Each week, 11 million people tune in to laugh out loud with TV's hit sitcom Modern Family. This hilarious "mockumentary" takes a peek into the life of Jay Pritchett and members of his very modern family.
Family patriarch Jay (TV veteran Ed O'Neill) is a lovable curmudgeon who is married to a young, sexy Colombian woman named Gloria (Sofia Vergara). Together they are raising Gloria's 11-year-old son from a previous marriage. Then there's Jay's adult son, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), a gay lawyer who recently adopted a daughter from Vietnam with his partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet). The most traditional of the bunch is Jay's adult daughter, Claire (Julie Bowen), who is married to Phil (Ty Burrell) and has three children.
With its fresh take on modern-day family dynamics, some are saying there hasn't been a sitcom like this since The Cosby Show. And now with six Emmys under its belt, including one for Best Comedy, it's clear that critics and viewers alike are embracing this big, happy, gay, straight and multicultural family.
One thing that may surprise Modern Family fans is that Eric Stonestreet, who plays Mitchell's emotional and over-to-top partner on the show, is actually straight in real life. "I say I'm 'openly straight,'" he says. "I never thought this would be the character that people would know me for, but it's just an honor to play him."
Audiences everywhere are embracing Eric's lovable character, and the critics have also taken note: Eric walked away with the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a comedy series at this year's Emmys. Even though he was up against co-stars Ty Burrell and onscreen partner Jesse Tyler Ferguson, no one was happier for him than his castmates were. The cameras even caught an emotional Jesse tearing up as Eric gave his acceptance speech.
"It was the first award out of the gate, and I think our emotions were high and I just couldn't help it. I broke down," Jesse says. "I was so happy for Eric."
Probably the most recognizable actor in the bunch is Ed O'Neill, who many may recognize from his iconic role as Ed Bundy in Married with Children. From 1987 to 1997, millions of viewers tuned in each week to watch the hard-on-his-luck shoe salesman spar with his family. The show was so popular that it aired all over the world—even reaching Sofia Vergara's hometown in Colombia!
"For me, it's amazing," Sofia says. "I used to watch Ed O'Neill in Married with Children when I was in Colombia, and I never thought I was going to grow up to marry him!"
"I always knew that was going to happen for me," Ed jokes.
Many praise Modern Family for its ability to use comedy to promote acceptance of others. Ty Burrell even says that playing Phil, the clueless but well-meaning dad, has been some of the most meaningful work he's done in his career.
"I spent a huge part of the beginning of my acting career doing incredibly pretentious theater and stuff where you think maybe you're changing the world...and people are falling asleep in their seats," he says. "I don't think any of us expected this kind of reaction to something that we thought was just a fun, silly comedy. But people have been coming up to us and saying that we're helping to bring their families together."
Julie Bowen, who plays Claire, agrees that this kind of feedback—along with a brilliant cast and team of writers—makes working on Modern Family a dream job.
"I could play Claire the rest of my life!" she says.
All the actors agree that the genius of Modern Family can be attributed to its writers. Co-creator and writer Steven Levitan, who came up with the idea for the show with legendary TV producer Christopher Lloyd, says they have their own wives and kids to thank for the show's success.
"We all have families, and a lot of stories are taken directly from our lives," he says. "I think that's why the show resonates—we steal liberally from our wives and kids."
Even though the show has millions of fans, received critical acclaim and won six Emmys, Steve says its success is still taking him by surprise. "You go into every project you do hoping and praying for something like this, but there's so much luck involved in putting together a cast," he says. "But somehow fate stepped in and we wound up with these guys, and that's a pretty remarkable thing."