Emmy®-nominated Modern Family Consulting Producer Christy Stratton talks to Awards Daily TV about her contributions to two Season 8 episodes.
Writer/director/producer Christy Stratton says ABC’s Modern Family holds a special place amongst this year’s crop of Comedy Series nominees. The 8-time Emmy nominee repeats this year despite the prominence of newer, flashier comedy and dramedy series. Over the course of its run, Modern Family amassed 80 Emmy nominations and 22 wins. And to Stratton, the series seriously deserves continued consideration.
“We strive to be funny. We want the characters to have great journeys, but I can’t even tell you the time, effort, and premium that’s put on making the jokes and the situations funny,” Stratton said. “I really appreciate the great work that goes into making the more dramatic comedy shows. But I love how [Modern Family] isn’t afraid to be a family show that has heart and brings the laughs.”
As such, Modern Family continues to hold that long-standing tradition of the classic family sitcom. The Jeffersons. Family Ties. The Cosby Show. Modern Family operates and thrives in that arena. For that, you can thank behind the scenes talent such as Christy Stratton.
Joining the Modern Family
Stratton reached early prominence in the animation world, receiving an Emmy nomination as a supervising producer on FOX’s King of the Hill. Later, she wrote and directed a 6-episode web series called Everyone’s Crazy But Us. That series received an Emmy nomination for its star Janet Varney. It also opened a door at the Modern Family house.
During Season 8, Stratton found herself wearing multiple comedy hats.
“It’s interesting because your role changes depending on what room you’re in and what you’re doing that day,” Stratton explained. “If you’re in a story room, you’re going to pitch story ideas. They like a lot of it to come from your life. I had a lot of those at the ready, so I did a lot of pitching on stories or jokes.”
Given the large number of producers on Modern Family, Stratton found it a fun challenge to undertake. With such an established voice, writers have to find creative ways to make their voices heard.
One such opportunity involved Stratton giving Haley Dunphy (Sarah Hyland) a surprisingly successful career opportunity.
“Blindsided” With a Great Character Arc for Haley Dunphy
“Blindsided,”cowritten by Christy Stratton and Danny Zuker, continues to draw stark differences between the Dunphy daughters while elevating one with surprising career momentum. Alex Dunphy (Ariel Winter) normally fulfills the successful Dunphy daughter role. Yet, this episode, she’s sidelined by mono and unable to communicate her patented sarcasm to the rest of the Dunphy family.
Meanwhile, Haley develops a successful social media promotion business. The effort is initially shunned by her parents, but Haley emerges triumphant in the end.
By silencing the notoriously snarky Alex, Stratton helps give Haley a stronger voice in the episode.
“I wanted to see how she’d react to not being able to quip. To not being able to weigh in on her sister,” Stratton gushed. “I love the Haley character and seeing a different shade of her. That she’s not just the party girl who dates around and is dumb. Seeing her as a boss, I thought, would be a really fun and interesting aspect of her character to explore. Having Alex unable to comment on it is such a fun event.”
Exploring Haley as a business owner gave Stratton the challenge of exploring a different side of Haley. Traditionally, the role involves Haley’s fashion obsession or affairs with various men. Season 8 even eventually saw her exploring a relationship with a weatherman played by Nathan Fillion, 20 years Hyland’s senior. Stratton brought Haley the opportunity to thrive in her own business model.
It’s a refreshing turn that provided some of Season 8’s best moments.
“She’s a strong presence, and trying to see her as a boss felt like a fun idea,” Stratton explained. “I love seeing her come into her own and become an adult. Another thing I love about Modern Family is that they’re not afraid to explore technology. I could just see this person as having a social media following and figuring out how to monetize that. I just wanted to push her character out a little more.”
Finding Another Unique Female Voice in Pam… And “Real Person Modeling”
Another one of Stratton’s successful Modern Family Season 8 pitches involved Cam’s (Eric Stonestreet) sister Pam (Dana Powell). The resulting episode, “Frank’s Wedding” written by Andy Gordon, saw Pam exploring a career as a “real person model.”
And what the hell, you may ask, is a “real person model?”
“That was one of the most fun times I had at Modern Family,” Stratton laughed. “The pitch on the table was that Cam’s sister Pam was to come to town to pursue acting. I have always been fascinated by real person models and the business of real person modeling. These are the people in print ads, at gas station pumps, or local podiatrists. It was such a kick and so fun to have something that I’d always wanted to use in a bit.”
In the episode, Pam goes on a real person modeling audition. Thanks to various circumstances, Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) accompanies her on this journey but is “discovered” as a real person model. Effectively, he’s even more normal/bland than she wanted to be.
It’s the perfect twist that became another classic Modern Family Season 8 moment. It also offered Stratton the opportunity to appear on camera briefly, holding a binder for comfort.
“It was fun, but it was very terrifying. Yes, I loved getting my hair and makeup done. I loved trying on a bunch of cute sweaters – that was the best,” Stratton admits. “But I needed to remember my lines, hit my mark without looking down, and look at the camera but past the camera. I really admire what actors do.”
As Emmy voting concludes on Monday, members of the Television Academy should reconsider Modern Family and its place among the classic family sitcoms. Thanks to writers and producers like Christy Stratton, it continues to earn that place and its success as a multiple Emmy nominee.
Modern Family received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Ty Burrell.