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September 1, 2015

Ed O'Neill on Being the 'Modern Family' Patriarch

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 17th 2010 5:02PM
Ed O'Neill of 'Modern Family''Modern Family' is a repeat tonight, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to give fans a little taste by posting the quick talk I had with Ed O'Neill in January. It was the last day of the press tour, and the critics were in the middle of an epic day of set visits; one of the most fun aspects of the day was that were able to wander through the sound stages at 'Family' and talk informally to the show's stars.

I found O'Neill in the kitchen of the house where his character, Jay Pritchett, lives with his trophy wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and old soul stepson Manny (Rico Rodriguez). As my fellow critics were beckoning me to get on the bus to go to the next set, I asked Ed a few questions about how Jay has changed this season, and what he thinks the legacy of 'Married... With Children' might be.

When you got the script for this show, it obviously was a little different than the comedy experience you previously had

Completely different, yes.

Was that what attracted you to the role of Jay, because it was so different from Al Bundy, and so different from the dramatic roles you've played?
Not so much different from Al, because everything is. But I liked the ensemble nature of the show. That attracted me right away. That the show, there's a lot of go-to people on the show. So it takes a lot of pressure off, you know? And also it becomes, for me, less boring. You know, you see that person all the time. Especially when you're doing it every week. It just gets old fast. But this show seemed to have more comedic potential because of the three separate but interconnected families.

When the show first started, they really tried to keep it a secret from us that the families were interconnected.
And only announced it before the pilot.

Were you happy that they did that? Because it seemed like they kind of made the decision mid-way through to kind of change their minds...
No. I wasn't personally happy. I wasn't outraged. But I thought well, they made the decision, I guess they feel that it'll draw more people. And then when I watched it, I don't think it hurt.

How has Jay changed over the first... how far are you guys into the season? About 2/3 of the way through now?
(to Steven Levitan) Are we 2/3rds in Steve? Into the season?

Steven Levitan: In the season? That's about right. 2/3...that's about right.

So how has Jay kind of changed and shifted since the start?
Well, they're making him more of a prick. And the thing I look at...

Levitan: Why are we inspired to do that? Where is that coming from? I'm not sure...

(laughing) You know what he's saying. I think that there's always a change when the actual actors begin to work with each other on a regular basis and you become friendly... hopefully...you start to like one another. In between takes, you start to share stories and such.

And then there's this sort of a melding, which I love that process, because that's like the honeymoon, really. And then things begin to become a little warmer, a little more comfortable. You can do things with a little look instead of, you know what I mean? It becomes more real. That's how it changes.

First of all, how interesting is it that a lot of the cast of 'Married... With Children' are all sprinkled through the primetime schedule? Christina (Applegate) had her own show for a couple years, and now Katey (Sagal) is on 'Sons of Anarchy.
Yes, yes. I like it because it kind of shows that there was some talent in that cast, you know, and some staying power.

Now that it's been off the air for thirteen years, do you think it's going to be looked back on fondly as a family sitcom even though it's a little twisted? Especially considering the TV landscape these days?

I really don't know. I mean, I don't know where it's going to land in the scheme of things as they look back on it. I think it's gonna be, certainly it was a bit of a ground-breaker. How good or how... I don't know. I mean, I think that it was funny, and that goes a long way. And that's all I know. I don't know. You know, it's hard to judge your own kind of thing anyway.

Alright, just how is it working with Sofia Vergara in most of your scenes?
I love playing with her. I really love working with her. I think she's extraordinarily funny. Of course, she's not hard to look at. I love the idea that the different culture, and it's hard enough to understand a woman, you know, in a marriage, in the same culture. And you take a Colombian woman, beautiful, young, and so there's always the surprises for Jay, things he didn't quite bargain on, I would imagine, when he married her. Obviously, she was beautiful, and that was thrilling. And now that he's married, there are puzzling aspects.

in the pilot, it was kind of the joke that you were trying to be younger, and they've eased that off on that
Yeah, yeah, I'm glad. I think it works anyway without the crazy clothes and stuff. You know, they dress me now very nicely. And not... this is the way I dress... but they have the $600 shirts with the jeans, you know, out. But I think that that and the nice car, and obviously he's got money, and he's with the young woman. Obviously he's gotta try to stay (youthful).

Right, keep up with her, yeah. But not as comically though as the pilot.
No. And I don't think you have to do that. I think that plays itself, you know?

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