Sarah Hyland, the actress who plays Haley Dunphy on Modern Family (8 p.m. Wednesdays on WFAA/Channel 8), insists that she has virtually nothing in common with her character, a teenage airhead. The most obvious difference is that Hyland isn’t a 15-year-old girl anymore. The actress turned 20 last year. So a lot of the drama that exists in Haley’s life — from taking a driving test to breaking up, and making up, with her boyfriend on an almost daily basis — has become ho-hum stuff for Hyland. Still, she loves re-creating those moments for TV because a teen’s life is never ho-hum. “Everything is the end of the world with a teenager,” Hyland says. “It’s fun to go back in time and be like that. But when the work day is over, I try to drop those old habits as fast as I possibly can!”
1) In what ways are you similar to Haley?
Haley and I have exactly one and a half things in common: Neither of us can cook to save our lives, and I always have my phone on me. My phone is the half thing — but only half — because I’m not always texting. I always forget to text people back, even though I have my phone on me. There are a lot of things that might slip Haley’s mind during the course of a day, but texting somebody back is not one of them.
2) You didn’t mention driving. So you’re not challenged behind the wheel the way Haley is, right?
Yes, I do know how to drive. I’m from New York. When I decided I was going to move to L.A., I took driving lessons and got my license. Then I moved out to L.A. two weeks later and was just thrown into the chaos. It was wonky at first, but practice makes perfect. Haven’t hit any pedestrians yet.
3) Do you have a favorite funny Haley moment?
Any moment when she’s a complete airhead to the max. When she was rubbing the cellphone battery on her head because she believed doing that would recharge it, that was one of my favorite moments.
4) You’ve been acting almost your whole life. What compelled you to do this?
I saw a commercial for Shake ‘N Bake at the age of 4 and I said, ‘I can do that so much better than that girl.’ That’s when I wanted to start acting. And once the bug bit me, I knew I was going to do this for the rest of my life. All because of good old Shake ‘N Bake!
5) Is it ever confining to be a TV teen? Are you ever like, ‘How about an adult role for a change?’
If I were doing a grown-up role instead, I might be like, ‘That girl playing Haley on Modern Family seems to be having a lot of fun. Why can’t I have a job like hers?’ Besides, Haley’s got a lot of growing up still to do, like going to college — or not getting in. So much to do. I hope I get to keep doing this for a while.