Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Only Modern Family Characters To Appear In Every Episode

A sitcom doesn't reach 11 seasons and win an immensely impressive 22 Emmy Awards without the benefit of a hugely talented ensemble cast. Such is the case with Modern Family

By its very title, this show promises to explore how its multi-generational cast of characters contends with contemporary issues like technology, same-sex marriage, and teenage drinking. When it first debuted in 2009, no one could have predicted that this ragtag group — one of the most eclectic the sitcom genre has ever produced — would spend the next decade as the de facto face of the American family. But that's exactly what happened: Modern Family's characters became everyone's family.

Though the show relies heavily on character-based storytelling, some Modern Family cast members became more prominent than others. Of the myriad characters that make up the Modern Family cast, only six appear in all 250 episodes. Allow us to introduce these Modern Family MVPs — they might not be who you're expecting.

Ed O'Neill as Jay Pritchett

Prior to his starring role as Jay Pritchett, Ed O'Neill was already a decorated Hollywood star with a successful sitcom to his name. In addition to many, many TV and movie appearances, O'Neill was perhaps best known for playing Al Bundy on the often raunchy and off-color sitcom Married ... with Children from 1987 to 1997. 

Although O'Neill was an established name going into the pilot episode of Modern Family, in some ways, he had more to prove than his co-stars. Modern Family is a show with a big heart that tends to focus on the most positive aspects of family: Within its episodes, love and loyalty always win the day. The Bundy family is, to say the least, cut from a different cloth. As a result, it took a lot for much of Modern Family's early audience to see O'Neill as anything but his put-upon, constantly disgruntled former character. But, thanks to O'Neill's acting talents, Jay became one of the most heartfelt characters on the show. 

Before Modern Family ended in 2020, O'Neill garnered something as Jay Pritchett he never managed to snag as Al Bundy : three Emmy Award nominations. While the measure of a successful character is not necessarily found in how many awards they earn, these nominations are a notable gesture on behalf of the industry that shows just how much O'Neill has shaped the modern sitcom.

Sofia Vergara as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett

As Modern Family's Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, Colombian-American actress Sofia Vergara enjoyed a meteoric rise. This is really saying something, as Vergara had already managed to handle being a single mother and a cancer survivor when she took on the role.

Gloria is the second wife of Jay Pritchett. She falls in love with him after divorcing her first husband, with whom she shares a son. It would have been easy for Vergara to lean into tired stereotypes of the gold-digging trophy wife. However, through sheer charm and the show's propensity to inject heart into everything, Gloria turns out to be so much more. With every episode, she proves that she and Jay are in each other's lives because they genuinely make each other better.

Gold-digging wasn't the only cliche Vergara had to battle against at the onset of the series: She faced criticism for leaning into what some perceive to be negative stereotypes regarding Latina women. Her response was unequivocal: "What's wrong with being a stereotype?" she told Hola! in 2017. "Gloria's character is inspired by my mom and my aunt. They are both Latina women who grew up in Colombia, like me. They love color, prints, and shoes. I'm like that too: A voluptuous, intense, happy woman, who wants to get involved in everything with her partner to help."

Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy

Prior to being cast as Claire Dunphy, Julie Bowen was perhaps best known as the love interest to Adam Sandler's character in the comedy Happy Gilmore. From there, she gained acclaim in TV with a role on Ed from 2000 to 2004. By the time she stepped into Claire's shoes, she had recurring roles on Lost, Boston Legal, and Weeds on her resume as well.

Claire has a lot of heavy lifting to do when it comes to demonstrating the interconnectedness of the Modern Family clan. She's Jay's daughter, but she's also a married woman with three kids of her own. She and her brother make up the second generation of a show about a family that, very poignantly, covers three generations. In addition to being the glue that holds everything together, she also shoulders the bulk of the show's storytelling regarding the power of family to solve any problem.

That quality bleeds into her real life as well. Speaking with Collider shortly before the show ended in 2020, Bowen couldn't help but gush about what a real-life family the cast had become. "People talk about their college roommates like they're still their best friends, and they often are, and here, I've got college, twice, plus a couple years of grad school, with the same people. I can never think of them as stopping existing. It's gonna be hard not to have a stage to go and play with them on."

Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy

Ty Burrell earned major acclaim for his portrayal of Phil Dunphy. However, his audition for the role of Claire's lovably goofy husband and father to three wild children isn't the origin point of his fame. For Burrell, it all started with a role on the short-lived sitcom Out of Practice.

That sitcom was co-created by Christopher Lloyd in 2005, four years before Lloyd would go on to co-create Modern Family. According to Marc Freeman's book, Modern Family: The Untold Oral History of One of Television's Ground­breaking Sitcoms, Lloyd brought Burrell in for an audition after seeing his underrated performance in the film In Good Company. As Burrell made his way through pilot season in Los Angeles, Lloyd noticed him begging a cab driver to wait two hours for him during a studio test, because he couldn't afford to hail a new one.

The duo has enjoyed a working relationship ever since. "We wrote Phil for Ty because there's something about the fact that this guy is unrelentingly nice, never stops trying, and is a big kid. All of that applies to Ty," Lloyd told Freeman (via Entertainment Weekly).

Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Mitchell Pritchett

Modern Family aficionados will be the first to tell you that, despite earning five consecutive Emmy nominations for his performance as Mitchell Pritchett, Jesse Tyler Ferguson is the most underrated cast member. A lot of this is due to the fact that he is tasked with playing the comedic straight man to his wildly comedic on-screen husband Cameron Tucker, played by Eric Stonestreet. It's hard to keep scenes grounded and still be funny while allowing one's co-star to chew the scenery.

Ferguson was plucked from a relatively obscure but successful theater career to portray one half of the show's same-sex couple. As a gay man himself, Ferguson has noted how proud he is to be able to portray a successful and kind-hearted member of the LGBTQ community on the show. "When I was a young, gay kid in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I didn't turn on the TV and see anything on the television that reflected what I hoped to be," Ferguson explained on The View (via Gay Times). "I hope that this relationship on television now will be that for a lot of kids who can turn on the television [and] say: 'Yes I can marry whoever I want to marry and have a family with them and experience the same ups and downs of being a new parent that my parents did.'"

Eric Stonestreet as Cameron Tucker

Before the world knew him as Cameron Tucker, Eric Stonestreet had played parts on a wide array of TV shows such as Dharma & Greg, Malcolm in the Middle, Party of Five, Spin City, ER, The West Wing, CSI, Bones, and much more. He got his movie debut in Almost Famous, roughly 10 years before he became the household name he is today.

Despite his long acting career, nothing put Stonestreet on the map more than Modern Family. He and Ferguson earned much praise for making LGBTQ characters visible, with Stonestreet particularly distinguishing himself as creating one of the most unique and endearing sitcom characters to grace the screen in years in Cameron Tucker.

Although he played one of the most visible gay men on TV, Stonestreet is, as he jokingly puts it, "openly straight" in real life. However, that doesn't mean he takes his position as an ally lightly. "We take [LGBTQ representation] very seriously and I do think that people are influenced by television. And we happen, I think, to be good television," he told The Huffington Post in 2016."Our only agenda has always been to be really funny and tell really good stories and these two characters happen to be gay men," he added.