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Emmy-winner ‘Modern Family’: a growing impact on tolerance?

Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen made a joint appearance backstage following the opening salvo of “Modern Family” at the Emmys, in which the ABC comedy swept the first four categories. They were asked whether the series, which features prominent gay characters played by Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, was helping to fight less tolerant views within conservative America.

“Well, I don’t know about it in opposition to conservative America,” Burrell said, “but it feels very, very good to be on a show that seems like it’s slowly changing a lot of minds. Eric and Jesse obviously deserve all of the credit for that, along with our amazing showrunners, but it’s a great thing to just peripherally go to events and talk to family and start to talk about those characters the same way they talk about any other.”

Joked Bowen: “As a straight woman and part of a straight couple on the show, I feel marginalized,” before adding, “To me it’s absurd that it’s even an issue, but to the extent that it is an issue, we’re helping change minds.”

Though the awards are rapidly spreading through the cast and crew of the second-year series, not everyone has been in the winner’s circle yet, but Burrell says the cohesiveness of the cast will win out over jealousy.

“Ed actually just said something very sweet before the award: ‘ Just remember, whoever wins deserves it,’” Burrell said. “I think we’re just trying to enjoy this moment more than anything. Everybody has been incredibly supportive of each other, and we know this doesn’t last forever.”

Bowen was thankful for the chance to be appreciated for her comedy while playing the more buttoned-down character.

“Claire is not necessarily fall-down funny all the time,” Bowen said. “ She’s not necessarily a big character, and it’s amazing they have found ways to find all these different aspects to her, to make her not just the mom.”

Reflecting on the show’s strong performance this year, “Modern Family” exec producer Steve Levitan, who shared a writing Emmy with Jeffrey Richman, said there was “sort of a desperation to keep the quality up.” He also called the kids of the cast the show’s “unsung heroes.”

“I wasn’t so thrilled about working with kids,” Levitan said. “They are so good and they add such dimensions to scenes. …They are very skilled actors. … They are playing at the same level as the adults.”

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