"There's a major thing happening this season. It's beyond," Ferguson teased in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter at a charity gala event in California Friday. He only called the event "big" and said he thinks "you'll be surprised."
Hyland played just as coy, calling whatever the event is a "bigger thing than the death."
"I was a shock, that's for sure," Hyland said. "There's a lot happening with Haley, but I can't say."
In "Good Grief," it was revealed that Shelley Long's recurring character DeDe died in her sleep. DeDe was the ex-wife of Jay (Ed O'Neill) and the mother of Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell (Ferguson). Fans had known a death was coming since co-creator Christopher Lloyd spilled the beans in a September Entertainment Weekly interview.
"I heard it very early on and I didn't think it was going to be such a big deal," Ferguson told THR Friday. "I thought we would just handle it as it was another storyline. But it leaked … and then it became this media thing."
Ferguson thought it would have been handled as just another Modern Family storyline, but he was happy that the media buzz helped revive interest in the show, now in its 10th season. In fact, the show saw a small ratings bump for the episode on Wednesday, with 5.22 million viewers tuning in to find out who died.
The actor also said he was surprised the death got so much interest since DeDe was not a major character on the show. The "only drawback" is that Long will not be back on the show.
As for Hyland, she called the episode "beautiful" and said it featured a "tasteful" mix of comedy and pathos.
"There's so many things I loved about that storyline," Hyland told THR. "I think especially the idea of a brother and sister having a very different relationship to the family member that has passed and being able to come to solid ground on how they feel."
DeDe's death will continue playing a role in the season, as a future episode finds the family splitting up her assets.
It is also still not clear if Modern Family will last beyond its current season. ABC will be taking ownership of the show, which is produced by soon-to-be-Disney-owned 20th Century Fox TV.
"We'll never have jobs as good as this job. We love these characters so much. We love doing the show," Ferguson told THR. "If we can stick around and make this last a little longer, I think we'd all like that."
New episodes of Modern Family air at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
Photo credit: ABC