Solo Talk With a Family Man

by Angel Cohn May 5, 2010
The Ty Burrell Interview

We've been loving the new comedy Modern Family this season, with its eclectic mix of characters and clever intercutting. But while we love all the family members (well, almost everyone) we're really surprised at how much we crack up at Ty Burrell, who plays Phil Dunphy. He's had some trouble landing successful, long-running sitcoms in the past (some might even say he's been a bit of a showkiller), but here he's pitch-perfect as the dopey, tech-obsessed dad. We got a chance to talk to Burrell on the phone recently to find out how he's adapting to being on a hit show.

TWoP: Are you surprised by the positive reaction to this show?
Burrell: Yeah, I am, actually. I think maybe I developed sort of a thick skin or maybe even a cynicism about shows, and about how quality doesn't necessarily mean viewership. So I was very jumpy. I think we all were really excited about the script and we were all having a blast working together. I just knew from the pilot that to have it go the way that it's gone has just been the most bizarre pleasant surprise.

TWoP: Yeah, you've had bad luck on a couple TV shows. This one seems poised for a long run.
Burrell: Yeah, I've been lucky. I just feel very, very lucky.

TWoP: It seems like such a great cast. What's it like working on the set with all these different personalities?
Burrell: It's incredible, actually. It's funny, I've come to realize that every show says that they love working together, but at ours, we have a real, authentic affection for each other, and we are an odd little family off-camera. We just don't have a bad egg on set, and that's counting the writing staff and the directors. We've gotten really, really lucky as far as people just being really game; everybody's just kind of up for it, whatever it is. In the past, I feel like the main issue comes from just the basic resistance. If somebody is ever going to be a problem on set -- and that's not just necessarily the actors, it can really be anybody who's putting up resistance to the process -- and really, there's just nobody on set who's doing anything other than saying "yes" to whatever it is.

TWoP: How is it to suddenly have this big TV family with all these kids? Is working with them challenging? They seem like good actors.
Burrell: Oh, they're great actors. I think it's one of those rare shows where the kids carry scenes on their own. I don't know how often that happens. And they're all twice as experienced as we are. That's the most hilarious thing about kid actors; most of them started before they had any consciousness, and now they walk around telling you all the union rules, giving you sage and wise advice.

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