Ariel Winter stepped on her first set — a commercial for Cool Whip — when she was just 4 years old. The Modern Family star, now 22, has lived her entire life inside Hollywood’s fishbowl, where social media trolls press their faces up against the glass and toss their unsolicited opinions into the water like bait. “They’re so detailed,” she says. “Somebody could comment a whole paragraph about one of my teeth all the way in the back, like, ‘Her canine is… too long and pointy!’ I wasn’t even smiling in any photo. How did you see that?” It’s no wonder that as Modern Family wraps its 11-season run, Winter finds herself craving mundanity. “A normal life is so precious,” Winter tells Elite Daily. “People inside Hollywood don’t realize that.”
Winter was homeschooled as a child, so the sets of the shows she guest-starred on functioned as her schoolyard. When she was 11, she didn’t crush on an awkward classmate, but on David Lyons, her uber-hot, much older, Australian ER co-star on ER. “It was never going to happen, obviously. But, in my heart, I was like, ‘Maybe.’” Lyons played a doctor who couldn’t save Winter’s character’s mom after a car accident, and the script called for her to aggressively fight him. “I don’t know what washed over me,” she says. “Instead of me trying to fight him off and run away, I just ran and jumped in his arms. It was like slow-mo. They cut and everyone was crying laughing. He was, and I was, mortified.”
Though Winter would have preferred not to make an absolute fool of herself in front of a film crew, going after her first crush, albeit unsuccessfully, was a rite of passage. She’s now on the cusp of another milestone: On April 8, Modern Family will air its series finale on ABC. Winter spent half her life playing Alex Dunphy, the highly intelligent middle child whose overachiever personality makes it hard to keep friends. In many respects, Winter is completely different from Alex — “[I] hated the clothes I had to wear” — but she still respects the hell out of the character. “What I’ve always liked about Alex is she always knew exactly what she wanted for her professional life,” she says.
Winter may not identify with Alex’s academic genius, but she can relate to feeling disconnected from her peers. “Homeschool is very isolating. I don’t really recommend it for people,” she says. “Having that life experience [is really important] — even though it will probably suck, because it sucks for everyone.” Winter moved in with her sister, Shanelle Gray, at 14 after being removed from her mother’s custody, and later emancipated, at which point she enrolled in “real” high school. “I was not good at it,” she says. “I didn’t really know how social interactions worked. I spent the majority of my life around adults, even as a kid. The majority of my friends were 20 years older than me. So I just wasn’t well-versed in talking to people my age.” Continue reading “Ariel Winter’s Next Chapter: Being Normal”