Ariel Winter's 'Modern Family' Fans Shocked by Hair Color, Performance on 'Law & Order: SVU'

Fans who know Ariel Winter from her role on Modern Family were in for a shock when they saw her performance on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Sporting a radically different hair color than many are used to seeing, Winter got to touch on themes she could not in the ABC comedy she is known for. The episode gave her a rare opportunity to try her hand at drama and fans were not prepared.

Winter made her SVU debut in "The Darkest Journey Home," in which she plays Reagan, a woman who suddenly wakes up believing she was raped after a night of partying with her friends. The case takes Benson (Mariska Hargitay), Fin (Ice-T) and Rollins (Kelli Giddish) on a winding path thanks to lies and misdirection from both the victim and suspects.

The 21-year-old Winter previewed the episode on Instagram Wednesday, telling fans just how important Reagan was for her.

"Reagan is wildly different from any character I've played," Winter wrote on Instagram. "She's special to me because she's a realistic person. She's not perfect, she's still figuring herself out. She likes to go out and drink and experiment, and like many of us, she struggles with accepting herself and being honest. The episode wrestles with the restrictions of being a "credible" victim/witness. Making mistakes, or experimenting with things some may frown upon, does not mean you should be an open target for sexual assault. NOTHING anyone does could EVER possibly warrant that. It was a challenge to bring this all to life, because I have a fear of failure and a hard time relinquishing control."

She later praised Hargitay and the episode's director, Jean de Sogonzac, for helping her feel comfortable on the set.

"The amount of care and interest [Hargitay] showed in me as a person was amazing," Winter continued. "She was truly interested in my life story and always made me feel heard. She was honest and gave me some of the most accurate advice I've ever been given. She pushed me as an actress and as a person. I couldn't be luckier I had this experience. People like her are RARE in and out of this industry. She cares deeply about everyone. She cares about her show. Most importantly she cares about representing and doing justice by the brave people that relate to the stories."

Those who follow Winter on social media are aware of the changes Winter has made to her hair in the past few months. Back in May, she debuted a fiery, bright red hair color similar to the color seen on SVU.

Winter has been playing Alex Dunphy on ABC's Modern Family since 2009. The series will come to an end next year.

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New episodes of Modern Family air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC, while SVU airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

Photo credit: Barbara Nitke/NBC