The salary standoff at Modern Family is heading into a crucial period.
The cast of ABC's top-rated comedy showed up Thursday for a morning table read of the fourth season's premiere episode on the Fox lot; meanwhile, reps for the actors were expected to set a 2 p.m. meeting with 20th Century Fox Television executives to resume negotiations, which sources say will include a request that Family co-creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd contribute to a new financial arrangement for the cast.
As THR first reported, cast members Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara sued the studio on Tuesday claiming their contracts are "illegal" under California law. (Ed O'Neill is not a plaintiff but has indicated he will join the lawsuit in solidarity.) The move was seen as a brazen tactic in a salary negotiation that has become increasingly ugly. The cast members made about $65,000 per episode for the most recent third season and Fox has offered new contracts that would pay the cast $150,000 per episode for the fourth season with a $50,000 bonus, escalating to around $325,000 for the expected ninth season. The cast wants much bigger salaries, especially in the later years of the show.
After gathering on Wednesday for a strategy session at the ICM talent agency, sources say the reps for the actors have advised their clients to show up for the table read. At the same time, the meeting with 20th TV chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman was scheduled, and both sides are said to have told each other that they will negotiate in good faith, despite the looming lawsuit.
Separately, sources tell THR that Family co-showrunner Levitan sent an email letter on Wednesday to the cast from both him and Lloyd addressing the lawsuit and the salary dispute. Sources who have seen the letter say it describes the cast as a "family" that should work through its issues.
The letter is said to have irked certain cast members and their reps because Levitan and Lloyd signed a rich new overall deal with 20th TV in 2010, after Modern Family became a big hit. As creators, they stand to make millions on the back end of the show, a financial arrangement the cast members do not have. (O'Neill, a big pre-Family star, does receive a small back-end on the show in exchange for cutting his fee at the outset.)
20th TV and reps for the actors declined to comment.