This Wednesday marks Marini’s visit to Modern Family (ABC, 9/8c) as a sexually ambiguous gent, which leads Claire to get a little too close with him. TVLine chatted with Marini about making the leap to comedy, why this hitcom is so personally inspirational to him, and what to expect when the ABC Family gem Switched at Birth returns next year. (Hint: more drama!)TVLINE | Who are you playing on Modern Family?
I’m playing Julian, a metrosexual-slash-gay-or-not [man] who is very close to a lot of the people in the gay community. Claire, played by Julie Bowen, is assuming that I’m gay, and all the drama is going to unfold toward the end of the show when she makes a big mistake. It’s very funny, and it’s very different from what I’ve been playing before. To be on a show of this magnitude, it’s always extremely rewarding.
TVLINE | Were you a fan of the show before this guest spot?
Yeah! The show is so dear to me is for many different reasons. The comedy is glorious. Also, I’ve been watching [recent Emmy winner] Julie Bowen for the longest time, and I think she’s a brilliant actress. Now having the chance to work with her, it’s just fantastic. The third thing is, obviously, we have someone that has a very thick accent that is one of the best actresses right now in America, and that is Sofia Vergara. For me, it’s very encouraging because I am not from here. I’ve made it to a certain point that I’m very proud of myself and that my family stuck with me. We’re doing very well right now, and it looks like America is changing quite a bit when it comes down to accepting differences.
TVLINE | Does Claire find herself in a compromising position with Julian?
[Laughs] Yeah, in a way. She assumes that I’m gay, so [she thinks] she’s got a gay friend. She acts like I’m going to be someone she can show a lot of things and…do a lot of things to. [Laughs] She’s making a great mistake. It’s hilarious. I was working a couple days on the set, and let me tell you, I had a great time! Not too shabby, yeah?
TVLINE | Who made you laugh the most on set?
Whenever they said cut, the main actors on set [Julie Bowen, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson] started to joke about things in life. I’m telling you, those people are so funny. We need to get a special show inside the show. I’m dead serious, it’s one joke after the other. The only time I saw people doing that was Matthew Rhys and Dave Annable [on Brothers & Sisters]. They were doing jokes every time. The outtakes were outrageous.
TVLINE | This is one of the first straight-up comedic roles you’ve done. Are you looking to do more comedy?
Yeah! I just finished shooting Hot in Cleveland, which was my first [three-camera] sitcom comedy, and it went extremely well. A lot of casting producers and directors can’t see it [and then] they realize, “Oh, gosh, this guy is very funny. We should use him for sitcoms.” So I’ve done Hot in Cleveland. Right after that, I did the new Chelsea Handler sitcom, Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea [premiering midseason on NBC]. I spent a week having the greatest time. I’m playing a chef who Laura Prepon’s character – she plays Chelsea on the show – falls for. We have a cook extravaganza where she actually maybe falls in love more with what I bring to the table than what I am.
TVLINE | You’re also back in production on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth. What can you share about the new episodes (arriving in early 2012)?
[Season 1.5 picks up] the same day that we left off. This storyline that I have this year, it’s very ambiguous. You never know what my character is going to bring. He’s got a lot of skeletons in the closet. He’s trying to make all his mistakes go away. Will he make it happen? How many things are they going to find out about him? There’s a lot going on. I’m thrilled to play someone like that.
TVLINE | How is his relationship with his daughters, Daphne and Bay?
Very complicated. [The season picks up] the same day we pretty much met, so it’s very fresh. No one can bring a massive smile to their face. Obviously, Bay is opening up a bit because she’s the one who really has one piece missing. But she’s also going to put me in my place many times over. And I definitely have a nasty, nasty problem with Daphne, and it’s understandable. Let’s see how this father will finally, for the first time in his life, in his thirties, make it work. There’s obviously something he’s hiding. … I don’t think he’s evil by any means. He’s just very much lost. It’s a beautiful storyline for me to play.