Nobody is laughing on the set of ABC’s Modern Family, as a contract dispute is jeopardizing the start of the fourth season.
Sofia Vergara and four of her ‘Modern Family’ castmates say their contracts with ABC violate a California law prohibiting personal service contracts from extending for more than seven years.
Five of the hit comedy’s actors, all Emmy-nominated, Tuesday filed suit in California in a legal maneuver aimed at boosting their salaries.
Actors Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell forced the show to cancel a planned Tuesday “table read” of the script for the season opener, a prelude to filming. Ed O’Neill, who wasn’t a party to the initial filing, was the only one of the six main adult characters who showed up for the script session, according to an executive familiar with the situation not authorized to speak publicly.
In the suit, a copy of which was posted on Deadline.com, the group claims a “collection of illegal contracts” with Family producer 20th Century Fox Television violates state law because the employment pacts extend for more than the legal limit of seven years.
The contracts limit salary increases to 5% a year for Vergara and 4% for the other actors involved in the suit. Actors on hit shows often get bigger pay bumps. If the contracts were to be voided, as the lawsuit requests, the actors would be in a better position to ask for larger pay increases.
The studio had no comment on the matter.
Salary negotiations with the cast have been taking place for a few months. The five stars in the suit each make about $65,000 per episode, while O’Neill, who negotiated a higher initial salary, earns about $100,000 per episode, the source said.
Comedies can film as late as three weeks before their air date, so the parties have time to resolve their differences before affecting the ability to have episodes ready for the start of the fall season. A prolonged stalemate ultimately could affect the number of Family episodes produced for the season, usually 24.
Salary disputes are not new in Hollywood, especially with hits such as the Emmy-winning Family, a big moneymaker as one of TV’s most-watched comedies. One of the most famous negotiations involved NBC’s Friends, where the six stars united to gain higher pay. Each earned $1 million an episode for the hit comedy’s last season.
Hopefully this suit gets resolved. I’m not real concerned about these actors,they’ll be fine. But what about the sound guys, camera operators and make up people? I’m sure they have families to take care of! Let me know what you think on my facebook page by clicking here.