Ryan Murphy talks Newsweek at Peabodys

'Modern Family,' 'Glee' crews discuss series success

NEW YORK -- The diversity and cultural impact of two of TV's most popular shows were in focus Monday at the annual Peabody Awards at the start of broadcast upfront week.

Before the luncheon awards show, "Glee" executive producer Ryan Murphy compared the Peabodys to "the Noble Peace Prize for TV," saying this makes the award a particular honor for the show, which he emphasized is all about diversity.

Asked by THR about the recent controversy surrounding the show after a Newsweek story questioning the casting of some gay actors in straight roles, Murphy said he was "shocked that this was blown up into such a big thing." He argued that "people should play everything," whether gay or straight, and "not be pigeon-holed."

He also said though that he was happy that Ramin Setoodeh, who wrote the Newsweek article, accepted his invitation to spend time in the show's writers room. "This will hopefully enlighten him," Murphy told THR.

"Glee" star Matthew Morrison said Murphy has handled the situation "really well," arguing that with the invite to the writers room the show's team can "try to educate" and give more insight into their creative process.

The comments came before the 69th annual Peabody Awards ceremony. The honor is bestowed by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication upon the best in electronic media.

During the Peabody ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, hosted by ABC News' Diane Sawyer and featuring a guest appearance by Elmo of "Sesame Street" fame, Murphy repeated that "Glee" is about diversity "and supporting diversity."

At the start of upfront week, "Modern Family" and "Glee" stars and creators had different feelings about how they are entering the big TV fall schedule presentations.

While last year, the outlook for the then-new show was unclear, "We get to relax ... and enjoy the parties" this year, "Family" co-creator and co-executive producer Steven Levitan told THR.

How will season two be different?

"It will be a lot like the first season," he suggested. "We will be getting to know the families better and the characters. We'll probably stay the course."

"Family Star" Julie Bowen said she actually finds this year "more stressful." She told THR: "What invariably happens next is that they shoot you down. The cast is so excited to do the job, but it all starts in the writers room. As long as they keep coming up with great work, we'll be good."

"We thought we'd be lucky to get five episodes out of it," Murphy recalled his feelings about "Glee" ahead of last year's upfront. "I was surprised it became a mainstream cultural thing."

Show star Jessalyn Gilsig said the past year has "really been a whirlwind," but she felt it is "premature to say we're established."

Here some other highlights and comments collected before and during the Peabody ceremony:

* "Family" star Ed O'Neill told THR that "I never thought I'd win a Peabody. It was a nice surprise. We are all really honored."

Asked how he expects the show to fare in the Emmys race, he said: "I think we'll be nominated. After that, I have no idea." He also emphasized: "I have never been one to invest too much in awards. They're fun and good for the business. But I'm just happy to be working."

Does he have time for additional projects? O'Neill said family is also on his mind in his private life. "I have two girls I like to hang out with. I am not as ambitious as I used to be."

* Colleague Eric Stonestreet echoed O"Neill's emphasis that the success of "Family" was due to the real-life chemistry of the ensemble.

"We just enjoy each other's company," Stonestreet said. "We all have similar interests." For example, "Ed and I love talking football on the set," he shared and highlighted how much each cast member contributes in terms of work and personality.

"It's more than a job, and that will hopefully keep us around for a long time," he said.

Stonestreet also said he just finished working on feature "Bad Teacher," in which he plays Cameron Diaz's roommate, who is "different from his "Family" character Cameron.

* "Family" director Jason Winer told THR he was already in New York to shoot his first feature film "Arthur" with Russell Brand and Helen Mirren for Warner Bros. here this summer.

He will return to "Family" duty as soon as he is finished with post-production, with "some of our best guest directors" from the first season "picking up my slack at the show" early in the season.

Winer, who also co-executive produced some "Family" episodes, also directed a special short film that will play at the ABC upfront presentation this week.

* Levitan said he loves that "Family" seems to have brought back the social element of television. "We love that people watch TV with their families again."

* Gilsig said she plans to use downtime this summer to work on an indie feature she will star in and help produce about a woman who inadvertently ends up being involved in the robbery of a store.

* Fellow "Glee" star Jane Lynch said she is not doing any major other projects. "I'm all "Glee" all the time," she told THR. "I don't do a job to lead to something. I thought like that earlier in my career."

How did she and the rest of the team feel about winning a Peabody?

"We were all very shocked and surprised and honored that they deemed us as having made an impact on culture," she said.

* Morrison said "Glee" "has afforded me the opportunity to do movies" and his own music album. About his on-screen character, he said: "I hope he stays single for a while."

THR editor Elizabeth Guider sits on the Peabody board.
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