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Entertainers of the Year: The kids of 'Modern Family'

Finally, sitcom kids who aren’t annoying.

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Kids on a sitcom — now, there’s a risky proposition. They can be so cutesy, so cloying, so saccharine… But every once in a while, TV gives us youngsters who deftly avoid cliché and deliver something really funny. ABC’s Modern Family has managed the rare feat of finding an entire cast of them. Truth is, series creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd were understandably wary of working with children. ”We made deals with the kids where they were going to be in only 10 to 13 episodes, so we had our wiggle room,” says Lloyd. ”But once we started using them, the audience really liked seeing them, and we [realized], ‘Wow, there isn’t that much that we’ve given them that they can’t do.”’ Seconds Levitan, ”We’re just scratching the surface with what these kids can do.”

Haley: Sarah Hyland, 20
”I have a younger brother, so I know what it’s like to hate someone and love someone with all your heart at the same time. You know [the love’s] there, and they know it’s there, so when you throw things at each other and scream, it’s fine because you don’t mean it, even though you do — but you still love them.”

Alex: Ariel Winter, 12
”One of the most fun parts about playing Alex is that I get to experience things on set that I haven’t experienced in real life. I mean, the horror of going to a boy’s house to ask him to kiss you and being mortified that the whole soccer team is standing behind his front door is exhilarating but embarrassing for a young girl — I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Oh, boy, I hope that never happens to me.”’

Luke: Nolan Gould, 12
”I didn’t want Luke to be one-dimensional. I tried to bring out his sweetness and his sensitivity and his innocence, so that people would laugh about his stupid antics but also be sympathetic toward his character. Luke is the inner child that’s inside all of us.”

Manny: Rico Rodriguez, 12
”They gave me a little direction, saying, ‘Manny’s a romantic.’ So I took that in and I said, ‘Hmmm, I think I’ll base this character on Antonio Banderas.’ Because Antonio — even though he already is married, he can get any girl he wants. Manny thinks he can, but he cannot.”

Lily: Ella & Jaden Hiller, 2
The twins split the role of baby Lily. Says co-creator Steve Levitan, ”When it comes to the very daunting challenge of playing a baby who mostly just sits there and stares, Ella and Jaden absolutely nail it. It is, in our opinion, an Emmy-worthy dual performance.”