Talk about a modern family. The mother is a standup comedian and writer and the daughter is a preteen who grew up on one of ABC’s most popular sitcoms.
Meet Amy Anderson and her daughter Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, best known for her role as Lily on “Modern Family.”
Amy grew up in Excelsior, graduated from Minnetonka High School in 1990, and after college, established a stand-up comedy career. Her comedy has drawn upon her experiences as a Korean child adopted by Americans of Swedish heritage, and the resulting cultural conundrums.
She moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to advance her career, and spent years touring and headlining comedy clubs, and taking acting gigs. In 2007, she added “mom” to her resume’, after the birth of her daughter Aubrey, who accompanied her on her comedy tours.
Life took another direction when in 2011, at age 4, Aubrey was cast in the sitcom “Modern Family.” The show ended April 8 after 250 episodes and 11 seasons. It earned five Emmy awards as best comedy.
During the course of the show, the couple Mitchell and Cameron adopt a Vietnamese baby girl they name “Lily.” Initially, the baby was portrayed by twins; then in 2011, the show looked for a young actor to take on the role of Lily, now a youngster. Aubrey got the role, and she’s played the role ever since.
Aubrey has the distinction of being the youngest Asian-American child star on the red carpet at the 2012 and 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Now that “Modern Family” has ended, we reached out to Amy and Aubrey, curious to learn more about their time with “Modern Family,” life in LA, and the entertainment industry.
Anderson responded to the newspaper’s Q&A.
Q: How did you and Aubrey become involved with Modern Family?
A: Aubrey started on Modern Family in 2011-12 when the show was in its third season. She had just turned 4. That summer, my agent saw that they were recasting the role of “Lily” and she asked if she could submit Aubrey. I was hesitant at first because I never thought she could book it since she had no experience and I didn’t want to set her up for disappointment. But Aubrey really wanted to try and, as they say, the rest is history. She’s 12 now, 13 in June.
Q: What was her audition like?
A: I heard at some point that they saw 53 little girls ranging in age from 4 to 6 years old ... Aubrey had three auditions: an initial audition for casting, then a call back to producers, and a final chemistry read with Jesse Tyler Ferguson. In total, the process was 10 days. It was when she got the chemistry read that I was in utter disbelief.
Q: What did they like about Aubrey?
A: She looked a lot like the twin girls she replaced, which was a big bonus. She was the right age and I think they really wanted a kid who wanted to be there; who would be happy.
Q: How is it to balance your lives between your career, her career, school and family life?
A: Our juggling act is always evolving. There are definitely times when it can be very stressful with both of us working and auditioning and homeschool and not homeschooling, etc., but I’ve loved being with her on this journey. We have both had an once-in-a-lifetime experience being part of such an amazing production.
Q: What does Aubrey miss about the show?
A: Seeing the people she has been seeing regularly for almost nine consecutive years of her life.
Q: Are both of you sad that the show is over?
A: Yes, very sad. But we also know that nothing lasts forever and it was time to move on. It’s just hard to say goodbye.
Q: When did production end, and what have you been doing since then?
A: The last day of filming was on Feb. 22 … the wrap party was Feb. 23. Aubrey was going to school (she goes to a small private school) and we were both auditioning and I was shopping some scripts and treatments and then, this whole pandemic thing happened. Now we’re staying at home!
Q: You and Aubrey have a YouTube Channel about snack food. How did the two of you come up with it?
A: Our YouTube channel is called FoodMania Review. We started it around four to five years ago, I think. YouTube was all the rage at the time and Aubrey was begging to do a toy unboxing channel, but I didn’t want to deal with having a zillion toys, so we decided on snack foods since we love to eat! We have put a pause on making new FMR videos because it was getting too expensive and time-consuming to do the editing, but maybe we’ll revive it during these days of isolation.
Q: Do you both love snacks and candy as much as it seems you do?
A: Yeah, we really do. We love trying different treats and making stuff at home too. And we love trying restaurants and we love lots of different cuisines.
Q: Top five snacks you two have taste-tested.
A: Hmmm, I’m not sure. We’ve tried so many things. We loved the Korean honey butter chips! Also Red Rock Chip honey soy chicken from Australia was a hit. We love Munchies and Milka chocolate from Europe.
Q: The worst?
A: There is this super salty black licorice from Sweden called Djungelvral, which I think means “Jungle Roar.” It’s a really old candy, but apparently it’s still eaten there a lot. Ammonium chloride is one of the main ingredients and that’s what it tastes like. Ammonium. It’s insane tasting to me. Aubrey couldn’t even eat it.
Q: What’s next for Aubrey? Is she interested in continuing acting? Another TV series?
A: Well, now that the bulk of the entertainment industry is shut down, we have no idea what the future holds. She is very into dance right now and would like to continue pursuing that. She’s been taking lessons with her instructor on ZOOM. Of course there is some buzz about a “Modern Family” spin-off for the Tucker-Pritchett family, but we really don’t know anything about that either. Honest truth!
Q: Do you act as Aubrey’s agent?
A: I’m not Aubrey’s agent, but I have acted as her manager for her entire career. I think it’s very important for parents to be completely involved in their kid’s career if they are in this field. No one will have your child’s best interests in mind more than you.
Q: Stage moms have a reputation for being a pain in the neck. How did you avoid the pitfalls?
A: I don’t know, I guess by not being a pain in the neck. LOL! That’s an entire book to be written, but trust me, no matter what you do, people hate “stage parents.” I think with anything involving parents and their kids, there are great parents and there are troublesome parents (and kids). We see it in sports, academics, music — you name it.
My focus is on being the best parent I can be and teaching Aubrey to be a decent human being, first and foremost. It’s not about fame, money, social media numbers, or any of that crap. I want her to have the confidence and life experience to eventually become an independent adult and to blaze her own trail doing whatever it is she wants in life.
Q: What’s it been like, living and working in the entertainment industry in LA?
A: I love it, but it’s not an industry for the faint of heart. I’ve been here since 2001 and Aubrey was born in 2007. I have been luckier than many and she has been luckier than most. We have both worked very hard to get where we are but we also don’t take success for granted. We are very fortunate, indeed.
Q: What projects are you working on — any comedy stand-up shows or tours planned?
A: Even with the COVID-19 shutdowns, there are still deals being made and work being planned for the future. I have three different show ideas/scripts that I’m pitching and writing, and Aubrey and I launched a small eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush company last year. Right now, we are donating our profits for the entire month of April 2020 to Meals on Wheels America. You can order our toothbrushes at www.earthmania.com. They’re really great! And for this campaign only, if you order two or more boxes (there are four brushes in a box) Aubrey will include an autographed photo. We are processing these orders on our own, right from our house.
Q: Do you ever return to Minnesota?
A: We try to get to Minnesota at least once a year. The last time we were there was February 2019. My dad was interviewed for a new documentary about the D.B. Cooper hijacking, so we came into town to help him with that. He was one of the pilots of the flight. The documentary is called, “The Mystery of D.B. Cooper,” and will air on HBO sometime soon. (According to The World News, the BBC and HBO have teamed to produce a feature-length film called “The Mystery of D.B. Cooper.” Anderson’s father is Harold E. Anderson, now of Baxter, Minnesota. He was the flight engineer on the Northwest Airlines flight 305 that was hijacked by D.B. Cooper on Nov. 24, 1971. No airing date has yet been announced.)
Q: Does Aubrey want to be a stand-up comedian like you?
A: No! She has no interest in stand-up.
Q: Does she want to continue a career in the entertainment industry?
A: Aubrey is only 12, so she doesn’t know what she wants to do with the rest of her life, and that’s totally fine. She’s not super into academics. She’s pretty good at math, but it’s boring to her. She really loves dancing and movement and she definitely has an eye for aesthetics, so I could see her continuing in the arts or creative fields.
Q: Are you two similar or different temperament-wise? Who’s funnier? You or Aubrey?
A: We have mostly similar personalities. She processes information the same way I do. I know this because I homeschooled her for so many years. But she’s a little more of an extrovert than I am. Who’s funnier? I don’t know. That’s subjective, but we do make each other laugh all the time. We’re really lucky to have each other, especially right now.