Since we were first introduced to Modern Family in 2009, America has been in love with the hilarious and often touching hijinks of the Dunphys. But although we may feel we know everything there is to know about the quirky extended clan, there are many aspects of the show that might surprise even the most loyal viewers. Take a look behind the scenes to discover everything from castmembers’ hidden health issues to details of people who absolutely hated working on the show.
20. Ed O’Neill once offended a co-star
Turns out that there may be some crossover between Ed O’Neill and his Modern Family character Jay Pritchett. After all, Jay is known for his outdated, backward views on many issues, and O’Neill’s juvenile attitude toward homosexuality once got him uninvited from Married… with Children co-star Amanda Bearse’s wedding. Hopefully the actor has apologized since…
19. Ariel Winter comes from a very troubled family
Alex Dunphy may be the youngest child of a loving, supportive family, but the actress who plays her, Ariel Winter, apparently didn’t have as great a time growing up as her on-screen alter ego did. In 2012, for instance, Winter’s sister Shanelle Workman alleged that their mother physically and emotionally abused Winter; the screen star was then legally emancipated from her parent.
18. Julie Bowen was pregnant during the pilot
No one can fault Julie Bowen’s work ethic, not least because she was actually nine months pregnant during the filming of the show’s pilot. You’d never know it in the episode, though, as her protruding belly was masked by strategically placed cereal boxes, among other unobtrusive household items.
17. Sofía Vergara thought Ed O’Neill spoke Spanish
No entiendes, Jay? When Sofía Vergara lived in Colombia, she watched dubbed versions of Married… with Children. As a result, she was quite surprised when she first met Ed O’Neill and discovered he didn’t actually speak español. Perhaps she’s taught him a few words since, though…
16. ABC was originally not thrilled with the show’s casting
Can you imagine Craig T. Nelson as Jay? Or Matt LeBlanc and Lisa Kudrow as Phil and Claire? That’s reportedly what would have happened if ABC had gotten its way. Fortunately, though, those controversial casting choices never came to pass, and now we can’t imagine the show without Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen.
15. Sarah Hyland was allegedly once assaulted
Haley is known on the show as a boy-crazy babe, but in real life Sarah Hyland has dealt with some very serious relationship trauma. Her ex Matthew Prokop reputedly abused her both verbally and physically, leading Hyland to file for a restraining order against him in 2014.
14. Julie Bowen has a heart condition
Claire Dunphy is such a livewire that it may be a surprise to fans that the actress playing her has heart problems. But it’s true: Julie Bowen was diagnosed with hypervagotonia – a condition that may cause an excessively slow heart rate – in her 20s. She has had a pacemaker ever since.
13. Sarah Hyland had a kidney transplant
And Bowen isn’t the only one with health issues. Sarah Hyland, for example, had a condition called kidney dysplasia that required her to undergo regular dialysis. Fortunately, in 2012 she actually received a new kidney, donated by her own dad – although she has to take anti-rejection medication in order to ensure that her body doesn’t fight the organ.
12. The twins who played Lily loathed the gig
Ella and Jaden Hiller played the adorably feisty baby Lily in the first two seasons of the show. But according to their mother, the girls made it clear that they hated the experience. So their parents pulled them out, despite being offered $34,000 an episode for the twins to continue in the role.
11. Sofía Vergara fought her ex over her embryos
Of course, Sofía Vergara is now happily married to superstud Joe Manganiello. In the show’s early years, however, she had some serious drama with her ex-fiancé, Nick Loeb. Loeb wanted to lay claim to the embryos the couple had created together via IVF, taking Vergara to court as a consequence. The case was ultimately dismissed, though.
10. Ariel Winter had breast reduction surgery
Ariel Winter began the show on the edge of adolescence. But she quickly blossomed – so much so, in fact, that she opted to have her breasts reduced in 2015. The actress said that she was tired of her body garnering excessive attention and decided to downsize from a 32F to a 34D.
9. Jesse Tyler Ferguson had to come out to his dad repeatedly
Many of the show’s funniest scenarios are actually based on true stories: how Mitchell has to come out as gay to his father Jay on several occasions before it sticks, for instance. This actually happened to Jesse Tyler Ferguson: he had to come out to his dad three times.
8. Ty Burrell once lived in a van
He’s now worth $26 million, but Ty Burrell was once so poor that he actually lived in a van. Burrell has explained that just after graduate school, he was living paycheck to paycheck. And as well as hunkering down for a night’s rest in his vehicle, he also got his breakfast from hotel buffets.
7. There’s a deeper reason the show is a mockumentary
Many viewers don’t know that the original concept for Modern Family involved a former Swedish exchange student who once stayed with Phil and Claire making a documentary about American households. The gimmick was later dropped, but the mockumentary format stayed – hence the constant asides to the camera.
6. Much of Cam’s backstory is real
Many of Cameron’s storylines are actually pulled from Eric Stonestreet’s past growing up in Kansas, including the name of the character’s high school, Tonganoxie. Most fascinatingly of all, however, is that Fizbo the clown was a real thing! Hilariously, Stonestreet’s first brush with showbiz was by performing as Fizbo.
5. There was a serious salary dispute behind the scenes
Before the show took off, Ed O’Neill was making $200,000 an episode – more than double the salary of his fellow actors. Later, however, the main cast members insisted that they all deserved equal pay. And while the dispute caused delays to season four as contracts were renegotiated, ultimately the cast triumphed in their aim.
4. Rico Rodriguez lost his dad when he was 18
Rico Rodriguez plays the charmingly precocious Manny Delgado, who often finds himself sparring with his stepdad, Jay. Sadly, in real life Rodriguez’s father passed away at the age of 52 – when Rodriguez was only 18.
3. Britney Spears was offered a role on the show
Strange but true: pop princess Britney Spears was offered a role on season three. However, it took her team so long to reply that the producers had already moved on when they finally heard back. As Britney might say, “Oops!”
2. Nolan Gould is actually really smart
Luke Dunphy may be a lovable dope, but in real life actor Nolan Gould is pretty smart indeed. In fact, he’s even been a member of Mensa since he was four. So, unlike his character on TV, he probably wouldn’t try to touch a motorized fan with his tongue.
1. Ty Burrell owns a bar and restaurant in Utah
File this under random: Ty Burrell is the owner of Bar X and Beer Bar, a cocktail lounge and restaurant, respectively, that are located in Salt Lake City. Burrell’s wife is originally from Utah, and when Burrell gets downtime from filming in LA, he now calls it home as well.