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Ariel Winter on ‘Modern Family’ Death: ‘We Tried to Make It as Light Hearted as Possible’

When news broke that a “Modern Family” character was going to be killed off, fans feared the worst. So did cast members.

Ariel Winter said she and her co-stars learned that someone was going to die when headlines about it first started popping up on news sites.

“We got the table draft like 10 minutes later and I opened it and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, it’s me, I’m done. They fired me,’” Winter told Variety while attending the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s A Time for Heroes Family Festival in Los Angeles. “And then I’m like, ‘It’s not me, thank God,’ but also sad because we no longer have Shelley Long.”

Long’s character, DeDe Pritchett, met her demise on the show’s Halloween episode, ending the speculation of which “Family” member would be offed. For the show, dealing with grim subject matter was also new ground.

“We’ve never really talked about death before on the show,” Winter added. “It’s a very sad topic, but I think we tried to make it as light hearted as possible to just show how everybody deals with death differently. Grieving is not always the way you think it is, so I think it’s important.”

Tia Carrere Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation 30th Anniversary, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 28 Oct 2018

Also on hand at Time for Heroes was Tia Carrere, who will appear in the upcoming “AJ and the Queen,” the Netflix series teaming up RuPaul and “Sex and the City” executive producer, Michael Patrick King.

The actress and model was coy about what we’ll see on “AJ” next year, but she will try to find her way to RuPaul’s closet.

“Oh, I want to borrow his gowns! Seriously,” Carrere said.

The backlot of Smashbox Studios was transformed into a carnival with kids and adults hula hooping, and getting lost in a VR experience and a popcorn pit. Those on hand were well aware of the foundation’s work over the past 30 years to battle pediatric AIDS.

“The real-life heroes to me are the people you don’t see,” Olivia Munn said. “The people that aren’t on the red carpets or getting the awards. You may not know their names. There’s a lot of good that’s happening in the world and it’s a lot of the people that you don’t see, but we know them on a daily basis.”

Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and former co-host of the classic “NBA Inside Stuff,” was honored for her years of work with the foundation.

“‘Inside Stuff’ is how I originally got connected to the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation … that’s how long ago it was,” recalled Bay. “Ahmad Rashad and I came as part of the volunteer crew in 1993.”

The cause to fight HIV and AIDS is something she connected to in her early days on the show, at a time when Magic Johnson’s contraction of the virus rocked the sports world.

“My first weekend on the job at ‘NBA Inside Stuff’ was the weekend that Magic announced that he was HIV positive,” Bay said. “I’ll never forget, I asked him what it felt like to be realizing that he was living with AIDS. He corrected me on air. He said, ‘No, not AIDS. HIV.’ It was a pretty important moment in sports and society, that we became educated about the myths and the realities of life with HIV.”

Now in its 13th year, the mission of the foundation’s founder and namesake, Elizabeth Glaser, has been carried on by her son, Jake Glaser.

“We work with entities here in the U.S., but also very dedicated partners overseas to implement programming,” said Glaser of the foundation’s efforts. “We create opportunity for people to receive treatment. Very simply, we know how to save lives and we know how to keep people healthy.”

Keeping in the spirit of the festival, Steve Guttenberg delivered the best perspective.

“You don’t have to be an entertainer to make people feel better,” the actor said with a laugh. “The entertainment stuff is bulls—. You happen to be in a hit movie or a hit television show. Who gives a s—? It’s not a big deal. The fact is, everybody can make a difference. What really matters are the doctors and the scientists that are trying to cure this terrible disease.”

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