“Modern Family” star Eric Stonestreet doesn’t think he grew up loving toys more than any other kid. The big difference has nothing to do with a passion for Slinkys or Etch-a-Sketches. He just gets to take his love and turn it into another TV job.
Stonestreet is the host of the new ABC reality show “The Toy Box.” In this “Shark Tank” like production, a group of judges – who aren’t old enough to drive themselves to work – will take a look at new ideas for productions for youngsters. They will decide if the creation should be produced or tossed on the toy pile heap.
“There were several reasons I agreed to host the show,” Stonestreet says during an ABC party. “Toys. I loved toys as a kid. The opportunity to work with kids is always fun.
“And then, there is the opportunity to work with people who are pursuing their passions and their dreams. Some of these toymakers have been trying to get their toys on shelves for 30 years.”
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The tough part of hosting is dealing with people who don’t get the nod from the young judges. Stonestreet connected with many of the contestants during the film of the initial eight episodes and seeing them come up short affected him deeply.
His advice to them was very personal.
“I tell them I was an actor for 12 years before I got ‘Modern Family.’ There were plenty of times during that time that I thought my dreams might be crushed,” Stonestreet says. “I tell them this is one door that has been closed to them but another door will open. They just have to keep believing in their product.”
Because Stonestreet has the security of being on a hit TV show, he has the luxury to say yes or no to a project. If he thinks it will be exciting and as fun as a barrel of monkeys, he’s on board.
Stonestreet will have to ride herd over a group of opinionated young judges that will include Sophia Grace Brownlee (”The Ellen DeGeneres Show”), Aalyrah Caldwell (“Uncle Buck”), Toby Grey (“The Unexpected John Cena Prank”) and Noah Ritter (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”). He loves being able to see the world through the “uncluttered” viewpoint of youngsters.
Working with the young judges gives Stonestreet the same feeling as when he goes to Disneyland and rides the Peter Pan ride. Both make him feel like he’s 8 years old again.
Stonestreet’s taste in toys while growing up in the Heartland was pretty standard. When he wasn’t outside playing, he loved Hot Wheels, Lincoln Logs, Legos and Tinker Toys. Any toy that allowed him to construct something made him happy. That explains why when Stonestreet was young he was more interesting in getting real tools than toys.
He still loved his toys so much that Stonestreet still has many of them from his childhood.
“Right before I got this show, I was redoing my bedroom and needed a chest for the end of the bed,” Stonestreet says. “My parents sent me the red toy chest my grandfather sent me. Inside it was all my favorite Hot Wheel toys and Legos.
“I now have all those toys displayed on a shelf at home.”
Toys weren’t his only passion. When he was 8, Stonestreet was developing his passion for acting while growing up in Kansas. By the time he was 11, he was performing as a clown at parties. His TV career started with a 1999 episode of “Dharma & Greg” and continued with appearances on “Party of Five,” “ER,” “Spin City,” “CSI” and “Bones.”
And now, he’s juggling two series on ABC.
The Toy Box
- 8 p.m. Friday, April 7, KFSN (Channel 30.1)