By BRIELLE SCHAEFFER
Jackson Hole News & Guide
JACKSON, Wyo. – ABC’s hit sitcom “Modern Family” began filming in Jackson Hole last week, with some 100 members of its cast and crew on location at the Lost Creek Ranch in Moose.
The network decided to take its popular Los Angeles-based television family on a dude ranch vacation for the beginning of its third season.
Last Tuesday morning, dozens of crew members bustled around preparing for scenes, while the actors, dressed in exaggerated Western garb of cowboy hats and flannel shirts, joked and rehearsed between takes.
“We couldn’t imagine a better way to kick off season three than having it on a dude ranch,” said the show’s co-producer Sally Young. “It’s going to be hilarious.”
The cast and crew were greeted by mounted police at Jackson Hole Airport when they arrived Aug. 15 on a chartered jet.
Town and state officials rallied to convince the show to come to Jackson when area booster and Young’s sister, Suzanne Young, caught wind of the producers’ interest in filming on a dude ranch.
Other Western locations were in the running, but community members came together to sweeten the deal with guaranteed hotel rooms at Snow King Resort and some $70,000 to offset production costs taken from the town’s lodging tax funds, earmarked for off-season promotion.
“No matter what happened here, no matter how many roadblocks, this town, this county, this state kept finding an answer,” Sally Young said. “I’ve never seen a community come together like this. This is a big thrill for us, and we just never thought it would happen.”
But it did. With a “Let’s roll sound, please,” the first scene of the day was in action. The crew was filming the adult characters skeet shooting at the ranch’s actual target range. The sensitive dad character, Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell), was showing up the other guys with his shooting skills. His brother-in-law, Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) was trying to be manly, posing with a gun for his partner, Cameron Tucker (Eric Stonestreet), to get pictures for an adoption book.
Young said the gay TV couple would be trying to adopt a baby boy this season. Their adopted Vietnamese daughter, Lily, will be played by new- and a little bit older- child actress Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, 4, this season.
The show called upon Lost Creek Ranch’s customers to play extras, as they wanted the scene to appear like an actual guest ranch.
“It’s the best we can do for inconveniencing them on their vacation,” Jeff Morton, an executive producer, said, “let people experience a little behind-the-scenes.”
The ranch’s workers also got in on the action and were used as extras to bolster some of the shots.
“I was so excited- freaking-out-so-excited,” said Laura Beth Rider, of Lexington, Ky., who is working as a server at Lost Creek this summer. “I really couldn’t believe they were coming here.”
She called herself a “huge fan” of the show, and said being an extra will be a good experience.
“It’s so cool to see how a TV show is put together,” Rider said.
The cast and crew were shooting several different scenes around Lost Creek Ranch last week, including some inside the lodges and cabins and finished with an outdoor barbecue scene Friday night. On Saturday, the show filmed on and around a plane on the airport runway.
The crew shot 36 scenes in Jackson Hole for the 30-minute-long vacation part of the hour-long season premiere, Morton said. A half-hour-long episode typically takes five days to shoot and ends up being 20 minutes long.
When the cast and crew of “Modern Family” were not working, they tried to fit in as many activities as they can, Sally Young said.
“You should see an infusion of a lot of $100 bills coming through town,” she said.
She said actor Ed O’Neill, who plays the family patriarch Jay Pritchett, went out on the town for hours one day. Julie Bowen, who plays Claire Dunphy- Pritchett’s daughter and Phil’s wife- went fly-fishing with Burrell.
“The crew has just been having a blast,” Young said. “They’re having the time of their life.”
Child actor Nolan Gould, 12, who plays Claire and Phil’s son, Luke Dunphy, said he was enjoying Wyoming.
“It’s a really awesome place,” he said. “I love the scenery. In LA, it’s just freeways and buildings and smog.”
Nolan has tasted the local cuisine, including elk and buffalo steaks, as well as hot dogs and ravioli. He also went on the Alpine Slide at Snow King, where the cast and crew stayed, he said
“Of course, I didn’t use my brakes on it,” he said.
Nolan said he enjoys working on the show, where his character is a bit of a troublemaker, jumping on the trampoline with a pogo stick and shooting his step-grandmother Gloria Pritchett (Sofia Vergara) with a water gun.
“Every week, it’s like a new adventure,” he said.
“Modern Family” has won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series as well as awards for the actors and writers. This year, the show was nominated for 17 Emmys, the most for any comedy sitcom. The 63rd annual awards show will be broadcast Sept. 18.
“It’s a cocktail of perfection,” Young said. “It’s a phenomenon, really. I’ve never seen a show like it that takes off and that doesn’t crash and burn.”
She said the acclaimed writers, producers and actors on the show, make the plots come to life.
“All of our stories are taken from our writing staff’s personal experiences, and people relate to that,” Young said.
With the diverse cast, the show tackles such topics as the challenges of alternative couples, May-December romances, parenthood, teen dating and concerns specific to both the middle and upper classes.
“There’s just always something someone relates to from the show,” she said.
The “mockumentary” style of the show also keeps the lines and shots original.
“The freshness of the comedy is so pure,” she said.
Jackson joins the list of places where the TV family has vacationed. Last year, the show went to Hawaii.
“We want to be good hosts and good guests,” Young said. “Now everyone is going to Maui because we went there. We left a good footprint. That’s what we intend to do here.”
The producers have already decided to donate a signed script of “Season Three Premiere: The Dude Ranch Episode” to the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum, Tom Hickey, the museum’s director of development, said.
The episode will air Sept. 21.