The on-going feud between the cast of Modern Family and producer 20th Century Fox Television has been escalated, as the six adult members of the cast have filed a lawsuit against the studio. Ed O’Neil, having originally planned separate negotiations for his new contract, announced that he would join Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara in their lawsuit against the show’s producers in a show of solidarity amongst the cast.
The lawsuit is based upon California’s “7 Year Rule,” which forbids service contracts scheduled for more than seven years. This legal strategy is frequently used by actors looking to renegotiate contracts after the launch of a hit show. Jeff McFarland of the Quinn Emanuel law firm filed the case in Los Angeles Superior Court today on behalf of all six cast members. McFarland has represented clients in similar cases in the past, having represented Ed Limato in his case against International Creative Management in 2007.
Modern Family’s cast is currently contracted through seven seasons, and renegotiations were expected to come between the third and fourth season. Fox has reportedly offered five members of the cast $150,000 per episode for season four, along with a $50,000 bonus per episode, and then yearly increases in pay going up to $325,000 per episode in an expected season nine. However, the cast is asking for a steeper increase, up to double the offered salary should the show reach season nine. O’Neil is the only exception, having made about $40,000 more per episode than the rest of the cast in previous seasons.
Coming into the fall season, Modern Family is one of ABC’s most important shows, having generated over $160 million in ad revenue in 2011, and serving as a launching pad for the network’s other comedies. The show has won a total of five Emmy Awards, including best comedy series the last two years, best supporting actor in a comedy for both Eric Stonestreet and Ty Burrell and best supporting actress for Julie Bowen. As the show moves towards syndication in 2013, the contract could land as much as $1.5 million per episode in licensing fees. 20th Century Fox has yet to comment on the lawsuit.