'Modern Family' Cast Reaches Deal to End Salary Standoff

The Whole 'Family'
Kevin Parry

While the writers, including Levitan, often find inspiration for Modern Family from their own experiences with their loved ones, Julie Bowen (Claire) had very strong (read: funny) feelings about Phil's upcoming Disneyland outing in which he gets sick on a roller coaster really being based on events from her life. After Levitan put the kibosh on her theory, on-screen husband Burrell came to her defense. "It waaaaaas," he said to laughs. Added Ed O'Neill (Jay): "Fizbo the Clown in the gas station was me … but it didn't end that way," he joked of the scene in which Cam dressed as his alter-ego defends partner Mitchell.

The Modern Family cast has resolved a major family feud.

After a summer of heated salary negotiations that led to a lawsuit, the cancellation (and subsequent rescheduling) of a table read and a tense week of back-and-forth negotiations, the six adult actors on ABC's top-rated comedy have agreed in principle to new contracts with producer 20th Century Fox Television.

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According to sources close to the negotiations, the deals for Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara will provide for substantial raises over their current salaries of about $65,000 per episode (Ed O'Neill, a big star pre-Family, made about $105,000 for season three) to slightly more than the $150,000 for the upcoming fourth season that Fox offered on Monday. One source says that with bonuses the cast will be paid about $170,000 or $175,000 an episode for the upcoming 22-episode season—a big raise but less than the $200,000 requested. Significantly, though, sources say that all the cast members will now receive a small cut of the show's back-end profits (a perk the non-O'Neill cast did not previously enjoy). The actors' salary will escalate up to about $350,000 per episode in the show's eighth season, according to sources. 

In exchange for the increased salaries, sources say the cast members have agreed to add one year to their existing seven-season contracts (20th had initially wanted two additional years) and to drop the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court. That suit sought to void the castmembers' existing contracts due to an alleged violation of California law prohibiting personal services contracts that last longer than seven years. 

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The new deals will bring O'Neill's salary pretty much in line with his co-stars (he previously made a lot more), but he will receive significantly more in back-end participation, making his ultimate take from Modern Family larger.

The end to the messy stalemate allows the fourth season of the Emmy-winning comedy to begin production on time next week in advance of its Sept. 26 premiere. The series is a profit center for both 20th TV and ABC, for which it regularly draws 13.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen. In 2011, Modern Family generated $164 million in advertising revenue for ABC, up 40 percent from a year earlier, reports Kantar Media.

"It's no surprise, but I'm of course thrilled and I cannot wait to get on stage Monday morning and start making the show again," co-creator Steve Levitan tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It'll feel great, I'm sure everybody is going to be very relieved and I hope that it's the beginning of a great season. I feel really good about it. I'm very happy for my friends on the cast for their success, I really am."

"I'm thrilled," adds co-creator Christopher Lloyd. "It was a distraction more than anything. And I think the cast feels the same way. It was never arduous. Now other people can go on with the numbers and we'll go on with the letters."

Coming out of its breakout freshman season in 2010, 20th TV inked a rich syndication deal with USA for a license fee close to $1.5 million an episode. That’s roughly on par with the deal Turner’s TBS struck with Warner Bros. TV for repeats of The Big Bang Theory.

In fact, many sources close to the new Modern Family deals say Big Bang was the model for the negotiations. That cast recently secured about $200,000 per episode and a small slice of back end. The Modern Family cast will make slightly less than that, but theirs is a six-person ensemble, whereas Big Bang has three principal leads and a couple supporting characters.

20th TV chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden led negotiations for the studio. ABC, which was involved because its licensing arrangement with the studio provides that the network fund production of later seasons, was represented by business affairs head Jana Winograde.

Lacey Rose, Lesley Goldberg and Marisa Guthrie contributed to this report.

Email: Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

Twitter: @THRMattBelloni