Fans were shocked when the news broke that a major character would die on Modern Family. And apparently, the cast members were just as surprised. Ariel Winter thought her Modern Family character would die when she heard the news — thanks, in part, to the fact that she and her costars learned about the impending death from news reports, not from the show's writers or producers. Oh, and that happened right before a table read, too.
"We got the table draft like 10 minutes later and I opened it and I'm like, 'Oh my God, it's me, I'm done. They fired me,'" Winter said to Variety. "And then I'm like, 'It's not me, thank God,' but also sad because we no longer have Shelley Long."
It turned out that Winter and her costars didn't need to worry: The death in question was Long's recurring character, DeDe Pritchett, not any of the main cast. As Jay's ex-wife and Mitchell and Claire's mom, though, DeDe was important to all of the Pritchett family members, and her death did affect each of them in their own ways. The death was a darker plot point than what usually happens on Modern Family, especially during a Halloween-themed episode.
"We've never really done a death before on the show," Winter told E! News. "We usually try to keep things fun and lighthearted, but also talk about things that might be difficult issues."
Winter also told the outlet that while topics like death may be "darker than usual," it's important to address them, especially since the show is in its 10th season. Real-life families do experience death and the grieving process, and the show addressed the topics in a way that was respectful, while still in keeping with the series' lighthearted tone.
As for Winter's fear that her character, Alex, might be the one who died, it sounds like she wasn't alone in that worry. Nolan Gould, who plays Luke, told Us Weekly that when the cast learned about the impending death, he called his agent, worried that Luke would be the one to die on Modern Family. Winter, Gould, and the rest of the main cast were probably pretty relieved to learn that they'd be keeping their jobs, especially since they found out about the impending death from the news reports.
While fans might not always think about the actors' point of view when their favorite characters die, it's a real fear for those in the industry. Back in 2016, Scandal actor Bellamy Young revealed that series creator Shonda Rhimes tricked Joshua Malina into believing his character, David Rosen, was going to die by giving him a fake script before a table read. (Of course, David did die by the time the show ended, so the prank also had a bit of foreshadowing involved.)
And for any fans who were disappointed by DeDe's death, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sarah Hyland have teased that another Modern Family twist could be in store. "There's a lot happening with Haley, but I can't say," Hyland told The Hollywood Reporter last week. Fans are already speculating that a pregnancy or even a marriage proposal could be in store for Haley. So while DeDe will be missed on Modern Family, the rest of the Pritchett family's antics will continue on. And it sounds like there are more surprises ahead, too.