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Why Sarah Hyland Was Disappointed In Her Modern Family Ending

On April 8, 2020, Modern Family, ABC's hit documentary-style sitcom, came to an end after a hugely popular 11-season run — sure to trigger an outpouring of emotion from both the people behind the show and the fans alike in the ensuing days. The final season had viewers hooked on finding out what would be the ultimate fate of their favorite family members, but there's one person who's not entirely thrilled with the way things shook out: actress Sarah Hyland, who plays Haley Dunphy.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, published on April 2 shortly before the series finale, Hyland expressed some disappointment with the conclusion of her character's arc, especially given some of the other potential paths with which Modern Family had set her up. Rather than being focused entirely on parenting twin babies, as Haley had been throughout season 11, Hyland said she would prefer to see her character "own her badassery in the fashion world — becoming a badass stylist or brand mogul or anything like that." Not that Hyland sees anything wrong with motherhood; she added, "There are so many amazing mothers who are also hard workers and excel at their jobs and kill it every day in both aspects. That would have been a really cool thing to see, especially from someone like Haley."

Haley Dunphy: Who's that girl?

Why the disappointment over Haley's ending? Perhaps it's because Modern Family, as was its wont, did such a good job of fleshing out what at first appeared to be a fairly one-dimensional character. Initially depicted as a stereotypical ditzy teenager who's more interested in social status than anything else, Haley could have easily remained shallow and callous. As the seasons piled up, however, Haley revealed a self-awareness and depth that came with maturity — not that she ever lost her knack for messing with her family members, particularly her parents.

Haley's romantic travails were a central plot line for her character, ranging from her first boyfriend, Dylan, to her will-they-or-won't-they thing with "manny" Andy, to the hilariously-named weatherman Rainer Shine, and then back to Dylan. It wasn't all romance, though, as the character found her niche by parlaying her obsession with style over substance into work in the fashion world. After being expelled from college, Haley launched her own blog and dabbled in photography and design before finally landing at lifestyle brand Nerp, a satirical take on Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop fronted by Mira Sorvino's Nicole Rosemary Page.

Modern Family's parenting pause

It's a compelling career trajectory, but the final season of Modern Family saw Haley's story focus in on the twins she's parenting with Dylan, and the struggles therein. This was accompanied by a reduction in screen time for Hyland — which, as the actress indicated to Cosmopolitan, didn't go unnoticed.

It doesn't help matters that this shift in emphasis recalls some of the early criticism leveled at Modern Family for its treatment of female characters in its initial seasons. In particular, some writers took issue with the show's depiction of stay-at-home motherhood, saying it was out of step with a real world in which some two-thirds of mothers are in the workforce and serve as the breadwinners for their families. Steps were taken to rectify these issues, with lead character Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) returning to work on Modern Family season 5 and eventually rising to become the CEO of her father's closet company. Given that progress, it's easy to see why the lack of emphasis on Haley's occupational aspirations could be seen as something of a step back.

Sarah Hyland goes out on a high note

That said, there's little doubt that Sarah Hyland's Modern Family experience is going to leave her well situated for the future. While Hyland expressed apprehension about finding her next job — "It's like, 'Oh, great. I'm never going to work again. I'm going to have to sell everything and live out of a shoebox,'" she told Cosmopolitan — she's also not going to be scraping for change anytime soon. As of the show's ninth season in 2017, Hyland was reported to be making at least $100,000 per episode. With the show's seasons running 18 to23 episodes each... well, you do the math. She's also reportedly teamed up with writer-producer Emily V. Gordon of The Big Sick to head up and co-produce a new multi-camera comedy pilot for ABC.

Hyland has been plenty gracious in the past, having lavished thanks on Modern Family's cast and crew for helping her cope with the kidney dysplasia that has led to her having two surgeries, one in 2012 and another in 2017. As is the case when most show's wrap up, Modern Family is sure to see its share of platitudes from everyone involved in making it. It's just a shame to know that one of them will be left wishing for what might have been.