‘Modern Family’ cast, creators celebrate fans

MIKE CIDONI LENNOX, AP Entertainment Writer
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Cast member Ed O'Neill arrives at USA Network's "Modern Family" Fan Appreciation Day at the Westwood Village Theatre on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

Cast member Ed O’Neill arrives at USA Network’s “Modern Family” Fan Appreciation Day at the Westwood Village Theatre on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The cast and creators of the Emmy-winning sitcom “Modern Family” gave back Monday, honoring more than 1,000 of the show’s devotees with a “fan appreciation day.”

The fans “have really gotten us where we are,” said Nolan Gould, who plays Luke Dunphy on the series, a mockumentary-styled comedy about close relatives living in three different households.

All of the “Family” acting principals attended the event, including Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Gould, for whom time with the fans doubled as part of his 15th-birthday celebration.

On the arrivals line, many cast members had stories about memorable “Family” fan encounters. But when it came to namedropping, there was no topping Ed O’Neill, who portrays series’ patriarch Jay Pritchett.

“I was having coffee one day in (the Westside Los Angeles neighborhood of) Brentwood in my car, reading the paper,” O’Neill said. “There was a knock on my window on the other side. And I looked up and the guy was waving, and I rolled the window down and it was Steven Spielberg. And this was the first season. And he was saying, ‘Ed, I love the show.’ He watches it with his daughter. It was very sweet.”

Though “Modern Family” is in its fifth season on ABC, this event was sponsored by USA, the cable network that picked up syndication rights to the show and has been running nine hours of its reruns weekly since late September. According to a network spokesperson, each night’s “Family” block now attracts more than a million total viewers.

“I can tell on Twitter that I see (postings such as), ‘Where has “Modern Family” been my whole life?'” said cast member Eric Stonestreet. “Definitely I’m seeing in my own little study and research that we’re opening up new territories for viewership.”

USA has been promoting the sitcom heavily, including a campaign asking fans to go online and choose their favorite “Family” installment.

USA’s executive vice president of marketing and digital, Alexandra Shapiro, said about 3,000 viewers responded and 600 were picked to see the cast do a reading of the selected episode. More than 400 additional fans showed up at the theater, waited in a standby line and obtained tickets. An exact event attendee headcount wasn’t available Tuesday morning.

Those who got into the theater watched the cast read the script for the “fan favorite” — the second-season episode in which the Dunphy kids accidentally barge in on their parents, Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen), having sex.

“It may have come from an incident in real life, unfortunately,” said “Family” co-creator Steven Levitan, grinning.

“That was a little daunting,” he said. “But it’s nice when you can take these moments that are perhaps a little scarring for your children and turn them into entertainment for the world. That’s a wonderful advantage of my job.”

Last month, Levitan and co-creator Chris Lloyd watched “Family” score its fourth outstanding-comedy Emmy, meaning the series is one top-category statuette away from tying the all-time winner “Frasier,” on which Lloyd served as show runner for eight years.

“Of course, I don’t ever want to compare the two shows, or set one against the other,” Lloyd said. “But it’s a blessed place for me to find myself.”

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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