Throughout a career that has lasted for decades, actor Ed O'Neill has already set up his acting legacy by playing two of TV's most iconic sitcom dads in Married with Children's Al Bundy and Modern Family's Jay Pritchett, whom he portrayed for a combined 22 seasons. Don't expect his next big TV role to look anything like that, however, as he'll be teaming up with fellow Hollywood legend Sissy Spacek for the brand new sci-fi (!!) TV series Lightyears that is heading to streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
With the fairly singular distinction of having two lead characters both over 70 years old, Lightyears centers on Ed O'Neill's Franklin York and Sissy Spacek's Irene York, a couple sharing a very strange and potentially world-changing secret. Years previous, the pair discovered a chamber beneath their backyard that unexplainably goes from their home to a deserted planet somewhere in outer space, and I'm already hooked.
Though Franklin and Irene have made a point of keeping their backyard mystery a secret from the outside world, things take a potentially dangerous turn when a curious young man shows up. According to Variety, his arrival turns their otherwise quiet lives upside down and inside out, and they come to discover that the mystifying chamber they thought they mostly understood is far more important and meaningful than they ever could have suspected. This story sounds like it could go to 1,000 different places, both figuratively and literally.
A co-production between Amazon Studios and Legendary Television, Lightyears is being written by Holden Miller, who'd previous worked on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Serving as showrunner will be Daniel C. Connolly, who has worked on such genre-heavy shows as The Whispers and Colony, as well as Into the Badlands and Longmire. Both will also be executive producing. Fellow Colony vet Juan José Campanella, who most recently helmed episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, will serve as Lightyears' director.
This role marks Ed O'Neill's first big project after the conclusion of Modern Family, which wrapped in 2020 after eleven highly successful seasons, and which earned him three Emmy nominations. Though the actor is far more known for comedies and lighter dramas as opposed to science fiction, the only other live-action TV show he acted in during Modern Family's run was, interestingly enough, an episode of YouTube's sci-fi anthology show Weird City.
Similarly, Sissy Spacek has not filled her filmography with science fiction projects, though she has been a horror icon for 45 years now due almost entirely to her stellar performance in 1976's Carrie. The actress made her long-awaited return to Stephen King's world for the first season of Hulu's now-cancelled horror anthology Castle Rock in 2018. That same year, she was in the first season of Amazon's Homecoming with Julia Roberts, which was her last TV project to date.
I cannot wait to see the character dynamics that play out between Sissy Spacek and Ed O'Neill throughout Lightyears, which is set to go into production later this year at some point. It will be very refreshing to see O'Neill take on another TV role after so many years of Modern Family's signature family-friendly jokes and deliveries. (WandaVision missed the boat by not having him cameo in its Modern Family-esque episode.) And considering the talent already on display, viewers should probably anticipate more excellent cast members being announced soon!