Like many young stars before her, Winter is now navigating that tricky path that comes with wanting to be taken seriously as an actor and to be seen as more than an iconic child role. In her case that’s Alex, who the actress says still does very similar things from season to season. “What I really want for people to see is that I can play different roles and that I’ve had enough life experience to be able to play darker roles that are more complex,” Winter says, while adding that her time on Modern Family has been incredible. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m the luckiest girl.”
But having seen what happened to other young actors who made that transition before her -- or rather, those who didn’t quite succeed -- Winter can’t but help take notes on what not to do. “A lot of people, when they want to go into their adult careers and transition over, pushed in a way and tried to make people believe they were an adult instead of letting it happen naturally in their work,” the actress says, knowing the key is not to force it. “Part of being an adult is just living and making your own choices and being who you are. That’s it.
“For me, it’s been slightly easier,” Winter acknowledges. “I know some parts of the world still see me as little Alex Dunphy, but I’ve always looked older since I was younger. I developed a lot earlier than a lot of my cast mates or a lot of other people I know. I was always seen as more mature and older. So it [has been] a little easier to transform into being an adult.”
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In fact, Winter has more or less been an adult since she was emancipated from her parents in 2015 at 17 years old. Prior to that, the actress moved in with her older sister, Shanelle Gray, asking the court that she become her guardian while alleging that her mother, Chrisoula Workman, had been physically and emotionally abusive. Winter’s mother denied any abuse and after reaching a settlement over guardianship in 2014, they released a joint statement saying that “the family has moved beyond the conflict.” Meanwhile, that and Winter’s breast reduction surgery in 2015 became tabloid fodder, with much of the actress’ teenage life played out in headlines and on magazine covers. “I have grown up in the eyes of the media,” she says. “That’s why I’ve been seen as more mature and more developed, because people have been talking about it since I was 12 years old.”
Now, the media’s focus, much to Winter’s chagrin, is centered on her provocative Instagram and red carpet outfits. “I have to say I’ve been super disappointed in the media for my entire life,” Winter says, while acknowledging the back-and-forth relationship that comes with promoting passion projects like Dog Years. “I'm constantly being photographed and in the news for what I wear and who I'm with.”