And baby makes...13?
Ten seasons in, Modern Family is doing the most. First, they killed off grandma DeDe Pritchett (Shelley Long), and now they've announced that Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland) is pregnant, and not at all prepared to be so. Both of those things happened within two episodes of each other, and according to executive producer and co-creator Chris Lloyd, the surprises aren't over yet.
"The way this season was developed, there's a little bit more in the way of kind of real-life events than what you've seen in the past," he tells E! News. "But you know, in life, that happens where nothing at all particularly tumultuous happens, and then four things happen in the span of a couple of months."
There have been lots of discussions about season 10 being the final season of the show, but at present, nobody knows for sure. So the writers planned as if it could go either way. That ended up meaning a lot of things were going to change.
"We actually went into the planning of the season with the idea that if we got excited about certain changes in the characters' lives, we should do them, whether it was the final season or not," Lloyd explains. "Because it was just going to be good for the show, and we kind of planned that it could go either way. It would make for a very lively last season, but if we end up doing another season—and I think it's looking a little bit more likely that will happen—we'll just throw all these changes into people's lives, which is only good in terms of new stuff for us to explore."
Lloyd says there was a "strong argument" for waiting for Haley to get pregnant at a time when most people would prefer to start having kids, when they're settled, older, and ready for it. But that's not exactly the funniest scenario.
"There was an even stronger argument, which was it would be more fun to see her get pregnant when she isn't quite ready for it, because it will challenge her and it will challenge the family," he tells us. "So far, that's what we've been looking at, that she's sort of newly resumed a relationship with Dylan [Reid Ewing], testing where they are, you know. They have both matured in their lives but is that enough to make them really great together? And then this pretty massive challenge lands in their laps."
That challenge also comes at the perfectly hilarious time for Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen), who were just starting to be ready for an empty nest, feeling "graduated" from that part of life, and "nowhere near" being the kind of parents who were going to start asking for grandchildren.
"To shake up their lives with this also seemed messy in a good way."
While DeDe's death threw one kind of wrench into the lives of the Pritchett-Dunphy clan, Haley's pregnancy is a whole different kind of wrench, and it's one that sounds like it's going to send the whole family into a hilarious tailspin.
"There are emotional reactions that people have that maybe surprise them," Lloyd teases. "I mean, Gloria (Sofia Vergara) is about to be a great grandmother. I mean that alone upends her a little bit. How does Alex (Ariel Winter) feel about her sister really moving on in life this way?"
Phil and Claire in particular are going to have a hell of a time with this news.
"They react about nine different ways, you can imagine," Lloyd says. "They're younger than people typically become grandparents, and they have a lot of misgivings about whether Haley is ready, but there are also huge echoes of their own experience getting pregnant at a time when they were not expecting it and probably felt overwhelmed by it."
That ends up bringing Claire closer to Jay, who had to parent her during a similar situation.
Plus, there's the Dylan of it all. Right now, it feels safe to assume that Dylan, who has been Haley's on-and-off boyfriend since the start of the series, is the father, but Lloyd says there "is that question in some people's minds." There's always Professor Arvin Fennerman (Chris Geere), Haley's last boyfriend, to wonder about.
Dylan is, let's just say, not the ideal parenting type.
"There was some speculation in the scene we shot this morning, kind of based on the question a little bit whether the...um, I don't want to say the intelligence level, but maybe, you know, how gifted the child of Haley and Dylan might be, whatever that means. Phil and Claire might be called upon to do a little bit more guidance and parenting for this child than they would have to do otherwise."
Phil and Claire have always just tolerated Dylan, and now he's about to be a much bigger part of the family...similarly to how Phil become a part of the family when Claire got pregnant with Haley.
"There's some interesting conversation with Jay (Ed O'Neill) over the fact that Claire is now in a place that Jay was in a generation ago where a child became a entangled with a person that maybe that parent wasn't a huge fan of, and then suddenly they were really linked to them through a pregnancy. And so Jay is both amused by this turn of events but also is called upon to be out of a dad to Claire in a way that he hasn't had to be for awhile. So again, it's sort of messy, but it, it brings us up to some kind of high emotions in the family."
Claire, who is also still dealing with the repercussions of her mother's death, will also be making another connection.
"It winds up bringing Claire and too much closer proximity to Dylan's mother, the other sort of mother in law, and there was a very eerie resemblance to DeDe that we see in Dylan's mother. That is her other wrinkle that's been quite fun."
As for what to expect in the coming weeks, Haley's got her work cut out for her.
"There's a lot of anxiety on the part of Haley, just how she's going to go about informing her parents, because right now, I think she's aware that Dylan is maybe not Claire's favorite, and she wants to find a way to frame this news in the best way possible," Lloyd previews. "So we do have a pretty funny episode where she makes several runs at breaking the news, and then we have a pretty big fallout from that. It looks like maybe the family has taken the news in stride, and they don't."
Lloyd says the writers haven't yet talked about when Haley will give birth this season, but it sounds like there's plenty of pregnancy storyline to get through before that happens (and before we get to find out what kind of name Haley and Dylan might give to a child).
And for everyone else wondering, Haley's excessive eating as a way of dealing with her grief after her grandmother died was not a clue to the pregnancy, just a happy coincidence.
Modern Family airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.