For six seasons “Modern Family” has entertained with its unique brand of jokes, slapstick and loving family moments, and the cast and creators gathered at PaleyFest Saturday night to talk about how they keep the show fresh six years in and what keeps “Modern Family” a modern favorite.
The biggest challenge of being in the sixth season, said Ty Burrell, is “not wanting to just do the slotted thing that you’ve worked into over the years. Everybody’s working really hard to ensure that we’re doing new things.” Burrell added that he doesn’t believe sitcom characters can truly grow and change, but rather that new situations reveal new sides and layers to the characters.
“I don’t think you guys really want us to grow, because if we did, I wouldn’t fall over things anymore,” he said.
On the criticism of the less-than-perfect and often embarrassing aspects of their characters, Eric Stonestreet commented that critics “are forgetting that we all are flawed human beings…We hold that mirror up to people and I feel smart people see into all of our flaws in life and that we always don’t make the best choice.
“That doesn’t make us bad people, that just makes us human,” he defended to applause from the audience in the Dolby Theater.
Co-creator Steve Levitan touched on the show’s Feb. 25 episode “Connection Lost,” which took place entirely on Claire’s (Julie Bowen) laptop as the family tried to figure out where Hayley (Sarah Hyland) was. Levitan said that the idea for the outing came from FaceTiming with his two college-age daughters and noticing the amount of information that could be captured in the moment.
“Everybody can think of time when so much of their life is revealed by what’s on their computer screen,” he said. “The tricky part was trying to figure out a story that would sustain on that computer screen,” but “it was a fun challenge.”
The episode also offered an interesting filming experience for the cast, who were initially handed Apple devices to film themselves. “But we’re not very good cameramen,” laughed Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “so we had to bring in the professionals again.”
For Ed O’Neill filming the tech-savvy episode “was a cinch, because I didn’t know what was going on in the show and I didn’t know what was going on in the filming of the show. All I had to do was act dumb, which was easy for me to do,” he joked, “and that was it.”
Though, the kids of the cast were no help, he laughed. “They would say, ‘Don’t touch it like that,’” instructing him to let the cameramen help.
Sarah Hyland said that she enjoys Hayley’s will-they-won’t-they relationship with nanny-turned-realtor Andy (Adam DeVine), teasing that she’s “rooting for a certain outcome.
“I love romance and I like things like that,” she said, comparing the duo to “Friends’” Ross and Rachel.
But what keeps viewers coming back to “Modern Family?” “Writing. Good writing,” said Burrell.
“Every table read is a surprise for us,” said Sofia Vergara. “We get more and more excited.”
“It’s fun when I have little 8-year-old kids come up to me and ask if I’m Cam on ‘Modern Family’ and I realize that they were two when I got this job,” said Stonestreet, noting that a big reward is bringing new viewers to the show. “I think our show’s good – I don’t feel very apologetic about saying that. Not in a cocky, conceited way, but people work really hard to make it that, and when it’s good we should say what it is.”
“I think we really just represent family in general, everyone in the world can relate to us,” said Ariel Winter. “Our messages are about acceptance and love and figuring out life, and that sits well with people.”
“Modern Family” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC. Watch the full PaleyFest panel below: