“I don’t think any one of us were ready,” Vergara — one of Variety‘s 2021 Power of Women honorees — says of the hit comedy ending after 11 seasons in 2020. “It was such an amazing experience. It’s, like, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an actor to be cast in a TV show like that with success all over the world.”
Knowing the possibility of lightning striking again would be near impossible, Vergara was nervous.
“I was very worried, like, ‘What am I going to do next?’ You know, as an actor, there is a very small percentage that you’re going to find a show with that success, so I said that I am going to go and do the opposite because I know I won’t find that again — and that’s how I found ‘AGT,’” Vergara explains.
Vergara never even considered becoming a judge on a reality TV show. After all, she doesn’t know the first thing about dancing, music, magic or contortionists, for that matter.
“It didn’t occur to me that I could ever do something like ‘AGT’ ever in my life, so when they came to me with the offer, I was like, ‘What? Me?’ And then it was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a godsend.’ I realized that maybe this is what I would need to do to forget about ‘Modern Family.’”
One of Variety’s Power of Women honorees this week, Vergara has used her television platform as a launchpad for her numerous business ventures. The Colombian star is a firm believer in the power of broadcast television with a wide-ranging reach that can touch every single American household.
“I’ve been very clear from the beginning that what I wanted to do was become a household name, so that I could do all the other businesses that I was always interested in,” Vergara says of the foresight she had for her own career, which she has proudly taken control of since her early days as a Univision television host when she negotiated her own contract at 22-years-old in Miami. Then, in 1995, she launched a her own talent agency, when she identified a hole for Latinx artists in the industry, like herself, who couldn’t find proper industry representation. (Today, that company, Latin World Entertainment, is the largest Hispanic talent representation firm in the U.S., and Vergara remains a client of her own company, 25 years later.)
“I’ve always loved business and I’ve always loved money, so when ‘Modern Family’ happened, I was able to do all the things that I wanted to do,” she says of gaining a national platform with the help of a gigantic audience that, at the height of the show, had roughly 13 million viewers (and more than 7 million still tuning in for the final season, which wrapped roughly one year ago in 2020).
Now, with “America’s Got Talent, Vergara is able to utilize her platform for her own businesses and lucrative endorsement deals. She’s also having a ton of fun on the judges’ panel.
“It’s been a pleasure to work at ‘AGT,’ she says. “I was worried I wouldn’t find a group of people as amazing as Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet and everyone, but now that I am at ‘AGT,’ I am super happy. Of course, I miss ‘Modern Family,’ but I’ve become friends with all the people and it’s been amazing, even through the pandemic.”
Vergara reveals that she signed a three-year deal at “America’s Got Talent,” though the show has the option to renew her year-to-year.
“I am supposed to do this season and next season,” she says. “It all depends on them because they usually want to mix it up. It’s a show about variety — the judges change every couple of seasons, so I don’t know what they want to do with me, but I love it and I will keep doing it as long as they need me.”
In a day in age where talent can juggle many different projects, Vergara could continue as an “AGT” judge, while taking on more acting roles, if she wishes.
She admits she hasn’t put too much thought into what’s next when it comes to scripted projects, but she’s not confident she would ever sign onto another broadcast television comedy.
“I think in a perfect world, I would do more movies than a TV show because what are the odds that I’m going to find another ‘Modern Family?’” She cracks, “Only Ed O’Neill could do that!”
More women are — finally — being given the reigns to direct, especially as Hollywood is calling for diverse perspectives behind the camera. But Vergara doesn’t have the desire to add “director” to her resume.
“No, no, no, no,” she exclaims, when asked if she’s interested in directing. “I know my limitations! Nope!”
Vergara, who won a NAACP Image Award and People’s Choice Award, shockingly never won an Emmy for her role as Gloria Pritchett on “Modern Family.” But she doesn’t get too hung up on award recognition.
“I wasn’t upset,” she says of never taking home a trophy among her four consecutive Emmy nominations from 2010 through 2013. (She was also nominated four times at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards.) “For me, I was grateful. Never in my life did I even dream of being nominated or part of anything like ‘Modern Family.’ Just to be nominated was a gift. I never really felt bad about it.”
However, she does have a bone to pick with one of her former co-stars.
“I do think that Julie Bowen took one more for her that was supposed to be mine. I always tell her to give it back to me,” Vergara jokes. “She has two. I always say, ‘One of those is mine!’ I think there was some confusion [with the voting].”
While Vergara admits she “doesn’t like to plan too much,” she is planning on longevity in Hollywood. “I want to try, for a while, doing different things,” she says. “And then hopefully I’ll be like Betty White working until I’m 90.”
Styling: Rhonda Spies; Makeup: Sabrina Bedrani/The Wall Group/Dior Makeup; Hair: Kelly Kline; Earrings & Necklace: David Webb; Ring: Walters Faith