Isn’t Eric Stonestreet’s Cameron a delight to behold on Modern Family? Yeah, well, chuck that guy aside for one week. On tonight’s episode of Ryan Murphy’s FX drama American Horror Story, Stonestreet guest-stars as Derek, a tortured patient of Ben (Dylan McDermott) who is deathly afraid of urban legends. (Stonestreet has dabbled in darker characters prior to his Modern gig, appearing as a killer on The Mentalist and Pushing Daisies as well as an accused rapist/murderer on Nip/Tuck, another Murphy show.) The 40-year-old Emmy winner counted the ways that audiences will find Derek wholly different from Cam.
• Appearance. “My hair on Modern Family is a big part of my character. Cam’s hair is a fortress. It’s a 20-minute process every day with lots of hairspray and goo and blowdrying and brushes. And on this show, the character was described as unkempt. Dark circles under his eyes. Part of the story point is that he doesn’t have the confidence and courage to look in mirrors at all, because of a specific ghost story of what happens if you look in a mirror…. Cam most definitely has a tailor and Derek needs a tailor. If Cam finds a great shirt that he likes, he takes it to the tailor and he’ll add the extra colored cuffs. Derek definitely shops at Sears. He’s kind of an everyguy.”
• Demeanor. “Cam has all the confidence in the world, feels great about himself and isn’t apologetic about anything about him, whereas this guy is ashamed of his unreasonable fear of children’s ghost stories…. You’ll definitely see a different physicality that I bring to the character that comes from the shyness. He is very drawn into himself, and Cameron is very drawn out to everyone else. Cameron is somewhat of a performance-type person, and Derek is just contained within himself and unsure.”
• The sympathy factor. “Derek comes to Ben with this irrational fear of the Candyman, the Driverless Car and the Lady in White. And the children’s ghost story that has him crippled is one called Piggyman. He’s meek, timid, scared, defeated. You definitely feel sorry for him. I don’t think you would ever feel sorry for Cam, other than when he does a faux pas or sticks his foot in his mouth.”
• Romantic life. “Cameron’s getting some hot-and-heavy action all the time. As Derek says in this episode, ‘I haven’t dated, because who wants to sleep with somebody who has to sleep with the lights on?’ ‘I met a girl, but I don’ t have the courage to ask her out because what if she wants to come back to my place? How am I going to explain why all the mirrors are covered up in my house?’”
• Fear factor. “Cameron’s biggest nightmare would be running out of drink at a game-night at his place. And Derek’s biggest nightmare is a man dressed as a pig, chopping him up with a cleaver.”