Some serious behind-the-scenes drama is about to go down over at ABC’s hit comedy Modern Family. That’s right, ladies and gentleman: It’s contract renegotiation time.
The Hollywood Reporter looked into the situation, and currently most of the adult cast members — Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara – are making about $65,000 an episode. Ed O’Neill, who was the best known name in the bunch when the series launched, is at $105,000. (Also, was everyone aware that Craig T. Nelson passed on the O’Neill role? Craig T. Nelson! You fool!) Production is now wrapping on the third season, the traditional time to re-talk contracts. The network will be looking to add years onto the actors’ original seven-year contracts, in order to boost theoretical syndication bucks down the line. And the actors — well, they’ll be looking to get paaaaaaaaid. The number now being thrown out is $200,000 an episode, roughly the same as the numbers The Big Bang Theory cast was doing after their third season. But will ABC be willing to go to $200,000 a pop for such a large cast? The answer [dramatic pause] will lie [dramatic pause] in the unity [dramatic pause] of the Modern Family family.
“The question now is whether the cast will negotiate together … O’Neill so far has declined to join his co-stars, though a source says strategy talks among the representatives are just beginning and negotiations likely will stretch into the summer. One option on the table is to demand commensurate percentage increases, which would benefit O’Neill proportionally and allow the cast to present a united front .. Gersh senior managing partner Leslie Siebert [says] “If it were me, I would make sure all of the adults stick together and go in for a whopping upfront salary and whopping participation. That backend participation is the clincher because that [means money for] the rest of your life.”
Oh boy. Here we go. O’Neill’s holding out, huh? And he’s already the top dog, salary-wise. How do you think that makes Julie, Ty, Jesse, Eric, and Sofia feel? And what kind of crazy alliances may be brewing in the wake of Ed’s early betrayal? Right now, in this Mexican standoff, anything could happen. If the front fractures, which cast member will be the first to throw another under the bus? Will Burrell rat out Bowen’s heroin addiction to the producers (which, for the record, we completely and utterly just made up for this theoretical) in order to steal her salary bump? Will Stonestreet stubbornly refuse to act loving toward Tyler Ferguson on screen until he’s better compensated? And what about the kids? That Rico Rodriguez might only be thirteen, but he’s a crafty one; I’d keep an eye on him, or he may just end up walking away with the whole damn pot.
As Grantland’s Andy Greenwald wrote back in the fall, “To watch Modern Family this year is to see an embarrassment of riches: a dynamic, pre-contract-renegotiation cast crushing every comic meatball served up to them.” But, oh, how quickly these days can disappear. So, in the midst of all this, as money flies and emotions are laid bare, just remember, cast of Modern Family: That idiot Craig T. Nelson isn’t seeing a dime!