TCA 2012: ABC Party Diary With Connie Britton, Pamela Anderson and the Creators of 'Modern Family'
A minute-by-minute look at the network's Beverly Hilton fette, which features Sarah Chalke, Scott Speedman, Leah Remini, Cheryl Hines and Josh Malina.
After another media day focused on the fate of the Modern Family cast, few expected the show's co-creators Steve Levitan and Chris Lloyd to turn up for ABC's Television Critics Association party. But that's precisely what they did, fielding questions about their actors' salary demands and the acrimony that ensued. That's until news broke that new deals had been struck, at which point the carefully-worded hypotheticals quickly turned to proud realities.
Here's a minute-by-minute look at what went down --the biggest scrums (Connie Britton), the oddest pairings (Levitan and Pamela Anderson) and the funniest impersonation (Lloyd doing Sofia Vergara)-- inside the Beverly Hilton.
6:54 p.m. ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee stands outside the party entrance, greeting actors and producers as they pass by. He admits he hadn’t expected so many different iterations on the same Modern Family cast negotiation question – there were four during the panel, and then one more in the post-panel huddle. As it happened, he managed to find five different ways to say he was “optimistic” about a resolution, and little (if nothing) more.
7:11 p.m. Modern Family's Levitan and Lloyd surprise many by showing up. They are quickly mobbed by reporters in pursuit of headlines and soundbites. “There's a school of thought that [the actors] should get whatever they can get, and as long as we can get there without inflaming anybody or hurting they show, they'll get what they think they're due,” Lloyd tells a gathering, which is slightly smaller than Levitan’s care of the lower media profile he has kept. He is more interested in talking about the upcoming season, for which nearly half the episodes have been written already. Among the major themes: Gloria’s pregnancy. In his best Vergara accent, Lloyd reenacts the moment she found out: “Okkk, I trust you," she said at the time. "But don’t make me too fat. I need to be beautiful, let’s remember.” (Lloyd jokes that many involved in the show can do Vergara’s accent, but none as well as he can.)
7:17 p.m. News breaks that the Modern Family cast's new deals are done, and the lawsuit has been dropped. Lloyd and Levitan, still unaware, continue to give interviews about how “hopeful” they are that resolution will come shortly.
7:19 p.m. Lloyd steps aside to take a call on his cell phone. He returns pleased, and says: “I'm thrilled. It was a distraction more than anything, and I think the cast feels the same way… Now other people can go on with the numbers and we’ll go on with the letters.” A minute later, The Hollywood Reporter breaks the news to Levitan. “I love it,” he responds, grinning. “It's no surprise, but I'm of course thrilled and I can not wait to get on stage Monday morning and start making the show again.”
7:28 p.m. Nashville's Britton emerges from the red carpet and is instantly surrounded by members of the press. She will have trouble moving far from the door for the remainder of the evening as a steady stream of microphone-clad reporters circle around her. “This character is actually incredibly different from Tami Taylor of Friday Night Lights,” she had told this group of her new part earlier in the day. “I think even her accent is going to be different. There probably won’t be as many y’alls.” Minutes later, her castmate Sam Palladio, a relative newcomer to American television, suggests it was his stint on the second season of Showtime's Episodes -- which shot in his native London -- that ultimately led him to this gig.
7:46 p.m. Levitan makes his way over to Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars contestant Pamela Anderson, whose dress is as tight as it is short. The duo looks particularly happy to see each other, chatting for some 10 minutes. Reporters gawk (at least one breaks press tour policy and snaps a pic on his iPhone), thrown by the pairing. Turns out, it’s a Stacked reunion.
7:50 p.m. Last Resort star (and former Felicity heartthrob) Scott Speedman is flanked by female reporters by the entrance to the Beverly Hills ballroom. Nearby, Family Tools' Leah Remini is seated and laughing. Over at the bar, How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) star Sarah Chalke is chatting with the father (Neil Flynn) and son (Charlie McDermott) from The Middle. Flynn and McDermott won’t leave each other’s side all evening.
8:07 p.m. Levitan manages to slip away. He is now waiting for his car at the valet stand. Suburgatory’s Cheryl Hines emerges from the hotel, gets in black town car and speeds away. Inside the party, Britton’s rep tells a growing scrum that the Nashville star has to head out.
8:11 p.m. Suburgatory creator Emily Kapnek is getting a taste for how her lot has changed: “Last year I didn’t even know if I should be here,” she recalls of the period before her comedy had launched. This year? She’s rarely without reporters trailing her in search of spoilers.
8:20 p.m. The Chew co-host (and Top Chef finalist) Carla Hall chats up Suburgatory’s Rex Lee, still best known as Lloyd from Entourage. Scandal’s Josh Malina has his cast in stitches by the sushi bar.
9:02 p.m. Lights come on. The party guests are kicked out of the ballroom by hotel employees. Among them: Last Resort executive producers Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek, who decamp to one of the white couches to the hotel lobby for interviews. The Scandal cast is still playing inside the network photo booth.
Additional reporting by Lesley Goldberg, Marisa Guthrie and Philiana Ng.
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose