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A Major Part Of Modern Family Involved A Lot Of Improv From Its Cast

There is no denying that for a series like "Modern Family" to become as successful as it was, many different components of the show needed to be top-notch. One of these near-perfect building blocks of the hit ABC show was undoubtedly the writing. The way these talented scribes intertwined the different dynamics that made up the Dunphy/Pritchett clan can easily be described as hilarious, relatable, and downright genius. However, according to Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who played Mitchell Pritchett on the show, many of the on-screen moments that fans consider their favorites came from not just the writers, but from the minds of the actors, themselves. 

Ferguson revealed to Interview Magazine that the cast was given plenty of leeway when it came to enhancing the given dialogue (if the moment permitted). According to the reflections of the Montana native, he and the cast knew when they were given the green light to expand the comedy with improvisation and when the more serious scripted moments required them to hold back. "We try to keep script loose where it needs to be loose, and tight where it needs to be tight, he said. "...The writers are great about letting us play with material. A lot of the time, it makes the show, a lot of time, it ends up on the cutting room floor." 

One of the actors who jumped all over this dialogue playtime was Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, who portrayed Lily Tucker-Pritchett on the show. "You can't stop Lily from ad-libbing. That's like stopping a moving train. It's my job to keep up with what she was throwing at me." As for experience with improvising scenes, some cast members had their own past comedy gigs to pull from, while others were downright terrified of it.

The cast had different comedy backgrounds

Some of the talented cast members of "Modern Family" had other comedy roles on their credit list that may have been used to help them improvise scenes. When it comes to being given the room to expand on already hilarious dialogue for the hit ABC sitcom, each actor has their own level of comfort. Ed O'Neill (Jay Pritchett), for example, had eleven seasons of "Married With Children" to pull from, while Eric Stonestreet (Cameron Tucker) had performed his own unscripted show at Hollywood's Improv Olympic Theater. As for Jesse Tyler Ferguson, improvising comedic dialogue was something he preferred to avoid. 

Ferguson admitted that when shooting a scene on "Modern Family," his scripted performance was enough for him to worry about. "I don't like improv at all. It terrifies me," he said. "I like to know exactly what I'm going to say." Ferguson went on to explain that to him, any actor can be a solid improviser, but there's one crucial connection that must always be present. This went for his series as well as any other successful sitcoms from the past.  

Ferguson explains that no matter how great an actor's improv skills can be, there needs to be a real emotional link to the scene partner. "Chemistry is one of these crazy things you can't teach or learn, or you can't fake. You go in hoping it will work, hope that you will connect with the other actors," he said. Luckily for Ferguson, that type of chemistry developed mostly with his on-screen husband, Stonestreet. "We finish each other sentences," he exclaimed. That was good for both the performers and fans, as many of those classic Cam-Mitch sentences were made up on the spot.