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The Paley Center closed out its 29th annual PaleyFest on Wednesday night with the cast of Modern Family reflecting on guest director Bryan Cranston, father figure Phil and the future of the ABC comedy possibly resting in the hands of its young stars.
After screening the upcoming episode directed by Breaking Bad‘s Cranston — in which the outcome of Claire’s bid for city council is revealed — the cast and crew dished on working with the Emmy winner’s intimidating presence on the set.
“Every time he gives you a note you just know he can do it better,” Ty Burrell (Phil) said, with co-star Eric Stonestreet (Cam) noting that the experience felt like his career coming full circle having guest starred early in his career on Cranston’s Malcolm in the Middle.
Here are nine more fun highlights from the panel:
1. Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Mitchell) is really funny on the set. After co-star Rico Rodriguez (Manny) shared how much he learned from his co-stars, Ferguson was quick with a comeback: “Good boy, just like we taught you,” he deadpanned. Later, when it was revealed that he breaks into random dances on the set, in typical Mitch fashion, he laughed and was quick to change the subject with a “Let’s stop talking about me,” quip.
2. Showrunner Steve Levitan revealed that the writing process feels like a math problem, with the staff using color-coded note cards and the typical whiteboard. “It feels like solving a math problem while doing a Rubik’s cube,” he said of the process, with episodes typically containing three to four “A” stories.
3. 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.
4. Bowen should win an award for her epic fall. In an episode in which Luke experiments with dropping an egg and Claire slipped and fell, Bowen really did eat it. “I hit the ground so effin’ hard,” she revealed. “I knew if I didn’t deliver my line they’d just cut it and it would have been all for nothing.” The scene was so funny that Nolan Gould (Luke), Levitan and the writers all shared in the experience over and over again.
5. Addressing the future of the show, Levitan said he’d like the series to continue on for “as long as it’s good.” “We’d like to go out strong and not limp out,” he noted, with many of the adult cast members praising the show’s young stars with Burrell confessing that the kids are often more prepared than their adult colleagues. On the red carpet before the session, Burrell told The Hollywood Reporter that Phil and his on-screen son Luke are “cut from the same coin.” “I think the kids are going to end up being the focal point of the show,” he said. “They’re getting written to more and more. As time goes on, if the show lasts, they’ll actually be the center of the show and we’ll be supporting them, as it should be.”
6. Sofia Vergara really doesn’t care for Scout, Jay’s adorable little dog. “I grew up in Colombia and everyone has big dogs in their yards and dogs aren’t inside in your bed,” she joked, cringing as she recalled the smell of the dog’s breath.
7. Levitan and Burrell both look to Phil as an example of what a good father looks like. “It’s a lot of pressure watching a show like that and realizing I’m never going to be that good of a parent,” Burrell said to laughs. “When my daughter loses her virginity, I’m just going to show her the episode.” Added Levitan: “I do find I’m comparing my parenting to Phil and I feel like I’m falling short; he’s a good dad.”
8. Stonestreet and Ferguson both want to take the show on the road again — to the Tucker farm in Branson, Missouri, and Gloria’s native Colombia, respectively. “I have been saying that’s the best idea ever … I’d love to see Gloria in Missouri,” Stonestreet said to cheers. Added Ferguson: “I’d like to see everyone in Colombia.” “Colombia is obvious; Missouri is the better choice,” Stonestreet said, defending his Cam-focused idea. While there aren’t plans to immediately work either into the story, Levitan noted a piece of the Tucker farm will arrive in an upcoming episode where Cam’s tough father (to be played by Barry Corbin) clashes with Jay.
9. Modern Family continues to make lasting impressions with LGBT teens, as Levitan and Stonestreet both noted they still receive positive feedback from fans. Stonestreet recalled an encounter with a fan who revealed that he watched the show with his family and came out afterward with the series helping his mother handle the news. “His mom asked, ‘Are you Mitch or Cam?’ ” he said with a smile. “He was more Cam.”
Modern Family airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m.
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