Cancel all commitments tonight in the name of quality Family time. ABC’s Modern Family — which claimed its second Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy on Sunday — returns to the air with a 60-minute season 3 premiere that was shot at a dude ranch! We know David Cross has a recurring role as a councilman, but what else can we expect? Exec producer Christopher Lloyd gave EW a ten-gallon hat full of teasers about the Dunphy/Pritchett-Delgado/Tucker-Pritchett adventures in the new season.
• The families vacation together at a dude ranch.
“Phil (Ty Burrell) is always looking for opportunities to score points with Jay (Ed O’Neill) and show that he’s more of a man’s man than Jay gives him credit for being. So he will be riding horses and shooting guns. It doesn’t completely work out…. Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) take the opportunity to explore their inner dude as a way of convincing themselves that they’re ready to have a boy in their lives, and the dude-ranch experience leaves them less than convinced.
• The rumors are true: Gloria will ride a horse in this episode.
“We have in the past asked [Sofia Vergara] things like ‘Can you sing badly?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ So we put that in an episode. ‘Can you shoot a gun?’ I think she only had to look at us to answer that question. Like: ‘Are you kidding? Of course, I can shoot a gun!” So we put that in an episode. And the horseback riding was her most withering glance as an answer. Like: ‘Yes. I grew up in Colombia. What do you think, I can’t ride a horse?’ So yes, we will be exploiting that talent of hers in the dude-ranch episode.”
• Despite their dude-ranch experience, Mitch and Cam go through the process of adopting a baby boy.
“We didn’t want to just do: ‘Here we are at the top of Season 3. They’ve got a baby boy in their house!’ We want to explore the actual, sometimes arduous process of getting a child. Auditions for surrogate mothers. Dealing with lawyers. The anxiety of wondering if they’re prepared to have a boy in the house because they both felt a little bit more comfortable with having a girl. And Mitchell in particular has some misgivings about being a father to a boy. So they go through the steps, the highs and lows, some of the disappointments that are involved in bringing a baby into the house. And then we’ll get to the actual child at some point during the season.”
• Baby Lily has been recast.
“It was a hard decision, and this was not remotely having to do with us wanting to upgrade the acting ability or jump the character in age. The twins who play the part (Jaden and Ella Hiller) were not happy. We started feeling like we were just being mean to these little girls, making them come to the stage. And the character is reaching an age where she would talk, and that was going to be an asset to us to have Cam and Mitch communicating with her. So, we have a new little girl, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons. And we’re hoping that it’s not too jarring a transition for people. I don’t think it will be because they look similar and they’re of similar age. She’s very cute and winning, and we’re not going to have her suddenly doing soliloquies in the first episode. She’ll talk the way a 3‑year‑old would talk.”
• Cam has to go a little cold turkey on Lily.
“Cameron realizes that Lily has become very attached to him because they spend so much time together. He’s thinking that may be a problem once there’s a new baby in the house, so he’s trying to wean himself off of his over‑coddling of Lily. We get a glimpse of what their life has been like together over the last few years, which is Cameron being able to perform almost any activity while still holding her.”
• Phil fears the Grim Reaper.
“He discovers that he’s almost out of what he thought was a lifetime supply of razor blades that he won on a game show. This sets him on a little bit of a mortality scare: ‘If I’m down to my last one, does this mean somebody knows something that I don’t and I’m nearing the end?’ And various things start to point in that direction.”
• He also walks a very fine line.
“Phil is watching this documentary about tightrope walking and it’s been a long-deferred dream of his to be a tightrope walker. So, Phil and Luke (Nolan Gould) string up a tightrope in the yard, and Phil’s goal is to make it across.”
• Claire lets her hair down.
“We have an episode where Phil is taking Haley (Sarah Hyland) to his alma mater, and Claire (Julie Bowen) sees this as an opportunity to have a wild weekend. She’s got the other kids occupied, so she’s like, ‘Let me call my brother and his partner.’ [Mitch and Cam] are tired and don’t really want to do anything, but they introduce her to this friend who seems wild and touchy‑feely. They end up at a crazy party and she ends up in a little bit of a state of undress, all of which she seems to think is fine until she realizes that the guy is straight.”
• Gloria’s ex-husband, Javier (Benjamin Bratt), returns for an episode.
“He comes in his usual grand style. The story becomes about Jay feeling possessive of Manny for the first time, and wondering what he’s allowed to do and what he isn’t as a stepdad. It’s set against this backdrop of a racetrack.”
• Manny breaks bad.
“Manny (Rico Rodriguez) runs afoul of the law. He steals something and there’s an argument between Jay and Gloria over how to handle the situation. Some of this delves into Gloria’s family history with acts of disobedience, shall we say.”
• Gloria and Cam order up a side of salsa (dancing).
“Gloria loves to go salsa dancing and she can never get Jay to go with her. So she calls Cam, and he winds up taking her to what he describes as a ‘dance emergency’ because she’s without a partner, which is a crime beyond all measures. They’re excellent dance partners… except that Gloria can’t seem to dance without singing along to the music.”
• Shocker: Haley and Alex cross academic paths.
“Alex (Ariel Winter) is a freshman. Haley is a senior. But they wind up in the same math class. [It’s about] the angst of having your younger sister or older sister in the same school as you.”
• Luke is… well, Luke.
“He wants to live in the attic in one episode. And he becomes a little obsessed with this street sign that measures how fast you’re going in a car. He runs past it at the same time that a truck goes by, and he doesn’t know the truck is there, so he’s convinced that he can run 30 miles per hour.”
• Prepare yourself for a special feast — the first Thanksgiving episode!
“It winds up pitting all of the Pritchett family members against the non‑Pritchetts — that would be Jay, Claire and Mitchell on one side and the spouses on the other side. Without giving too much away, the question is whether it’s conceivable to launch a pumpkin from one end of a football field to another using bungee cords.”