8 Questions for Modern Family's Nolan Gould

On his new hybrid car, being a member of Mensa, and the most environmentally conscious character on "Modern Family"

By Madison Kotack

December 8, 2014

Nolan Gould is a youth ambassador for the Sierra Club.

Nolan Gould, a youth ambassador for the Sierra Club and star of hit TV series Modern Family.

At 13 years old, Nolan Gould was a high school graduate and star of the Emmy Award-winning TV show, Modern Family. At 14, Gould marched alongside 50,000 people in Washington, DC, to urge President Obama to take action against climate change (Forward on Climate Rally). Now, at 16, the Sierra Club youth ambassador is encouraging young people across the nation to get outside.

Sierra caught up with Gould (over email) to discuss his trip to the Grand Canyon and the importance of promoting environmental awareness to young people.

You just celebrated your 16th birthday at SmogShoppe, one of the most environmentally progressive urban spaces in California. Will your holiday celebrations be as eco-friendly?

Yes. However, we don't just have to wait for the holidays or special occasions to be charitable or environmentally conscious. We can help save the earth day in and day out. I just turned 16 and bought an electric hybrid as my first car. But there are countless little things to do every day that hopefully make a difference if enough people do them.

You don’t see many other teen celebrities promoting environmental awareness: Why do you think that is?

Most teen celebrities have causes that they work for, but I feel environmental causes often get overlooked. My generation in particular does not know enough about nature and the dangers our environment is facing.

It sounds a little clichéd, but kids my age don't get out enough and experience how amazing nature is. We're always connected to some sort of technology or media instead of getting out and camping or hiking. And that’s really unfortunate because we’ll be the ones eventually creating laws and making decisions about the future of the earth. Even something as simple as a short day hike can inspire us to become interested in the environment. That's why I'm really excited to work with the Sierra Club.

Who do you think is the most environmentally conscious character on Modern Family?

Mitchell. He used to be an environmental lawyer after all, so even though they don’t emphasize his beliefs very often, I have to think that deep down he must care a lot about the environment. And he drives a hybrid too.

Are you able to enjoy “nearby nature” when you’re on set?

Unfortunately, no.  I work at a studio in the heart of Los Angeles, and there are no natural spaces for miles around. I'm always really excited when the show travels to places like Hawaii, Jackson Hole, and Australia because it gives me the chance to get outdoors. Some of my favorite nature moments (like paragliding and shark diving) have happened while the show was filming on location.


Nolan Gould, youth ambassador of the Sierra Club and star of hit TV series Modern Family, had a revelation on his Sierra Outing to the Grand Canyon in 2012: we need to protect this place.

Gould had a revelation on his Sierra Outing to the Grand Canyon in 2012: We need to protect this place.


Your TV personality, Luke Dunphy, spends his time jumping on trampolines in only his underwear with a box on his head. In the real world, you are an active member of Mensa and an environmental advocate. How do your fans react to the contrast?

People forget that actors are acting and are not the characters that they play. When word got out that I was a member of Mensa, people were shocked. For months on end I saw nothing else about myself on Twitter. Now it's kind of common knowledge amongst most of the show's fans. I still find people who expect me to be dumb like Luke, though, or conversely, to be spouting quantum theories in everyday conversation

You're a former Boy Scout. What’s your take on the youth organization logging more than 34,000 acres of forest?

In Boy Scouts, I memorized something known as the Outdoor Code, which taught me to be "clean in my outdoor manners, to be careful with fire, to be considerate in the outdoors, and to be conservation-minded." We are also taught to leave no trace. I don't know the specifics of the land they are logging, their reasons, or whether they are replanting the forests, but I hope that the Scouts would live up to the lessons they are teaching by being respectful and responsible in their decision making.

You’ve described your Sierra Club outing to the Grand Canyon as “kick-starting” your urge to protect the environment. Do you think this revelation would have happened in any national park?

Yes, but there is something so awe-inspiring and breathtaking about the Grand Canyon that I think really motivated me to make a difference. Looking out over the gorge, I just could not imagine it not being there for future generations. It would be a travesty. And then I began to realize that there are many places in the world, some famous and others not, that are equally beautiful and fantastic and unfortunately endangered. That’s why I feel we need to get kids out into nature, so they can have the same type of revelations and want to preserve the earth.

If you could only go to one other national park, which would it be?

Can’t I pick all of them?! I would say either Yosemite or Zion. I guess it would be fitting to visit Yosemite since it was discovered by John Muir, who started a little organization some of us may know as the Sierra Club :)


Check out Nolan's outing to the Grand Canyon, including his totally real white water rafting experience: 


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