Good news and bad news on the Modern Family front. First, the good: Tony winner Nathan Lane is joining the ABC series next season, at least for one episode. Executive producer Steve Levitan just told us that Lane has been cast as Pepper, the ultraflamboyant friend of Cam and Mitchell on the show. Levitan says Lane is a fan of Family and asked the show if it might be possible to guest. While producers are trying to dramatically limit the number of big-name guest turns on the show next season, "Nathan was just too perfect for the role," Levitan says. So what's the bad news?
Well, even though executive producer Chris Lloyd is a good friend with Biggest TV Star in the World Betty White (he was a writer on The Golden Girls, and his dad worked on The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Lloyd says White's "dance card is pretty full" right now, and discussion of finding a role for her on the show is unlikely to result in an appearance. He and Levitan did hope to use White in a short film they're producing for this month's Emmys: White would end up playing Phil's new wife in a gag bit. But alas, The Betty was too busy, and the dream cameo died.
Elsewhere on the Family front, Lloyd says that young Manny will have an "existential crisis" this season when he turns 12 and realizes he's in the last year of his childhood. We can also look forward to a Halloween episode in which Mitchell dresses up as Spider-Man (but nobody else in the office dons a costume), while Phil will "shame dance" at daughter Hailey's next party, per Lloyd. Finally, a previously disclosed earthquake will result in Phil springing into crisis mode, helping out both Luke and Claire.
Overall, Levitan and Lloyd both say they'll stay focused on Family this season, though Levitan said he might be open to supervising another writer's work if the right project comes along (so far, however, he has no plans to do even that). Both producers say their biggest goal remains keeping up the show's quality, even with a hectic 24-episode schedule ahead. "We're just looking to avoid that sophomore slump," Levitan says. "We want to stave off as long as possible that episode where everyone says, 'Oh, that wasn't funny at all'."