‘Modern Family’ is bidding farewell after 11 seasons on April 8. HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Nolan Gould about what to expect in the episode, when he started crying on the last day of filming, and more.
Modern Family has been a part of the TV landscape for 11 years. When the show premiered in 2009, it became an instant sensation. Over the years, we’ve watched the Dunphys, Pritchetts, and the Tucker-Pritchetts experience hilarious adventures as well as ups and downs. For Nolan Gould, he’s grown up on Modern Family. He started out on the show when he was just 10 years old. Now he’s 21 and saying goodbye to a show and second family that’s been a part of his life for over a decade.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Nolan about the final episode. He revealed that he’s “happy” with how the show comes to a close and promises “closure” for all the characters. The show won’t be pulling any huge finale twist on fans, he stressed. Nolan also talked about the last day on set and the moment he let his emotions just take over. Hint: it involved his onscreen dad, Ty Burrell.
The couple times that I had talked to you beforehand, we were a few months out and you said the show ending hadn’t hit you yet. Has it officially hit you yet?
Nolan Gould: Yes, it definitely has. I’ve been having dreams about Modern Family. I have nightmares where I’m running late to work and I’m getting phone calls from directors and producers asking where I am. So I wake up in panic and feel like I’m going to be late for work, but then I realize that work doesn’t exist. I paid a visit to the set maybe a month after we had wrapped and I got to see all the stuff being torn down. For me, that was something that actually finalized it in my mind. Usually, we go on like 4-month breaks in between seasons, so very much in my mind, it could seem like what we’re going through right now is just one of those 4-month breaks. This could be the hiatus. But going and realizing that the place no longer exists, that makes me think it’s done.
You think something that’s been around for over a decade will always be there and to not see it anymore must be such a weird and strange thing to see.
Nolan Gould: It was very strange because by the time I had gotten in there Mitch and Cam’s house had already been torn down. The stage looked completely different. There was only like a skeleton crew left of set designers and painters who were tearing it all down. The Dunphy house at the time, before coronavirus hit, was getting repurposed to be used as a house in a new pilot. I was very tempted to go write in Sharpie somewhere on the wall that this house belongs to the Dunphys.
How are you planning to watch the finale?
Nolan Gould: I don’t know. I really should figure that out. I’ve been putting it off because it’s one of the things that finalizes it. Given current circumstances, it’s a little hard because we can’t having a viewing party. But I think in normal circumstances it would still be so weird because how do you do something for 11 years of your life? How do you plan something that’s meaningful enough for that? I think I’ll probably just make it an evening to myself and drink a glass of Cabernet by myself.
What was that last day on set like for you?
Nolan Gould: I remember that last day on set being kind of a surprise for me. For 11 years, we’ve had a schedule. We knew what days on set were like. We knew what season finales were like. We knew we’d always be coming back and, for the first time, I was entering the unknown. I didn’t know going into it what that final day was going to be like. I’m happy to say it was very positive. I feel really good about it. It wasn’t sad at all. It was very celebratory. It was like the one day where I didn’t hear a single complaint from anybody. Not that we’re a particularly complaining group of people. We’re super grateful for the job we had and we loved it. Even Ed O’Neill was like, “Let’s do another take.” And we’re like, “What? You never want to do another take. You always want to get out of here and take off to Hawaii.” Everyone was just grateful to be there. It felt very much like a party on set.
At any point, did you cry?
Nolan Gould: Oh, yes. Multiple times throughout the day. The funny thing is, I kept it together so well up until one point. It was when we did the series wrap. We had our AD get up there and say, “Hey, that’s a series wrap on Modern Family after 11 years, 250 episodes, and 1,220 consecutive days of working. That’s a wrap.” That’s what got me. I was told that we were going to do just a series wrap in general and we’d all clap, but then they started saying, “That’s a wrap on Rico Rodriguez. That’s a wrap on Ariel Winter.” They started going down the call sheet. I was like, “I don’t want to hear that’s a series wrap on Nolan Gould.” That makes it too real and too personal, less like a show thing and more about me. I started panicking and tearing up knowing that my name was coming next. They called my name and I remember trying to play it off and trying to make a joke about it. But then Ty Burrell rushed me and he was already sobbing. When you see TV’s Ty Burrell, America’s dad, crying you just give in to the emotion.
How do you feel about how the show ends?
Nolan Gould: I’m happy with how it ended. That’s saying something because that’s the thing with other shows, I always hate how they end. I’m a fan of the show, I really do love watching Modern Family. I think it’s just so good. I don’t think that it tries to bite off more than it can chew. It doesn’t do any crazy flash-forwards. There’s no cliffhanger. There’s no we’re leaving it open in case we ever come back. There’s not any of those tropes or cliches that we see in final episodes of shows. It seems very much like it would be a normal episode of Modern Family, which is good because we as the audience wants to know that these people’s lives continue after we’re no longer following them. I feel like a lot of times when shows end it’s like we’re watching these people’s final moments. Not like their death but their last hurrah or last moment altogether. That’s very much not what this is. These people’s lives are going to continue. They’re going to keep going through the same shenanigans. They’re going to grow and change, but we’re just unfortunately not going to be around to see it anymore.
What can fans expect from Luke in the final episode?
Nolan Gould: Luke has really nice moment with a lot of different people. In these last two episodes, since it’s a two-part finale, they want to focus on groups of people that we had all come to love as a pairing over the years like Luke and Manny, Luke and his dad, Luke and his sisters. A lot of Luke’s storyline is focused on just him being around those people. These are the last moments we get to see of Luke and Phil together. I get to work with my entire cast, but I feel like they do that for every single character on the show. They make sure to give everyone the screen time they needed and moments with everyone. It just focuses very much on the relationships we could play. We get to see Luke and Manny in their classic bromance that everyone has come to love, and Luke’s sisters bullying him a little bit and pointing out his weaknesses and being gullible. It’s fun for him.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, most shows haven’t been able to film proper finales. How does it feel for you to have been able to have had the opportunity to finish the show on your terms?
Nolan Gould: We very lucky to be able to do that. It would have been very, very, very depressing if after 11 years we weren’t able to give it the proper send-off. Other shows and their productions have completely halted. They haven’t even been able to do finales. That’s very unfortunate, but I’m glad that in the midst of all that’s going on in the world, there’s going to be a finale for Modern Family. We can bring in a little bit of positivity and a little bit of joy into people’s lives and give people a sense of closure. The nice thing about Modern Family is we only tell happy, good, and fun stories.
You and many of your co-stars have spent your childhood on TV. How do you feel about having grown up on set for over a decade?
Nolan Gould: It was totally worth it. I would definitely do it again, but I would change some things. Spending 11 years on a TV set, especially growing up on one, isn’t always easy. I luckily had a very good group of people looking out for me. My TV family is now family. Ariel is one of my best friends. I’m super grateful that I had people looking out for me. There were some downsides. Going through puberty on television was not fun. Having your awkward phase broadcast to millions doesn’t do great things for your self-esteem, especially in the age of social media. Being on set, I didn’t get some of the opportunities that come naturally to most kids. I never went to school. I’ve never been to college. Looking back on it now, what I got to experience was once in a lifetime and I’m very lucky for the opportunities that I have now because of it. I’m very lucky I got to experience that. I got to live a life that very few people get to live and I’m incredibly grateful for that.
You’ve played Luke Dunphy for 11 years. What have you learned from Luke Dunphy?
Nolan Gould: One thing I’ve learned from Luke Dunphy is that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them. Luke is a character that is constantly failing. He’s not the brightest guy. He’s not the most motivated guy. He makes a lot of mistakes. What’s cool about Luke is that he’s a good representation of a young guy. They make mistakes and, at the end of the day, you know they will learn and grow and eventually come around to figure out their life plan. That’s actually something that they really nailed down in these last two episodes. Luke is really figuring out what he wants to do with his life. Is he going to continue living in the basement or is he going to actually go out there and try and make something of himself and try to live up to his potential?