Jesse Tyler Ferguson knew that becoming a father would mean having to reassess his personal and professional priorities. The “Modern Family” star and his husband, Justin Mikita, were ready to make major lifestyle changes when they welcomed their first child, a son named Beckett Mercer, in July.
Neither could have predicted, however, that this shared milestone would take place during a pandemic. Over time, Ferguson learned to focus on the positive when it came to the unexpected time at home.
“I’ve always wanted to be a dad, and I sort of had an idea of what that was going to be like in my head,” he told HuffPost. “The reality of it has, of course, been completely different. I try not to look too far into the future. I try not to ask myself, ‘When will this be over?’ We’ve had to roll with the punches and take each day as it comes.”
Ferguson, a five-time Emmy nominee, saw the end of an era in the early weeks of the COVID-19 crisis when “Modern Family” ended its run after 11 seasons. In spite of the show’s conclusion and Beckett’s arrival, he hasn’t been kicking back. Instead, he’s chosen to emphasize his culinary prowess as the co-author of “Food Between Friends,” a new cookbook he co-authored with his longtime pal Julie Tanous.
Due out March 9, “Food Between Friends” is based on Ferguson and Tanous’ popular blog, “Julie & Jesse Cook.” Together, they pay homage to their Southern and Southwestern roots with what Ferguson describes as “flexitarian” offerings, which are vegetarian and vegan-friendly while not being exclusively plant-based. His favorite recipes in the book — produced in partnership with Ozo, a new plant-based protein brand — include a meatless chili and a Mexican soup.
“I love cooking with people. It’s a really unifying thing,” Ferguson said. “Julie has been my cooking partner for some time. She’s from Alabama, and I’m from New Mexico. It’s a lot of foods we grew up with, things our parents made for us, our hometown restaurants ― told through the lens of our friendship.”
If 2020 had gone according to plan for Ferguson, however, “Food Between Friends” might never have happened. The actor was set to begin performances in a revival of “Take Me Out” on Broadway this past spring, before COVID-19 shuttered theaters and performance spaces across the country.
First staged in 2002, Richard Greenberg’s drama follows Darren Lemming, a Major League Baseball player who comes out as gay. “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Jesse Williams will play Darren in the new production, with Ferguson taking on the role of queer accountant Mason Marzac, a character originated by Denis O’Hare.
Ferguson, who made his Broadway debut in the 1998 revival of “On the Town,” is understandably reluctant to prognosticate about the future of New York’s theater industry. All 41 Broadway theaters are set to remain dark through June 2021. Still, the actor said he’s eager to resume his work on “Take Me Out” as soon as it’s safe to do so.
“It’s going to be one of the shows that welcomes Broadway back, whenever that is,” he said. “I can’t wait to be back on stage. I can’t wait to be back in an audience. I think about my friends who make their living on Broadway and are really struggling right now. My heart goes out to them.”
By the time “Food Between Friends” is published next spring, Ferguson believes he and the rest of the world will be ready to embrace lasting, wide-scale change, both socially and politically.
“I hope for a fresh start,” he said.