July 25, 2012 6:30pm PT by Matthew Belloni
'Modern Family' Cast Reps Hold Strategy Session at ICM to Determine Next Steps
Will the Modern Family cast show up at a rescheduled table read tomorrow?
That is just one issue discussed Wednesday afternoon as representatives for the actors suing producer 20th Century Fox Television met at the ICM agency to hammer out the next steps in the unfolding salary standoff.
As THR first reported, on Tuesday five of the six adult stars of the Emmy-winning hit ABC comedy sued 20th TV asking a judge to declare their contracts "illegal and void under California law." The five actors—Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara—allege that their contracts, which expire at the end of June 2016 but were signed before June 2009, violate the so-called "Seven Year Law," which bars personal services contracts that last longer than seven years. (Sixth ensemble member Ed O'Neill is not a plaintiff in the suit but sources told THR on Tuesday that he is in the process of joining the lawsuit in solidarity with his cast-mates.)
ICM reps a handful of the Modern Family actors, and the agency's Chris Silbermann is said to be heavily involved in the negotiations. He met for the strategy session Wednesday with Bowen agent Sam Gores, O'Neill manager Marc Gurvitz, Stonestreet lawyer Patti Felker, Ferguson attorney Mitch Smelkinson, Burrell lawyer Frank Stewart and Vergara attorney John Meigs. Sources say the key players discussed their negotiation strategy and the what the next steps might be in the lawsuit.
The five actors, represented by litigator Jeff McFarland, want significant raises from their current salaries of about $65,000 per episode for the show's just-concluded third season. (O'Neill makes about $105,000.) Sources say 20th TV's latest offer on Monday provided for the following: $150,000 per episode plus a $50,000 bonus for season four; $200,000 per episode for season five; $225,000 per episode for season six; and salaries rising to about $325,000 per episode in an expected ninth season. The actors are asking for significantly more, especially in the later seasons of the show.
As the lawsuit was being filed, the cast (except for O'Neill) boycotted a scheduled Tuesday table read for the first episode of the fourth season, prompting 20th TV to reschedule it for Thursday at 10:30 am. The cast is expected to attend, with the hope being that the lawsuit and negotiation won't impact the production of the show. Also, while it is not clear whether table reads are considered "production days" under the terms of cast deals, failing to attend could be considered a breach of contract, exposing the cast to a potential countersuit by 20th.