Facing both stardom and tragedy in her native Colombia, Sofia Vergara has “found true happiness” in Hollywood. Paul Byrne talks to the Modern Family star.

Sofia Margarita Vergara may look just like Colombian trophy wife Gloria Delgado-Pritchett – all T&A and “Son of a beach!” – from TV’s Modern Family, but that’s pretty much where the similarities stop.

Their upbringings couldn’t be more unalike, for a start. Sofia’s had a much bigger budget.

“I’ve always liked to travel,” she tells me. “Right from when I was little. Which is partly why I presented a travel show back in Colombia for a few years. This way though, doing junkets, I get to travel with a little more style. And I get to meet loads of interesting people. Like you.”

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A model who made it big as a TV presenter and actor in Colombia, Vergara moved to the US over a decade ago, rising up through the Hollywood ranks in movies such as Four Brothers and Lords Of Dogtown (both 2005), and TV shows such as Entourage and Dirty Sexy Money before the towering Fox sitcom Modern Family finally made her an international star. And now she looks set to finally make it on the big screen too.

Having just completed the leading female role in the Farrelly brothers’ update of The Three Stooges, Vergara’s latest movie, Happy Feet Two, sees her providing the voice for the sexy Carmen, the object of wild affection for the luststruck Ramon (voiced by Robin Williams).

So, playing a penguin who can make other penguins jump off a cliff, just to be by her side – how difficult was that for Sofia Vergara?

“It was a no-brainer,” she smiles. “I had to do no research to get that character.”

Projecting all that sexiness through a microphone must have been a challenge though. Normally, the visuals do quite a bit of the work…

“Well, I thought it was going to be rough, because, I guessed, you’d have to pretend to be a penguin all by yourself, alone in the studio. So, it was a big surprise to me when I arrived in Australia and it was all of us – Robin, Hank [Azaria] – together in the studio, and we were looking at each other, and acting. So, that made it really easy…”

Like me, Sofia Vergara was discovered walking on a beach, her quickly booming career as a model inspiring her to give up her three-year pre-dentistry university studies just two semesters short of graduating. Divorcing her childhood sweetheart after three years of marriage, the 21-year old Sofia – now mother to one-year old Monolo – began her first step to on-screen stardom by shooting a commercial. But first, she had to clear it with her Catholic schoolteachers. In case it was too sexy.

Does Sofia Vergara still consult the Church over her career choices? And do they get a cut?

“No, not anymore,” she laughs. “Now, my religious experiences are more direct, between me and God. I ask him permission personally now.”

Has he ever said no?

“Many times, yeah.” [Laughs].

Vergara appeared a series of ‘Got Milk?’ ads together with her son, Monolo, who just turned 20 on September 16th. In truth, the ads really should have run with the tagline ‘Got MILF?’. How’s it been for the young lad, growing up with one of the hottest mums on the planet?

“I’m sure he doesn’t think of me that way. I’m sure he thinks of me as just a normal, annoying mother. He doesn’t appreciate my beauty, or how funny I am. I always bother him [laughs]. But, you know, it’s a normal mother-son relationship.”

Life growing up in Colombia, even with money, wasn’t all that normal though. Older brother Rafael was killed during an attempted kidnap. Younger brother Julio was deported from the US in May, having had a longterm struggle with drugs. Does Sofia feel Colombia is a big part of who she is today?

“I’m so grateful that I’m Colombian. I love being Colombian, I love my country; it has made me who I am. I wouldn’t change anything. Of course, things happen, but I guess, you know, God does things for a reason. Not just to mess with people.

“So, it’s a difficult country. But, in the past decade, everything has changed so much. A lot of tourism, a lot of people living there in peace and quiet, and happiness.

“Nothing is perfect, but Colombia has made me who I am, the humour that I have, the accent that I have, the looks that I have. So, I wouldn’t change it.”

Interview by Paul Byrne

Happy Feet Two hits cinemas December 2nd/Modern Family is currently on Sky, Fridays 8pm