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'Modern Family' co-creator explains character's death

"Modern Family" said goodbye to DeDe Pritchett (Shelley Long) during Wednesday's episode. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

By Annie Martin, UPI

[WARNING]: SPOILERS AHEAD

Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan is giving fans insight into DeDe Pritchett's death.

The 56-year-old producer spoke out in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter after Claire Dunphy (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) discovered DeDe (Shelley Long) died during Wednesday's episode.

DeDe, the ex-wife of Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill) and mom to Claire and Mitchell, died peacefully in her sleep during a trip with her women's group. Levitan said the incident was meant to illustrate how death unites and can come when people least expect it.

"We gather [with the writers] at the beginning of the season and talk about the big arcs and things that we want to have happen -- the milestone moments. It occurred to us that death is a giant part of the family experience and while Phil (Ty Burrell) had lost his mother in a previous episode, we've never seen the entire family have to deal with such a loss," the producer said.

"[DeDe was] directly involved with three of our characters and she touched everybody's life in some interesting way. It seemed like the right character to put everybody through something," he added.

Wednesday's episode showed Claire, Mitchell and their family coping with the news of DeDe's death while also celebrating Halloween. Levitan told Entertainment Weekly the juxtaposition between serious and silly seemed fitting.

"We always do Halloween shows, and they're a big part of this year's series, so we thought, 'Well, let's try to do something that's wildly different this Halloween.' And since it is, strangely enough, a holiday that deals with so many themes of death and things that are scary and all that, it seemed in a strange way appropriate," the producer said.

"That sort of thing happens. You go out, you're dressed as a pirate, and then something serious happens, and suddenly, you're forced to go into active mode or grief mode or whatever while you're dressed ridiculously. It's just one other interesting element to this story. I enjoy the challenge of this episode," he added.

Modern Family co-stars Sofia Vergara, Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winter. The series is in its 10th season.

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