‘Modern Family’ Final Season: Guest Stars, Callbacks & Nostalgia Galore

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ABC/Tony Rivetti

The end is…not near. So why dwell? Multigenerational comedy Modern Family, about the Pritchett-Dunphy family — winner of 22 Emmys — will wrap up 11 crowd-pleasing seasons next spring.

While writers are “talking about the ending and laying some bits of foundation,” notes exec producer Steven Levitan, the plan is this: “Just tell some good, classic Modern Family stories.” So let’s look at the silly miscommunications, secret schemes and warm and fuzzy milestones heading our way.

Twins Move In

The Dunphy home becomes a No Sleep Zone when daughter Haley (Sarah Hyland) and her husband, Dylan (Reid Ewing, now a series regular), bring their newborn boy and girl home. (We’ll learn the twins’ names in the premiere.) Executive producer Christopher Lloyd dubs the living situation “a blessing and a curse.”

While now-grandparents Claire (Julie Bowen) and Phil (Ty Burrell) recapture their happy times as young parents, he says, other family members “act very generous in terms of helping but are actually using the babies for their own purposes to exploit certain situations.”

(Credit: ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

Sibling Steps

Haley’s move into marriage and motherhood hits sis Alex (Ariel Winter) hard. The Caltech grad is in Antarctica working on an ice floe, Lloyd says, “but seeing her older sister have kids, those wheels start turning for her.” Brother Luke (Nolan Gould), finishing up community college, chases maturity in a different way. He discovers “his penchant for older women is more than a one-time thing,” Lloyd adds.

Careers in Flux

A horrified Claire lands in the public spotlight over a scandal involving Pritchett’s Closets, while husband Phil finds a familiar face in one of the real estate classes he teaches: Gloria (Sofia Vergara). “It’s fun to see the two of them in more stories together,” Lloyd says of Phil and his stepmother-in-law. “She’ll ultimately join him in the real estate world.”

Work still occupies Mitch (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) at the DA’s office and Cam (Eric Stonestreet) as a high school football coach and vice principal, but the married couple look to the future. “Having been more career-oriented the last few seasons, they’re thinking about bigger-picture life things,” Lloyd says — like expanding their family beyond daughter Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).

Side note: In one episode, they’re also thinking—obsessively—about their do-anything new kitchen appliance. Says Lloyd, laughing: “Mitch and Cam basically have a threesome with a smart refrigerator.” Meanwhile, Mitch and Claire’s retired dad, Jay (Ed O’Neill), enlists the help of stepson Manny (Rico Rodriguez) in promoting his dog bed business.

(Credit: ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

Nostalgia Welcome Here

Guest stars galore are part of the farewell plan. “We’re going to try and bring back as many of our key players as possible over the course of the season,” Lloyd says. In Episode 2, Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Stephanie Beatriz returns as Gloria’s intense sister, Sonia; also Fred Willard makes an appearance as Phil’s father, Frank. Christian Barillas is confirmed for a future episode as Mitch and Cam’s dramatic friend Ronaldo, with more names to be announced.

The callbacks to Modern Family‘s rich history don’t end there. “We’re finding ways to integrate footage from early seasons as kind of a curtain call,” Lloyd says. “People often talk about how different the kids look in reruns, so we’re including snippets here and there.”

Finally, Season 11 brings both Halloween and Thanksgiving episodes that hark back to holiday outings from the past.

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Exit Strategy

So what’s in store for the big finale? “We’re fumbling our way toward an ending,” Lloyd says with a laugh. “To be able to go out the way we want is nice, but it also has an intimidation factor. We want to make sure we get it the way we’re all happy with.” Hey, if that will take one more season, we won’t complain!

Modern Family, Season 11 Premiere, September 25, 9/8c, ABC