Modern Family cast members sue over salary dispute
Story by Jack Foley
FIVE cast members of award-winning US comedy Modern Family are locked in a salary dispute that’s in danger of turning increasingly bitter.
Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet have filed legal papers to have their contracts declared void in the dispute over pay, meaning that they could negotiate for a higher salary.
The papers ask a judge to rule their contracts illegal, as they prohibit the actors from other work.
The papers read: “Since its debut on ABC in the fall of 2009, Modern Family has been one of the most successful shows on television. It has been a breakout critical and financial success. That success, however, has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts.”
The legal papers also state that the contracts cap the pay rises the actors can receive for each additional season of the show, at four or five per cent.
The stars say the contracts with 20th Century Fox Television bind them to stay on the show from February 2009 until June 30, 2016, which is a violation of Californian law prohibiting contracts for personal services that last longer than seven years.
Ferguson, Stonestreet, Bowen and Burrell are also required to perform numerous unpaid publicity obligations.
Fox TV is keen to secure its cast for up to nine seasons, especially as it is the highest rated comedy on TV, has a global reach and regularly dominates awards categories at the most pretigious ceremonies each year.
But the cast is seeking better pay in recognition of how much the show’s success, and their work, has made in profit.
According to industry paper Variety, the actors each earn between $60,000-$65,000 (£38,650-£41,860) per episode, while co-star Ed O’Neill – who is not involved in the dispute – gets $100,000 (£64,400).
It is thought the studio offered them $150,000 (£96,600) per episode, increasing during subsequent seasons, with a reported $50,000 bous per episode initially.
But The Hollywood Reporter suggests the cast members are seeking substantially more, including $300,000 (£193,000) an episode if the show continues past an eighth season.
The dispute has become so strained between the various parties that the five actors reportedly did not show up for the first script readings of the show’s fourth season on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for 20th Century Fox said the studio had no comment on the case.