How ‘Modern Family’ Director Gail Mancuso Tackled Series’ Final Scene: ‘There Were Real Tears’

TheWrap Emmy magazine: “When they were hugging each other, that was the last thing we shot, and I needed one more take,” Emmy-nominated director says

Gail Mancuso Modern Family

A version of this story about Gail Mancuso first appeared in the Emmy Hot List issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

Over 11 seasons and 250 episodes of ABC’s “Modern Family,” Gail Mancuso has been one of the ABC sitcom’s most frequent directors, shooting more than 30 episodes since 2010. Like Glatter, she was entrusted with the final episode of a long-running series, and humbled by that assignment.

“It was an honor to be asked,” she said. “It could have really gone to anybody. And so many elements of a final episode are intangible. When you look at the script, you can’t say, ‘We’re going to have 15 minutes of crying here, so let’s put that in.’ You can’t budget for the emotion that will happen.”

Her approach to directing the “Finale” episode, she said, was simple: “I went in with the mantra, let’s savor every second. There was never any kind of pressure to get a scene in the can. We let it breathe, because it was all about the relationships between the characters, but also with the cast, the crew, the showrunners … The set was always busy, and there was always an intangible feeling of, ‘I know what I have to do, but this is more important.’ It was a balancing act, and I’m really proud of the episode.”

The final scene included the entire cast, a rarity for the series. “It’s unusual to have everybody there, but I always found that the scenes with the whole family together are the most interesting and the most relatable,” she said. “When they were hugging each other, that was the last thing we shot, and I needed one more take.”

And, of course, it ended in a rush of emotion. “There were real tears,” she said. “Everybody’s got their own cellphone footage of it. When you think about a show that’s been on the show for 11 years, with everything that’s happened, it was hard to end it. I’s hard for me even to describe it.”

Read more of the Emmy Hot List issue here.

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