No official announcement has been made and contract negotiations are still reportedly in play, but according to EP and co-creator Steve Levitan, it looks like Modern Family will live to see its ninth season.
“In about a month or so, the writers will re-gather and we will sit down and we will start the season with a big, ‘What now?’” Levitan said during an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences panel discussion Wednesday night.
Following a special advance screening of the Season 8 finale episode ‘The Graduates’ in which the characters of Manny (Rico Rodriguez) and Luke (Nolan Gould) get their diplomas, Levitan–who also directed the episode–speculated as to how a new season might handle the kids being all grown up. “That’s a reality, we can’t escape that,” he said. “We’re not The Simpsons, where everybody can stay young forever and nobody ages, so it forces our show to change.”
Others though, seemed less sure of the show’s future.
“Are they going to cancel us?” Sofia Vergara joked, as the rest of the cast and audience broke out laughing. Vergara, who plays Colombian character Gloria, was light-heartedly referencing the Trump administration’s apparent disinterest in the inclusivity the show has historically championed. But joking aside, Levitan admitted the political influence had been on his mind, leaving him wondering how it might affect the show’s trajectory.
“I’ve been thinking about that lately,” he said. “How is our political movement going to affect our taste in comedy? It’s so much a part of our life now in a really big way that I wonder if it will seep in more in next season with what we’re all going through.”
Beginning in 2009, Modern Family has always come from a place of political freedom. Back then, it was still exploring relatively new territory when it put gay couple Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) front and center.
“I grew up very closeted, “Tyler Ferguson said. “And I always thought how great it would be if I could turn on my television and find someone who’s not just gay, but in a gay relationship. That would have made my coming out a lot easier.”
More recently, the show introduced guest star Jackson Millarker, an eight year-old trans actor playing Tom, the trans friend of Mitch and Cam’s daughter Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).
“It was very exciting,” Tyler Ferguson said. “I think it was very important for all of us to have a kid who’s actually identifies as transgender.”
While Modern Family has been something of a trailblazer when it comes to inclusivity, Levitan is quick to pay homage to an earlier show that paved the way. “We owe a lot to shows like Will & Grace,” he said. “That really broke huge barriers at that time.”
Julie Bowen, who plays Claire, pointed out that despite the political situation, television seems to be making some headway when it comes to inclusivity and diversity.
“People say we were cutting edge eight years ago,” she said. “And the fact that we’re no longer cutting edge I consider a testament to how well the show has been accepted by a broad audience. The fact that people think it’s old hat to have a gay couple, and they’re complaining, ‘Well they’re both white!’ and you’re like, ‘Yes, but eight years ago they were gay and that was the first thing that people noticed.’ The fact that they aren’t noticing their gayness, that’s great, that’s a stride, that’s steps forward, that’s wonderful.”
Perhaps Levitan will rise to the political challenge and we’ll see the show sharpen that ‘cutting edge’ next season.