[INTERVIEW] ‘Modern Family’ Star Nolan Gould on Going Outside + Getting Schooled

Photo: (Davis Barber/Sierra Club)

Photo: (Davis Barber/Sierra Club)

We all know Nolan Gould as his goofy and sometimes-aloof character Luke Dunphy on ABC’s “Modern Family,” but in real life, the 14-year-old actor is a college freshman (you read that right!), who is passionate about the outdoors and inspiring other young people to go outside.

We recently caught up with Nolan to chat about his work as a Sierra Club youth ambassador, and how he became a certified genius.

MTV ACT: How’d you get involved with the Sierra Club, and what are your duties as their youth ambassador?

NOLAN: I first got involved with the Sierra Club when I took part in their Earth Day video about my favorite place on Earth (Hawaii). As their youth ambassador, I travel around the country doing lots of things with them — whether it’s talking to politicians about ways to get kids outdoors, or talking to kids about why they should spend more time outside, in nature.

ACT: You just spent a day with the Sierra Camp at Camp Pendleton, and we hear you grew up in a military family. What was it like to meet kids from similar backgrounds?

NOLAN: My dad was in the military. It was difficult sometimes, because he would have to be away a lot, and we would have to move around a lot. Trying to adapt to new schools and new places can be really tough. Meeting kids whose parents are in the military was cool because I felt like I knew what they were going through. I had a lot of really interesting conversations about how their experiences compared to mine. I also had fun teaching them about the outdoors and sharing my love of nature.

Military 19 credit Davis Barber

Photo: (Davis Barber/Sierra Club)

ACT: You’re a self-professed nature lover, but so many kids would rather stay inside and play video games. How can we get more young people up, out, and active?

NOLAN: When I talk to other young people, I try to be as straightforward as possible. I’m a kid. I love getting outdoors. You should get outside, too!

ACT: Now be honest. How much time do you realllly spend indoors, watching TV or on the Internet, every day?

NOLAN: I’m on my computer a lot, but I swear I have an excuse! I spend about nine hours on media a day, but seven or eight of those are doing my schoolwork.

ACT: Speaking of school, you’re a certified Mensa super-genius who finished high school at 13! How’d you become such a good student, and how important is education to you?

NOLAN: I always put a lot of priority on my education, even if that means taking classes after work or on the weekends. I just started taking college geology and photography courses. Education is so important.

ACT: You’ve done such a great job balancing acting and academics. Do you have any advice for kids who are struggling in school, either academically or personally?

NOLAN: You’ve just gotta keep going and never give up. It takes practice, hard work and determination if you want to excel and succeed at anything. Even in acting, I had a lot of difficulties. I didn’t get any jobs until three or four years after I started. As for kids who are struggling personally, ignore the bullies! Who cares what they think. A lot of the time, they’re not thinking, so you shouldn’t take their words to heart. Ignore, ignore, ignore, and keep pushing forward.

Military 216 credit Davis Barber

Photo: (Davis Barber/Sierra Club)

ACT: Your “Modern Family” character, Luke Dunphy, is a breath of fresh air, but he doesn’t alwaaaays seem to think straight. How much are you like him, and what have you learned from playing him?

NOLAN: At the beginning, I was like, “Man, I’m the complete opposite of Luke!” But now he’s starting to rub off on me! I’m starting to have moments where I do these completely illogical things, and I’m just like, “What?! Noooo!” Even though he sometimes does nonsensical things, I think that Luke can teach us a lot about positivity. He’s always happy, and knows how to let go and have fun.

ACT: What’s your favorite thing about being on “Modern Family”?

NOLAN: There are so many great things about being on the show. I’ve worked with so many great people, and I get to play an amazing character. Plus, I love acting, so being able to do it every day is awesome.

ACT: That’s great! We’re so happy for you. Do you have any parting words of advice for young people today?

NOLAN: In this world, one thing you should definitely strive for is originality. Just be who you are, and be your own person. That’s what will make you stand out.

Military 80 credit Davis Barber

Photo: (Davis Barber/Sierra Club)

Is it possible that a 14-year-old knows more about life than I do? I think so. Follow the action widgets below to learn more about the Sierra Club and how you can join Nolan outside.

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Team up with Nolan and other nature lovers for inspiration and motivation to make our planet a little healthier.

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Get Schooled

Get Schooled

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