‘Modern Family’ Co-Creator Explains Surprising Character Death

The cast of 'Modern Family' on set during the episode "Good Grief"
Tony Rivetti / ABC

Before the start of Season 10 of Modern Family, creators dropped a bombshell: The Pritchetts would be dealing with the death of a major character somewhere in the show’s new season, and it would be happening sooner rather than later.

Well, Wednesday night’s episode delivered that blow, as promised, but fans were disappointed with just who was killed off the popular comedy. If you haven’t watched the latest episode of Modern Family (titled “Good Grief”) and hate spoilers, here is your official spoiler alert, and now would be a good time to turn back.

As the family prepped for Halloween, Jay (Ed O’Neill), Claire (Julie Bowen), and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) each received a phone call letting them know that DeDe (Shelley Long), Jay’s ex-wife and Claire and Mitchell’s mother, had passed away. As the Inquisitr previously reported, many fans of the show were disappointed that the highly anticipated death was that of the family matriarch who has only appeared in a total of eight episodes over the 10 seasons.

Now, the Hollywood Reporter has shared co-creator and co-showrunner Steve Levitan’s explanation for why they decided to write DeDe out of the show, despite her being such a small part of it in the first place.

Levitan explained that death is a major part of a family experience and although Phil (Ty Burrell) had lost his mother in an earlier episode, the entire family as a unit had not yet had to deal with such a tragedy. He also had an interesting explanation for why the directors had landed on DeDe as their victim.

“She’s directly involved with three of our characters and she touched everybody’s life in some interesting way. It seemed like the right character to put everybody through something. She seemed like right character because she so directly affects so many of our characters.”

According to Levitan, it had always been DeDe who would die, rather than a decision to kill someone off and a debate about who that character should be. He also added that he himself lost his mother two years ago very suddenly, and the memory of getting the call to let him know she was gone had stuck with him as the script was written.

It seemed a strange juxtaposition to have the family all dressed in ridiculous Halloween costumes when the news reached them, but according to Levitan, that was also done on purpose.

“That’s what happens with death: It comes at very strange and bizarre moments and can strike at any time.”

Levitan confirmed that the impact of her sudden death won’t be immediately forgotten, as another episode will feature her widower bringing everyone items she specifically wanted them to have, and the emotions and memories that this brings to the fore for the characters.