2010 Entertainers of the Year: The 'Modern Family' kids talk free chicken, screen door hazards, and Bruno Mars

modern-family-kidsImage Credit: ART STREIBER FOR EWThe term “family comedy” does not usually bring to mind laughs that are sharp or surprising. Corny-syrupy is more like it. But in 2010, Modern Family proved that you can’t always judge a series by its genre, as the show took home the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy, among other accolades. Of course, as we toast Modern’s impressive collection of comedic talent (Ed O’Neill, Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Eric Stonestreet, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson), it’s easy to overlook an important part of the show — the part that’s not legally old enough to toast yet. That’s why in EW’s Entertainers of the Year Issue — on newsstands now — we raise a glass of sparkling apple cider to Rico Rodriguez (Manny), Nolan Gould (Luke), Ariel Winter (Alex), and Sarah Hyland (Hayley). (And, sure, a sippy cup to twins Ella and Jaden Hiller, who play baby Lily.) “Even at the thought of doing a family show, there’s an initial instinct to say, ‘Ummm, let’s make this animated,’ so we don’t actually have to work with real kids, because there are so many pitfalls,” chuckles Steven Levitan, who created the series with Christopher Lloyd. “We were really nervous about it. But we were unbelievably surprised at how good they are, and how they can pretty much do whatever we write for them.” To learn more about these young actors, check out these bonus quotes from our interviews: 

Rico Rodriguez on the best perk of stardom: “Probably when we go to Chick-fil-A — a couple times they gave us a free meal. And we had three people, so it’s like two chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets, fries and drinks — I mean, it’s not a lot of money, but it’s so nice of them to do that because we’re willing to pay. We still ask, ‘Are you sure you don’t want us to pay?’ And they go, ‘No, it’s on us!’ It’s pretty darn cool.” Christopher Lloyd on Rodriguez: “There’s a lot of kids who would play this lothario with a wink to the audience and a slickness, and there’s nothing slick about him. It just seems like his heart is right out on his sleeve.”

Nolan Gould (who’s a member of Mensa) on the fun of playing Luke (who’s definitely not): “The best thing is that he’s not like me and I get to do a lot of physical comedy. It’s difficult but also is really fun. I get to run into walls or screen doors, things that I’ve always wanted to do — yes, I’ve wanted to run into a screen door or go on a trampoline with a pogo stick. Those are things I don’t usually get to do. I get to be another person when I go to work.” Lloyd on Gould: “He’s a brain-first kind of guy. He’d listen to you and process it, even when you were talking to him about what expression you wanted him to have on this face when his head was caught between two banisters and his father’s greasing him up with baby oil to pull him loose. It was all very serious business for him. But then we discovered the more practical joker side of him. And you never really knew who you were dealing with — is he Luke or Nolan? He’s just a brilliant kid.”

Ariel Winter on her dream episode for Alex: “I would like to see Alex get involved in music. She could start a band or sing on the show, and we could do an episode like Glee. It would be cool to show how a smart girl can be really popular and fun in real life. I write music, but of course if we had to do someone else’s song, it would probably be Bruno Mars’. If I could do a duet with Bruno Mars — oh my god, I would be the happiest person in the world.” Steven Levitan on Winter: “She’s as every bit as smart as Alex. She’s vulnerable and likeable, so the vulnerability allows her to be acerbic — and for you to still go along for the ride and feel Alex’s pain a little bit when she sometimes feels like she doesn’t belong there.”

Sarah Hyland on playing Hayley: “My favorite types of scenes are when Haley is just plain stupid. She’s oblivious to the fact that she’s saying something that’s completely either irrelevant to the conversation or just the opposite of what she means. Like when Alex says, ‘You have to drive me to the Museum of Tolerance,’ and I go, ‘Okay. Where’s Tolerance?’ It’s like, are you kidding me? But I think it’s hilarious. I love to play the dumb girl.” Lloyd on Hyland: “Sarah could have just been a Valley girl gum snappy superficial kind of girl if done the wrong way, and she’s found a way to really humanize the character. She shows the right amount of concern towards her brothers and sisters and a little sassiness towards her parents – a little bit of intelligence when you least expect it.”

Time to weigh in: What are your favorite under-21 moments and punchlines from Modern Family? (We’ve always had a soft spot for Manny’s “You have a laugh that makes science lab seem like recess.” )

For more about the kids of Modern Family and EW’s 14 other 2010 Entertainers of the Year, pick up the Dec. 10 issue of the magazine, with Taylor Swift on the cover.

Read more:
EW’s 2010 Entertainer of the Year: Taylor Swift
Gallery: 15 EW Entertainers of the Year

Comments (22 total) Add your comment
  • Will

    Well thank the heavens Ariel Winter isn’t a writer…

    • xcg


  • Paul

    What did Lily have to say?!?!

    • matt


    • Zombie Jesus

      She just stared at the interviewer

  • Lo

    Hands down favorite moment was when Luke had the noise canceling headphones on,”Whomp Whomp. No one can hear me now. Woo. Everybody is s tupid, except me. Hahaha I am funny.”

    • HD

      That was a truly brilliant moment in television.

    • Strepsi

      Luke running into the wall was brilliant slapstick, I watched it five times and laughed out loud each time.

  • Zombie Jesus

    Luke: Manny and I are going to practice lay-ups.

    Manny: They are deceptively hard. A curious mix of dance and strength.

    Luke: You’re ruining it again.

  • Tom

    Dylan: “Haley told you about that… it was just a dream!”

  • lareea

    “She shows the right amount of concern towards her brothers and sisters” um really? last i saw she has one of each

  • Mr. Holloway

    Luke: “They cut corners! I’ll cut your corners!”

    Alex: The confessional shot of her laughing at Hayley after Hayley realized she hit on a middle school boy.

    Hayley: “Where’s Tolerance?”

    Manny: “Who knows WHAT they do?!” (After Jay asked him if kids his age weren’t supposed to be drinking soda.)

  • aleksa

    Aww, Lily’s walking! They grow up so fast.

  • Oscar Chip

    Alex: The empire strikes back!

  • Lex

    Claire: You’re grounded for a week! 2 weeks! Four weeks! [because Hayley needed to study for the SAT and wanted to go to a party instead]
    Hayley: Ugh just double it some more, make it ten weeks!
    Alex: UGH do you SEE how much you need to study?!

    • Lex

      I also like this exchange…
      Hayley: Puh-lease tell me this text is wrong, did you really just go over to a boy and ask him to kiss you in front of a million people?
      [Claire is shocked]
      Alex: It’s all your fault, you’re the one who said I had to kiss him or I’m a lesbian!
      Claire [to Hayley]: You told her that?
      Hayley: Oh, don’t turn this around on me…
      Claire: Honey just because a boy sends you flirty texts–
      Alex: You READ MY TEXTS?
      Hayley: You read her texts? That’s why you made me talk to her?
      Alex: You made her talk to me?!

  • Matt G.

    Claire: I went a little fast back there but 35 is really 40 [mph].
    Luke: That’s what you always say.

  • Luiza

    I feel like this whole class year of child actors was beyond great, Modern Family, The Middle, and Parenthood all have superb child actors. Maybe it just seems that way because normally child actors are practically background noise on prime time TV and this class actually was integral to the plots.

    • Strepsi

      Yes, the kids on The Middle are also a riot, they are practically cartoons.

  • Emily T

    i loved when Haley carved the cell phone out of the bar of soap and when the technology challenge, glimpses of brilliance

    • Strepsi

      Agreed — and she pretend-talked into it for DAYS. Lol

  • Bohemiben

    My favorite Manny line was when Jay and Manny are golfing instead of going to church. It’s mainly because of Manny’s almost perfect delivery of the line. (It’s my best paraphrase of the exchange).

    Jay: You’re a much better caddy than Mitch. He’d always just be chasing butterflies.

    Manny: Oh you won’t catch me doing that…(waits a beat)…I’m terrified of them.


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