Modern Family Just Killed Off A Crucial Character — Here's Why

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Modern Family finally let the other shoe drop! The show has been promising that it would kill off a character for months now, leaving fans scurrying to their cork boards to come up with theories. The answer: Modern Family killed off the great matriarch of the Dunphy family, DeDe (played by Shelley Long). She didn't do so on screen; instead, the Dunphys receive a phone call that DeDe died in her sleep.
DeDe wasn't a series regular, but instead a regular guest star. She's the mother to Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and the ex-wife of Jay (Ed O'Neill). Modern Family killed off DeDe in the middle of the Halloween episode, as the various Dunphys suited up for the evening's events. Much of the episode's humor derives from that dissonance: The Dunphys are in mourning, but they're also in very silly costumes. For example, Claire is dressed as a spider, which means that every person who comes to hug her must combat eight legs.
Modern Family co-creator told The Hollywood Reporter in an episode-pegged interview that the writers landed on DeDe because the death seemed like something that would actually happen. Plus, it would directly affect all of the characters without causing too much of a series rupture.
"She's directly involved with three of our characters and she touched everybody's life in some interesting way," he pointed out. Levitan also said that he thought it would be "interesting" to watch the family undergo genuine grief. Though minor characters have died on the show before, this is the first time the core family has been affected in this way.
Back in September, co-creator Christopher Lloyd told Entertainment Weekly that the show would kill off a major character in season 10. This was a pivot for such a lighthearted show; some saw it as a ploy to compete with NBC's mawkish headliner This Is Us. But Levitan insists that the death wasn't just an effort to get some grief in the show.
"I don't think we started with, 'Let's do a death episode — who can we kill?'" he told THR. "It came from, 'What would happen if DeDe died?'"
Modern Family star Nolan Gould previously joked that the mystery death was tearing him apart. Gould told Us Weekly, "When I heard that [someone would die], I called my agents, and I was like, 'It’s me! Guaranteed. 100 percent it’s me. It’s a plot they’ve been trying to kill me for years, now’s their chance. They hate me.' I was, like, crying."
This is season 10 of the ABC comedy, which means it's at a high risk for poor plot choices. Remember when Friends tried to pair Joey (Matt LeBlanc) with Rachel (Jennifer Aniston)? Season 10 is also when characters start to die off, as actors exit the series of their own accord. For Modern Family, though, things are pretty peachy — the show killed off a relatively minor character, and it didn't blow the death out of proportion. Next up: The death of the show itself, which is rumored to be ending after this season.
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