How ‘Modern Family’ Creators, Actors Draw From Real Life

Sofia Vergera and Ed O'NeillABC’s freshman sitcom Modern Family is an undeniable hit with viewers and critics– and was just honored today with a prestigious Peabody Award. We like the half-hour series because it is relatable and effortlessly, yet hilariously, funny. But we wondered, how do the show’s writers and creators come up with all of these situations that make us think, “That’s my life!” Not surprisingly, they draw from their own lives, and the lives of the show’s actors.

“A lot of things that have happened to the various families have happened to me and the other writers on the show,” creator Steven Levitan told Crushable. “Whatever possible, we steal from our wives and kids. I sit around my kitchen table when my kids are talking and often take notes. It’s embarrassing. They’ll be talking and it will be very heartfelt, and I’m sneaking to my phone writing it down. We’re constantly stealing. People will come into the writer’s room and say, ‘Sorry I’m late, this just happened to me this morning,’ and we’re all like, that’s a story.”

Director Jason Winer pointed out that the show’s documentary style allows the use of mixed media — like photos that they frequently pull from the cast’s childhood, which in turn lead to other storylines. “We use real photos of the cast and their childhood all the time,” Jason told Crushable. “Eric Stonestreet [who plays Cameron] really grew up on a farm and he has hilarious pictures of him with hogs. And we’ve written them in purposefully and built jokes and storylines around the real things that we have old images of and we use them in the show. For example, the fact that Eric Stonestreet was really a clown and went to clown college. So that was the basis of the Fisbo episode.”

Ed O’Neill, who plays family patriarch Jay, told Crushable that although some of the actors’ personal stories that they infuse into the show usually end up on the cutting room floor, sometimes one makes it in. “There was the thing on the Hawaii show when I talk about my childhood vacations that were nothing like this one, a week in a rainy cottage on Lake Erie with spiders, that was from my childhood,” Ed told us.

Whatever they’re doing, keep it up.

(Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

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