability to stay employed.
Tierney, recovered from the breast cancer bout that prevented her from starring in "Parenthood," sports shorter hair and totes “less psychological baggage” than she did as Abby in "E.R." “It’s not about their personal lives. It’s about playing the legal game,” says Tierney, the daughter and sister of lawyers. “Every week you get to decide whose case you’re believing, whose is strongest. But like in life, justice is not always achieved. The bad guys don’t always get convicted and the good guys don’t always go free. But the audience gets to see if we were right or wrong.”
JoAnna Garcia (pictured left) was happy to find that her new ABC sitcom"Better With You" prints scripts double-sided and recycles them. An avid recycler at home, she composts and grows “awesome, delicious tomatoes, three different kinds” in her garden. In the series, premiering Sept. 22, Garcia, who’s engaged to New York Yankee Nick Swisher, plays the newly engaged Mia, a woman who “follows her heart, dives headfirst. There’s a lot of that in me too, but I’m a little more neurotic,” compares the actress, whose good friend Jennifer Finnigan plays her sister. “We have that sense of familiarity, love and protection that we’re able to translate to our work,” she says.
“I reuse, reuse, reuse,” says "Criminal Minds" actress Kirsten Vangsness (pictured right), a mostly vegetarian (she eats wild-caught fish once in a while) who recycles everything from plastics to red carpet outfits. On set, she eats her lunch off partitioned trays she buys at Target (“way better than Styrofoam”) and installed a water filter on the faucet in her trailer’s sink. "Criminal Minds"’ sixth season, which picks up where the cliffhanger left off Sept. 22 with Tim Curry’s serial killer on the loose, involves some cast changes: A.J. Cook departs in episode two, and Paget Brewster will be in fewer episodes. Vangsness, however, will be working more. Her computer genius character Garcia will also appear on CBS’ midseason spinoff "Suspect Behavior," starring Forest Whitaker.
Additional photo credits: Jerry O'Connell by Robert Voets/CBS; Boris Kodjoe by Art Streiber/NBC; Rob Morrow and Maura JoAnna Garcia by Bob D'Amico/ABC