INTERVIEW: Sarah Hyland (Haley) from Modern Family

April 21st, 2010 by

Every week, Modern Family never fails to disappoint. The show centers around three families, who are all related, and their trials and tribulations that constantly result in hilarity. It stars veteran TV dad Ed O’Neill, and a wonderful cast in Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, Nolan Gould, Sofia Vergara, Rico Rodriguez, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and Eric Stonestreet. It is one of those shows that is so polished, you want to watch and laugh over and over again. I recently had the chance to chat with Sarah Hyland, who plays Haley Dunphy, about her character, her TV parents and a prank Eric Stonestreet pulled on her. Believe it or not, she almost didn’t get the part of Haley because she was too old!

Congratulations on all the success of the show. It is certainly very deserving. What has awards season been like for you?
It’s been so much fun. I’ve never been on a show that’s been nominated for awards. So this is all very nice to be on something that’s being recognized for how good it is.

What drew you to the role and how did you get the part originally?
I’ve played the [character] like Haley before. The teenage girl who’s into her appearance and all of that stuff. But I got the audition and at first, the funny story about it is, at first they didn’t want to see me. And they didn’t even know what I looked like or anything like that, they just knew that I was 18 at the time. And they were like “She’s 18, she’s too old for the role.” They [gave them] my head shot and they were like trust me, she’s 18 but she doesn’t look 18. …”Oh my God, wait, never mind, we do want to see her.”

Well that’s good. Are you anything like Haley at all?
The only thing I have in common with Haley is that I constantly have my phone — either on me, or in it’s charger, 24/7. I’m into fashion but I’m mostly too lazy to dress up.

I hear you!
I’m usually too lazy to put on makeup or do my hair. Haley’s very into all of that stuff. The only really thing I have in common with her is that I do have my phone on me. We joke on set since Haley always has her phone on her on set, I always find places to hide my phone so that in between takes I can check my twitter and all that stuff.

(laughs) They should just give you your own phone to work with.
I know, exactly. Sadly, when I’m on set and pretending to be texting, I’m usually just typing a note on the phone. And I’m like “I’m doing a scene right now. I’m texting…” What I’m writing in the phone is literally what someone is saying, or me just randomly typing words.

(laughs) And what’s your relationship like with your TV parents (Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen)?
It’s amazing. Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell are two of the most fun people. And they’re two of the most kind-hearted people. They’re amazing to work with. I don’t want say she’s [Julie] like a mom to me, because she’d be like “I’m not old enough to have a 19 year old daughter.” But she’s one of my favorite people. And Ty — there’s no one like him. I’ve never met a person like him. And he’s just the sweetest. He’s hilarious, I love him.

That’s awesome. And what has it been like working with Ed O’Neill, who plays your grandpa?
It’s crazy, because I watched “Married With Children” growing up. And it was always so funny. Ed kind of reminds me of my father, whose also named Ed. And he always tells these stories, and I’m like “that’s so something my dad would say,” and he’s like “Oh my God, stop that.” And so it’s been a lot of fun. He’s amazing and he really is like a grandpa to me.

And one of my favorite episodes so far is when Phil teaches Haley how to program the remote. What was it like filming those scenes for you?
I don’t think it aired. I don’t think they used that version, but we did a take where Ty and I were rehearsing it, and he randomly picked up a toy sword that was on set and (laughs) it was just funny, him trying to teach me, and he had the sword in his hand. So when he got angry or frustrated that I couldn’t get the remote stuff, he was like “No!!” and he had the sword, and I was like “What are you doing??” It was a lot of fun to film those scenes. That remote’s crazy! Those remotes — I don’t know how people do it. I’m really good with computers, cell phones and technology, and I don’t get them. They’re a mess.

Yeah, I don’t think I’d be able to figure it out myself. And are there a lot of scenes that don’t necessarily get used that you think are really funny?
I think there was only one scene that was cut because the episode was too long. And it was the episode where I wanted to go to my friend’s party but I was supposed to spend the night at my grandpa’s house for family night. And I’m trying to sneak out, and there was one scene where Haley’s pretending to be sick, so they brought me up to Manny’s room and laid me down. And I’m like “I’m so sorry I’m sick. I ruined the night.” And he’s like “It’s fine.” And he takes off my shoes, and he takes my boots and I don’t see him take my boots. And I lay in bed, I wait until he’s gone and I get up and I’m looking for my shoes, making sure the coast is clear, and then I realize that he took my boots and I’m like “What am I going to do? I can’t go to the party without shoes!” That was cut because I think the episode was too long.

And do you have an absolute favorite moment from filming the show so far?
Like behind the scenes?

Whatever comes to mind…
There are so many moments, where it’s so much fun. Favorite moment, favorite moment…I just think any time with Julie. We just go back and forth with each other. I love working with Sofia, because I love her accent. And Sofia is like (speaking in her accent) “You could be my daughter,” and I love working with people other than my family. Not that I don’t enjoy working with my family on the show, it’s a nice change of pace when we get to do scenes all together as a whole cast.

Yeah, absolutely. And you’ve worked in television since you were very young, but what makes Modern Family different from anything else you’ve worked on?
Well, I’ve never been in a sitcom before. I’ve never ever thought of myself as a funny person. And comedy has always been a thing for me like “Well, I’m not the funniest.” I went to a performing arts high school and when we had improv, I would just freak out because I was like “I can’t come up with anything funny. Everybody else is funny, and I always make the scenes dramatic. I don’t know what else to do.” So I’ve always been in dramas, and this is my first comedy. And what a comedy to be on, the writing is amazing.

And have there been any good pranks that have been pulled or any really funny behind-the-scenes moments?
Oh gosh, when we did the clown episode with Fizbo. Eric somehow found out that I do not like clowns.

I don’t blame you by the way.
I really, really, really don’t like clowns. And he somehow found that out. Maybe I told him, being stupid. And he just kept coming up on me and like giving me a death stare and being like “Hellooo Sarah. It’s Fizbo. Mwahaha!” And he’d do crazy laughs. It literally freaked me out, I would have to leave the room. I don’t know if you would call that a prank, but it was definitely a funny moment.

That sounds like a fun moment. And have you had any interesting fan reactions to your character?
People like it. People on twitter — [one of the] the last episode’s that aired was the cupcake episode and they were like “Oh my God, I hope you never make me cupcakes.” (laughs)

(laughs) And I put out a question on twitter for people to send me questions for you, and I got one from your TV brother Nolan Gould (Luke). He wanted me to ask you who your favorite TV brother is and what makes him so great?
My favorite TV brother is Nolan Gould. And he is the most amazing child on the face of the earth, because — Oh my God, I love that he asked that.

It made me laugh so hard, I loved it.
He’s the smartest kid. He just turned 11 last October, and he’s home schooled and he’s in the 8th grade or something like that, and he’s just so smart and so funny. He’s hilarious.

I will tell him you said so. And you recently went to Maui to film. What was that like?
It was so beautiful. There was one scene, the first scene that we filmed that day — the first scene that we shot in Hawaii — and in the background there was a rainbow. And behind the rainbow was the clouds over another island. And then there was a sailboat under the rainbow. And right near the sailboat, you could see whales breaching in the water. It was the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. And we were like “People are going to think this is green-screened.” But we were actually in Hawaii, this is actually happening. It was really pretty.

Sounds amazing. Modern Family’s had some really great guest stars. Do you have a dream guest star or guest stars you’d like to see come on the show?
I would love Russell Brand to come on the show. I think he’s hilarious. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of my favorite movies. [And] Gabourey Sidibe! I met her at the awards shows, and she is amazing. We’re both from New York City, and I was supposed to go to her high school because it was my zone school, but I ended up going to a different high school. And her science teacher is one of my best guy friend’s in New York — his mom — taught her in science. We bonded. She’s amazing. We e-mail each other, and I would love for her to be on the show. She’s so much fun.

That would be great. I know you can’t spoil too much, but can you give us a little teaser of what’s coming up in the next couple of episodes, especially for Haley?
The episode [that aired a couple weeks ago] is Phil Dunphy’s birthday, my dad’s birthday. And needless to say, it goes wrong, but what else happens in a comedy? And Haley just keeps continuing to be Haley. I actually don’t know. I don’t know what’s aired and what hasn’t aired, it’s so confusing to me. This is why I love Nolan, because Nolan is always like “Episode 103, named this” He knows episodes matched with titles and what happens in those episodes. Someone always has to break it down for me, because I always forget.

When you are in the middle of it, it’s hard to keep track of that sort of thing.
Exactly.

Is there going to be more boy drama with Haley?
I think so, maybe. But there’s always drama. Haley’s just dramatic. What teenager isn’t dramatic?

Right, absolutely. And do you have any other projects coming up?
During the hiatus, I’m taking the hiatus off. I’m going back to New York to visit some family. Actually, I just filmed a movie with my boyfriend, an indie film called Conception. And it’s kind of like an R rated version of Valentine’s Day. So it’s like all about eight couples, and me and my boyfriend, Matt Prokop, we play one of the couples together. And that was a lot of fun. We’ve never worked together, and it was really, really cool. I technically did that over my hiatus.

Any idea when that’s coming out?
No, because I think they’re still filming.

Modern Family airs Wednesday nights at 9 pm on ABC.

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