BURBANK, Calif. — At a gym somewhere in Los Angeles, several cast members of “Modern Family” were rounding up for what was sure to be another hilarious moment for the new series. Amidst a slew of extras both young and old, the atmosphere was charged as Ed O’Neil cheered, captivating all those around him who were not part of the show. Perhaps it was being outside of the studio itself, and being on location for the scene that made our visit with the cast different than the others we saw recently.
Or it could have been the large number of children grouped together cheering that made the excitement infectious.
Whatever the case, “Modern Family” has the basic ingredients for immediate success, with its sharp dialogue and awkward comedic setups. Most importantly the series has several comedy veterans, the standout amongst them being Ed O’Neil.
Blast chatted with Nolan Gould (Luke Dunphy), Ariel Winter (Alex Dunphy), Sarah Hyland (Haley Dunphy), Rico Rodriguez (Manny Delgado) and Ed O’Neil (Jay Pritchett).
When asked about working on the series with such a large group, the overall feeling is mutual.
“Everybody’s nice,” Gould said.
“Ty (Burrell) is nice. The food is good, like craft services and stuff,” he added with a smile. “It’s just different working on a full time TV show.”
Asked whether the cast is as fun off the show as they appear onscreen, Gould smiled widely. “They’re always joking around, Eric (Stonestreet) and Ty (Burell),” he said. “They’re just goofy and fun to hang around. We even have our own secret handshakes.”
Meanwhile, Hyland reminded us she’s very new to this genre of work. “It’s my very first comedy. I usually do dramas and melodramatic stuff,” she said. “It’s a whole real new experience with the comedic timing.”
Despite being fresh to comedy, Hyland revealed, “We do a little bit of ad-libbing,'” she said. And as far as the tone, “I’d say the show is (a combination of) ‘The Office’ with a feel like ‘Arrested Development’. It’s great to be part of a show that incorporates the things you love on television into your work.”
Television isn’t Hyland’s only field. The young actress has Broadway singing experience. Blast wanted to know if we could find her showing off a bit of her vocal chops anytime soon. “Hmmm… maybe, I don’t know. I’ll have to talk to Steve and Chris about that, the ‘boyfriend’ in the pilot,” she said. “He plays the guitar and sings a lot. So you never know.”
“It’s really exciting!” Winter jumped in. “It’s different. It doesn’t take that much time, everything is set, and everybody is like boom-boom-boom let’s get this done right now. It’s really different than dramatic stuff where it’s like “Ëœlet’s take it slow’.”
“I mean I have been on some comedy shows, but the first dramatic thing was on ‘NCIS.’ I thought it was cool because I get to play opposite myself,” Rodriguez said. “Then I got ‘Modern Family’ and I thought ‘hey, this is awesome!’ It’s not like anything else I’ve ever been on. And it’s opposite of my own character which is funny.”
And if you’re wondering how these two view their characters: “I’m the one to go off and follow the girls. I’m kinda serious,” said Rodriguez. “Sort of like a forty year old Antonio Banderas in an 11 year old body. If he decides something, that’s it.”
Winter sees her role slightly differently. “Well, she’s the more smart and cynical normal one. Everyone else is kind of crazy. On the show, my mom is about having everything done, my dad is a goofball. My sister is about boys and texting. Then my brother is just ‘slow,'” she said.
“Working with Ed O’Neil; it’s amazing. It’s like once we did the pilot we were like this family. I mean we’re only on our sixth episode, and I have secret handshakes with half of the cast already. And if you have problems with lines, he’ll go over it with you and Sofia (Vergara) too,” Rodriguez said.
“He’s really awesome, and since he’s already a comedy veteran he really understands what’s going on. He’s hysterical, and he’s so nice,” added Winter. “You don’t get that a lot with stars. You don’t get nice and really awesome.”
Finally, we capped off the visit to the set with a chat with O’Neil. What may surprise the public aside from his great skills in giving viewers a good laugh is his lack of ego. When talking about working with his TV family, particularly the kids, he had no problems expressing his admiration.
On the topic of being a mentor to his younger cast mates, O’Neil said “It’s really been great. First of all, the level of talent is awesome. I’m amazed by them. I keep going ËœOh my God, these kids are so good.’ As far as being a mentor, all I seem to do is try to keep up!”
If there’s any question to whether he prefers drama or comedies, the veteran actor commented, “It doesn’t matter. I have a theater background, and when you’re in theater you learn to take on anything.”
So what brought the veteran of “Married: With Children” back to primetime? “Timing,” O’Neil said. “I think I’m at a time in my life where I can relate, the things going on in his life.”
“Modern Family” is on ABC 9 p.m. Wednesdays.