As the story goes, Chris and Steven were asked to retell the hilarious anecdotes about their respective families so often that an idea eventually occurred to the pair: Maybe their yarns could be the basis of a television show.
While most of us don’t necessarily consider our family eccentricities to be the stuff of Hollywood, it was less of a stretch for Chris and Steve: Chris, or Christopher Lloyd, was a screenwriter for The Golden Girls, Frasier and Wings, while Steven Levitan was a director, screenwriter and producer affiliated with Frazier, Men Behaving Badly and The Larry Sanders Show, to name a few. They started working on the idea of a family being observed in a mockumentary style show, and that morphed into a series about three families and their experiences. Thus began the Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning series, Modern Family.
I hadn’t been that familiar with Modern Family, but I recalled hearing about the show’s French Bulldog, “Stella,” from friends. “Stella” was originally played by doggie-actor, “Brigitte,” who was replaced after the second season by “Beatrice” whom I got to meet with her trainers at the AKC/Eukanuba National Dog Show last month.
As a bonus, “Beatrice’s” trainers, Guin Dill and Steve Solomon, had with them “Lambchop” (or “Lamby”), a Chihuahua/Poodle mix who plays the character, “Yakult” (named after a Japanese probiotic drink), in the sitcom series, Suburgatory.
Our interview was on the fly, but it was super fun. Check it out!
Okay. That was cheerful writer spin. Here’s how it really happened.
Eukanuba’s “war room” is where really important behind-the-scenes-televised-dog-show-stuff happens (it has food) and was where we writers liked to sit. A camera woman with whom I’d been working suddenly erupted into the room and said breathlessly, “I saw Beatrice! Beatrice is here!”
My mind scanned through its mental rolodex. Beatrice. Beatrice.
I’d once had a teacher named Sister Mary Beatrice in high school, but I was pretty sure that a 137 year old nun wasn’t on the premises. Still, I’d grown fond of this camera woman and trusted her instincts. By golly, if someone named “Beatrice” was able to excite a seasoned camera person, I needed to be excited, too.
We bolted out of the room and flew to one of the empty dog show rings where a grooming table stood adjacent to a couple of Sherpa bags. Outside the ring, people were taking pictures of the bags. Wow, I thought to myself. Maybe there really was a 137 year old nun inside one of them.
In very short order, I learned that two of television’s hottest canine celebrities were on hand, along with their trainers who also own Good Dog Animals, a popular animal actor agency in California. As I was filled in on the particulars, I watched a colleague do her interview the way it should be done. Suddenly, it was my turn. I hadn’t slept well. I had bad hair, no lipstick (and therefore no lips), my voice cracked, I credited “Lambchop” to the wrong TV show and I’d had no time to think of intelligent questions (i.e., who the hell is Beatrice?). Still, I was frequently interrupted by public announcements, and because one of the people I was interviewing stood several inches over me, I had to keep reminding myself: Susi, don’t stick the microphone in her sternum.
The result is what you see below: