Ariel Winter is loving life these days! The 23-year-old actress has spent the past year dating her longtime pal, Luke Benward, and the transition from friends to couple has been special.

“Honestly, it’s been the best thing ever now, but it was pretty bizarre at first because that was never something that I expected at all,” Winter tells ET’s Katie Krause. “It’s been the biggest blessing for me. He is amazing. He is definitely my safe space. We’ve been able to grow together and not just be in a relationship, but we’re partners in business. We’re partners. He’s my best friend. He’s my boyfriend, so it’s really beautiful to be able to get to that place with somebody and to have the friendship foundation first and then to be able to grow into everything, is really, really beautiful.” 

Winter says Benward helped her through quarantine and other tough times, for which she’s “very grateful.”

“I’m very grateful to have had that during this time and hopefully way longer,” she adds.

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Love is in the air as Winter’s Modern Family co-star, Sarah Hyland, prepares for her wedding to Wells Adams, which had to be rescheduled amid the pandemic. 

“It’ll be so great. I’m so happy for them. They’ll finally be able to have their beautiful wedding,” Winter says of her on-screen sister and the Bachelor Nation alum. “I’m really happy for them to have that day. I know that they both really love each other. They want to be married, and so I’m excited to see that.”

As for the rest of the Modern Family cast, Winter assures fans they “still love each other.” 

“It’s definitely weird to not see them all the time. It’s weird to not spend eight or nine months out of the year with them almost every day,” she says of her former co-stars. “So, it’s definitely weird. I miss them a ton.” 

She notes that she and Nolan Gould are “so, so close,” adding, “He’s my brother. I’m his sister. We’re best friends.” 

As for a group chat between the cast, Winter admits that there was one but clarifies, “Now it’s kind of separated out. Now, it’s like people were talking at once or just people talking directly. But, there is a Modern Family group chat. It does still exist.”

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Winter has also been keeping herself busy with her new venture with GoKidGo and R.L. Stine’s Story Club, which she describes as “a podcast network for children that created a first-of-its-kind, Avengers-like universe, repeating characters and storylines.” Winter is the voice of the new podcast Ivy’s Chilling Tales.

“Basically, kids can listen to a variety of podcasts that are engaging and creative and fun for everyone,” she shared. “It’s only been out for a few weeks, but we have several thousand subscribers, growing every day. So anyone who’s watching this, please subscribe to R.L. Stine’s Story Club, free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, everywhere else podcasts are!”

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