What a day for "Modern Family" director and executive producer Jason Winer. The Baltimore Friends School graduate was in the first hour on the first day of directing his first feature film, a big budget remake of "Arthur" for Warner Bros., when news arrived that he and the ABC series he helps produce received Emmy major nominations.
What a year this has been for Winer who directed the widely-praised series pilot for "Modern Family" and already has won the Directors Guild of America award for it.
"It's been an insane year," Winer said yesterday by phone from the set of his film, which boasts a lineup that includes Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Nick Nolte and Jennifer Garner.
"But I have to say I'm much happier about the cast being so thoroughly recognized than I am by my own nomination," Winer added, referring to Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergera earning nominations as best supporting actresses, along with Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet and Ty Burrell all being nominated in the best supporting actor category. "It's an amazing accomplishment for them, especially people who haven't been necessarily recognized before."
(Jason Winer, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson on the set of 'Modern Family.')
Winer singled out his fellow Baltimore native, Julie Bowen, who plays Claire Dunphy, for the way her characters "centers" the diverse, multi-generational family at the heart of the show.
"It's so rare that voters recognize someone whose performance is so effortless in facilitating the performances of others," Winer said. "But that's what Julie does: She grounds the show, makes you feel things and provides an incredible comedic counterpoint for Ty Burrell's ridiculous character. Ty's character couldn't succeed without the way Julie reacts to him, and hers is the harder acting job – and so often it goes unacknowledged."
For the last three years, Tina Fey's "30 Rock" has swamped the comedy competition. But "Glee" and "Modern Family" break the historic network sitcom formula and offer a more inclusive, multicultural sensibility -- even they both celebrate some very traditional values. In that sense, the Baltimore nominees are part of a larger and more significant cultural trend that makes it the nominations all the more significant.
"I'm just glad -- not only glad but shocked -- at how completely the show has been embraced by the public and by critics," Winer said. "It's such a rare thing, and we feel so incredibly lucky."