Christopher Lloyd is co-creator and co-showrunner with Steven Levitan (his Q&A here) of last year’s Emmy winner for Outstanding Comedy Series, Modern Family. But Lloyd didn’t go onstage to accept the accolade. This recipient of eight Emmys for his work on comedy series including Frasier and The Golden Girls prefers to stay in the shadows and let his chatty partner bask in all the public limelight. Now, Lloyd breaks his silence and talks to Deadline TV Contributor Diane Haithman for an interview one TV publicist claimed was harder to nab than “a sitdown with Osama Bin Laden”:
DEADLINE: Obviously, I first have to ask why do you rarely speak publicly about Modern Family, and why do you let Steve Levitan do all the talking about it?
LLOYD: I think Steve started out wanting to be a broadcast journalist, an on-camera guy. He likes doing things that I don’t like to do. I tend to avoid things like award shows and panels and interviews, not remotely because I feel I’m above them or wish to cultivate the image of the intriguing recluse. I’m just not very good at them. There are some comedy writers who came up on the performing side and might welcome those sorts of events. There are others to whom an auditorium full of people looks like a welter of angry torch-bearers. I have nothing against the first group but when I see members of my own tribe in public appearances sweating like murder suspects and spraying the front row with Xanax flecks, I wonder why they didn’t choose, like me, to stay home. Look, the work we do on the show gets plenty of accolades, and I get plenty of pleasure from it. But I sense from people that they get frustrated with me for not being out and about. But I guess I’m a shy boy.
DEADLINE: What’s the division of showrunning between you and Steve?
LLOYD: He goes off and talks to the camera and gets every interview, and I stay home and do all the hard work with the writing staff. (laughs) But seriously, we have a large staff of 10 writers including myself and Steve, and we can fairly easily divide the room in half: he takes four, and I take four. We generate stories separately, but that’s early on in the process. Once we get on track, we confer with one another and feel free to intermingle the groups. A lot of the work with the actors we do separately because we each take every other episode and see it through to the end. We have a five-day shooting schedule, 10 hours Monday through Friday, all the way through the season. That’s one of the more fun aspects of the job. It would be overkill to have both of us onstage. Plus, if we did that, I don’t know what would be happening with the writers back in the room. Given that we have slightly different styles, it’s a good system.
DEADLINE: What does an Emmy mean to a show that’s already successful?
LLOYD: It’s wonderful acknowledgment of what you’ve done. What comes with that is a challenge not to repeat yourself, and to keep the show good, and maybe even to make it better. Continuing recognition says you’ve done that job. No one wants to be in charge when the show starts to slide and people say: ‘Meh, it’s seen better days.’ But then there are those shows that go away and come back. Everybody Loves Raymond was in that category. And I think Cheers. I’m not an Emmy historian, but there is some fun andsome challenge in a show being thought of as on top, then a little passé or whatever, and then comes back and proves everybody wrong. (more…)