Actor re-negotiations for hit shows are often messy, but not this messy. In shocking news, the cast of Modern Family sued 20th Century Fox to void their contracts, arguing that their contractual term exceeds seven years, which violates California law. It’s a surprising move in a relationship-based industry, but it’s clear that their contract re-negotiation went south fast. In a nutshell, here’s how the process usually works: Unknown actors sign to a show before it’s a hit, and their salary is often low. When the show becomes a massive sensation (as is the case with Modern Family), actors are almost always given a large raise, even though they are technically not entitled to it. The general idea is that studios want to keep the peace and they know actors will throw a fit at the idea of the studio and network pocketing large sums of money while they are stuck with their low salary. But when that re-negotiation doesn’t go as planned, studios play hard-ball and say things like, “Look, you’re bound to show up to work at your original salary. You’re lucky we’re offering you anything at all.” And sometimes it gets even uglier and they say things to the actors like, “If you don’t show up to work we’ll sue you for breach of contract.”
Apparently, the actors of Modern Family know how to play hard-ball even harder, because they went to court first, and they seem to have a viable argument if their contracts do in fact exceed the California 7 year rule. It’s brilliant that they all sued together. This way no one looks like a stand-out problem child. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds.