She doesn’t look it, but Sarah Hyland actually is 20 years old.
On the Emmy Award-winning sitcom Modern Family, which just wrapped up its second season on ABC and Citytv, Hyland plays 16-year-old Haley Dunphy.
“I am very grateful that I look real young, because that’s the reason I’m working right now,” Hyland said. “When I’m 40, I’ll be real happy.”
And speaking of age, consider this:
Haley has a 14-year-old sister Alex, played by Ariel Winter. In real life, Winter is 13. So there’s a seven-years-and-two-months age difference between Hyland and Winter, even though they’re playing siblings who are only a couple of years apart.
“It’s just weird with the seven-year age difference,” Hyland admitted. “It’s a lifetime. It’s a lot to handle. It’s such a rapid change even from age 11 to 12, or 13 to 14, it’s crazy.
“But I’m used to working with kids who are a lot younger than me. When I was doing Grey Gardens (on Broadway as the young Jacqueline Bouvier), I was 16 and the other kids were, like, 10 and 9. I just think it’s really cute to watch them at that age and look back. I love it.”
Understanding that Modern Family is the TV equivalent of an overcrowded bus, we will make this proclamation about Hyland’s role: Haley Dunphy gets our vote as the TV character who most deserves more screen time next season.
We understand what a difficult challenge that is. Even if you don’t count baby Lily, there are 10 main characters on Modern Family, and there is not a weak one in the bunch.
But Haley is hilarious, and in season two, her cute-and-clueless routine showed hints of greater comedic depth.
One of our favourite scenes on all of TV in the past year came in the second-last episode of Modern Family’s sophomore season. Alex had been named the valedictorian of her middle-school graduating class, on her way to high school next fall.
Dunphy parents Phil (Ty Burrell) and Claire (Julie Bowen) were proud but sad that Alex was growing up. They remembered that this was the exact age they “lost” Haley, who went from being a sweet angel to a “moody, texting, snotty little princess.”
After Alex’s speech to her classmates, Claire suggested that the extended Dunphy clan grab a bite to eat. Alex, however, announced she had been invited to a party and ran off excitedly.
As Phil and Claire looked on forlornly, Haley made the mistake of saying, “I’m kind of hungry, mom.”
Phil and Claire wheeled around, eyes welling up, as Phil said, “Oh my God, she’s back.” Phil and Claire then smothered Haley in an embarrassing group hug, as she desperately tried to squirm away, repeating, “I’m not hungry any more … I’m not hungry any more … ”
That’s funny stuff, whether you’re 20, or 16, or any other age. It was as hard as we laughed at anything on TV all year.
“I have friends who have been on show after show that get cancelled really quickly,” said Hyland, reflecting upon her good fortune to be on such a critically acclaimed series. “They just have the worst luck with it, and it’s not their fault, they were amazing on those shows.
“It’s really just luck and I’m grateful that these are the cards I’ve been dealt.”
Moving into Modern Family’s third season, let’s hope Sarah Hyland gets dealt even more cards.