Modern Family co-creator breaks down Haley's wedding surprise, teases birth episode
A proposal, an attempted elopement, a bailed-on ceremony, a second attempted elopement, and then finally the late-night vows… all in the same day? Now that’s some Modern love.
Haley (Sarah Hyland) and Dylan (Reid Ewing) — that shallow-meets-fallow couple, those on-again-off-again-what-are-we-again? lovers — officially tied the knot on Wednesday’s episode of Modern Family. The journey to the makeshift altar proved to be an unusual one for the couple, who earlier in this tenth season of the ABC family comedy were surprised to learn that Haley was pregnant; they then doubled their stupefaction when a sonogram revealed that twins were on the way.
This episode, accurately titled “Can’t Elope,” began on a literal painful note — with Braxton Hicks contractions — and then an awkward one, when the doctor mistook Dylan for her husband. Haley, who had spurned several of Dylan’s proposals, decided that she actually did like the concept of being his wife, and she got down awkwardly on one knee and proposed to him in the hospital parking lot. They decided to elope, but when they sneaked over to the house to enlist Alex (Ariel Winter) as their witness, Claire (Julie Bowen) interrupted the plan, and the next thing any of them knew, Claire was putting together a ceremony with the entire family, including Phil’s dad, Frank (Fred Willard), via video-screen robot, oddball guests such as Orson (Thomas Lennon), the handler of canine influencer Arthur Goodboy, and sure, Alex’s boyfriend, Bill (Jimmy Tatro) on bagpipes. It should be noted that Arthur Goodboy got caught up in the romance of the event and mounted Stella just as the ceremony, which was being co-officiated by Phil (Ty Burrell) and Dylan’s mom, Farrah Marshall (Rachel Bay Jones), was set to begin.
With chaos heating up, Haley’s feet grew cold, and Claire called for a private meeting with the couple in the kitchen, where she urged them to just make a run for it and have the wedding that they wanted. Later in the night, though, Haley and Dylan returned home and woke up Phil and Claire to let them know they didn’t go through with it, because, well, the perfect wedding involved them. And so, in the wee hours of the night, in the Dunphy living room, Farrah and Phil married the couple at the antler altar, sealing this holy matrimony in hippy-dippy harmony.
Where did the idea for this surprise fake-out ceremony come from? What does this union — and the upcoming birth — mean for Haley and Dylan? And what would be an appropriate wedding gift for the couple? There’s no Sophie’s Choice here; just throw on your shaman robe, head over to a Peruvian campfire, and sit on a high-end whimsical dog bed as co-creator Steve Levitan takes you behind “Can’t Elope.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Over the years, the writers surely tossed around ideas of how Haley’s wedding episode would go. How did this incarnation come about?
STEVE LEVITAN: One of our writers told us about his daughter, who decided she only wanted to get married to her boyfriend, with whom she was having a baby, once she thought she was going into labor. We thought that was a great start to an episode.
Who in your head(s) did you see Haley going the distance and actually marrying at different points in the show’s run?
We went through scenarios with each of her boyfriends from the series. At the end of the day, we liked it being Dylan because he’s a funny character, his presence annoys Claire the most and, since Haley and Dylan were on a date in the pilot ten years ago, it’s where the series started.
What was Sarah’s reaction — and Reid’s reaction — when you pitched the wedding plan, and this twist of twins?
We’ve put them both through a lot this season, so this was just one more step in their journey. Actually, one of the joys of this past season has been giving Sarah Hyland a chance to shine. She’s such an incredible actress — every moment feels real and she knows how to find the laugh. I’m thrilled that she finally got the opportunity to really dig in.
The wedding episode is well-trodden territory for comedy episodes. Was there a particular trope you wanted to subvert or a particular goal you had in covering this milestone moment?
We started with the premise of Haley deciding she wants to get married that same day in the quickest, smallest way possible. From there we just tried to earn every moment as it quickly spirals out of control. There were two moments in the ending that we really liked, so it was just a matter of getting to them in the funniest and sweetest way possible.
What was the biggest challenge in making this episode, whether in the writing or filming process?
Big group scenes that are supposed to be chaotic often are in real life and this was no exception. We had dogs, kids, a motorized wheelchair, and a robot. The set was packed with people. It was fun, and our director [Jeff Walker] did a great job, but it wasn’t easy.
Which other familiar faces — if any — did you want to be at the first (non-)wedding, but perhaps they couldn’t be there due to scheduling issues?
DeDe (Shelley Long) would have been a wonderful source of chaos at the wedding, but, of course, we lost her this season. Otherwise, we had everyone we wanted, including Phil’s dad.
Anything notable happen during the filming of this episode — and during those late-night vows?
I teared up during that final scene. I guess I started imaging my own daughters getting married and it got me. I’m going to be such a mess.
How does marriage changes their dynamic? Obviously they’ve got two kids on the way, which would seem to be the bigger game-changer.
To be honest, we’ve yet to explore how marriage changes their relationship because of the much bigger issue at hand. But that’s some nice fodder for next season!
By the way, what would be the perfect wedding gift for Haley and Dylan?
We’ve got a big birth — actually, two — coming soon. Will that be in the season finale? What hints can you drop about the birth episode?
The final episode of the season is very different. It’s told in a way that I’ve never seen before. I hope longtime fans of the show will really like it.
What’s one other cryptic tease you can give us about that birth episode?
There’s a wonderful surprise from Mitch [Jesse Tyler Ferguson] and Cam [Eric Stonesreet].
The show was renewed for an 11th season instead of ending after this season. How close did we get to the show ending after 10 seasons, and what ultimately tipped the scales toward doing an 11th?
It was very close. I honestly thought season 10 would be our last, but, as we got into it, we realized there’s still some new territory to explore. For example, Phil and Claire with two grandchildren in the house. Also, if I’m being really honest, our cast and crew really is like a family, and I think we just weren’t quite ready to say goodbye.
Season 11 gives audiences the chance to see Haley as a new mother. How will she be as a mother? What’s her biggest challenge?
Ah, that’s just one of the reasons we wanted to come back. Lots of new things to explore!
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