Cast, writers and crew Wednesday experienced one of the final milestones on the way to the April 8 series finale: the last group script reading – table read, as it’s known in the business – before they begin shooting the final half hour of the 11-season series, a five-time Emmy winner for best comedy.
They shared their feelings Thursday during shooting breaks between scenes from the two-part finale, which will bring the show’s episode count to a lofty 250.
“It’s getting a little real,” says Julie Bowen, whose Claire Dunphy is married to Phil (Ty Burrell) and the mother of three now-grown children. “I don’t like table reads to begin with. I hate them as a performative thing, because they make me very anxious. It’s like doing a play. And so I thought I wouldn’t care, that I’d be thrilled when we were done.”
It didn’t quite turn out that way. “I was sobbing and sobbing by the end,” she says, acknowledging that the tears will be flowing during the final week of production. “Turns out I’m not going to have any control over my emotions during this process.”
Bowen, one of numerous cast members to commemorate the last table read on social media, conveyed the mood visually with an Instagram post featuring a photo of long-time “Modern Family” writer and producer Danny Zuker: “Modern Family’s FINAL table read is hitting @dannyzuker hard. Our writers truly are the heroes of the show…”
Ed O’Neill, who plays patriarch Jay Pritchett, the husband of Gloria (Sofia Vergara) and father of Claire and her brother, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), from his first marriage, says he’s very happy with the final script of the series, which was created by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan.
O’Neill, speaking before shooting a scene on Thursday, called it “perfect, just the right amount of sentiment, but not too much. It was very good and very funny.”
During the script reading, the cast sat facing the writers at a long table, as shown in Vergara’s Instagram post below.
As it progressed, “I could see people getting emotional,” O’Neill says.” When it ended, I just stood up and started applauding the writers. Everybody was doing it and that lasted for, like, five minutes.”
Eric Stonestreet, who portrays Mitchell’s husband, Cam, posted a short video of the table-read room with Trace Adkins’ “You’re Gonna Miss This” playing as a soundtrack.
“The table read was kind of tough, just having it actually dawn on everybody that it’s over,” Burrell says, expecting more emotions in the coming days.
But “I honestly feel like the dominant emotion isn’t sadness. It’s actually sort of an overwhelming gratitude that has a lot of people feeling emotional,” he says. “It’s just feeling really grateful to have had the experience and to have been with these people, understanding how rare and special it’s been.”