“I have never been nominated for a Tony Award, [though] some people keep thinking I have just because I’ve been around,” the actor tells PEOPLE
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 12: Jesse Tyler Ferguson attends the 75th Annual Tony Awards Meet The Nominees Press Event at Sofitel New York on May 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)
Credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty

Jesse Tyler Ferguson has another shot at a big win!

The actor — who was nominated for five Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family, but never took home television's highest honor — is up for a Tony Award this year for his performance in the Broadway revival of Take Me Out.

Though Ferguson, 46, made his Broadway debut back in the 1998 revival of On the Town, and also starred in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Fully Committed, he received his first Tony nomination Monday — and the honor is certainly not lost on him.

"To be a part of this season that's also bringing Broadway back after a year and a half of nothing is really profound," he told PEOPLE at the Tony Awards meet the nominees press event in New York City Thursday.  

"I have never been nominated for a Tony Award, [though] some people keep thinking I have just because I've been around. I've never been honored like this, so it's just a huge deal to me."

"I've professionally lost a lot of awards," he jokingly added. "I've lost five Emmys, and I always tell myself after each time I lose, 'Awards are not important, and it doesn't mean anything,' but this means something to me. I would watch the Tony Awards in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and that was my window into this world. To be honored amongst that community that I admire so much is just really profound."

Take Me Out
Credit: Joan Marcus

Unfortunately, Ferguson couldn't truly take in the big moment on Monday morning — he was sick with a stomach flu.

"I put myself to bed the night before with NyQuil, and Justin [Mikita], my husband, woke me up shaking me at 9:15 or so saying that I'd been nominated for a Tony Award," Ferguson said. "He was filming me, and I don't think I gave him the reaction he was expecting. I think I was still in a fever dream."

Instead of celebrating with the family, he said, "I went back to sleep! I wasn't even able to go back to the show the next night. I had to take the next night off, so I didn't celebrate with my cast [until Wednesday]."

Take Me Out has a lot to celebrate. The Richard Greenberg play, which centers around gay baseball player Darren Lemming (played by Jesse Williams), received four Tony nominations Monday. Ferguson, Williams and costar Michael Oberholtzer were all recognized in the featured actor in a play category, while the production itself was nominated for best revival of a play.

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The Tonys season has been a long time coming, said Ferguson.

"We all met each other over two years ago when we tried to do this [production] in 2020, and over the pandemic we just became even closer. Patrick Adams and Jesse Williams and I all live in Los Angeles and we would see each other a lot, and our friendship grew over that time," he explained.

"We were in a text chain with the rest of the cast, and those two years really were… it was a marinating time for us to sort of get to know one another as people. And also think about the play. We'll never have a rehearsal experience like this where you stop and think about a play for two years before you get to do it."