Ty Burrell on ‘Modern Family’ and Getting Hit in the Head With an Airplane

October 28, 2009 by
Filed under: Actors 

AOL TV blog has an interview with Ty Burrell, who plays Phil Dunphy the “cool dad” on ABC’s breakout comedy ‘Modern Family’. Here are some parts of the interview:

This is the third show you’ve done with Christopher Lloyd. What do you think is working this time?
I think that there’s something — if I must be so pretentious to use this word — something in the zeitgeist of this style of show. I just don’t think we’ve seen a family comedy sprung this way. Chris and Steve [are] getting to write jokes that don’t have quite as much pressure on the punchline. But I also think … that they built this incredible machine — a structure to the show of the three families. It’s so open-ended and so infinite as far as having possibilities for storylines without exhausting them or having the well run dry. Each storyline ends of being five or six minutes apiece per show, and it’s a perfect construct in the age of the Internet and five-minute videos. For [Chris and Steve], the funny part isn’t the issue. The real stroke of genius, and I just bow down to their ability, is how they built the vehicle of the show. These folks love each other even though they’re constantly messing up or stepping on each other or hurting each other’s feelings. It’s not so snarky that it keeps you at arm’s length.

The mockumentary format is popular these days with shows like ‘The Office’ and ‘Parks and Recreation.’ What about this style has been hardest for you as an actor?
I would say you have to pace yourself in a way. ['Modern Family'] is a very drawn-out process. The preparation at night has been really learning how to get your sleep, how to get my rest and prepare properly so that you’re basically ready every day. The cool thing about the form, if you have some ideas, you can throw it on the wall and see if it sticks. I don’t want to lose that spirit and I think that’s one of those things that’s made me want to come in prepared every day so I have the energy to want to add things and not just getting into a place where you’re punching a clock. Luckily, I’m playing a guy who is so well intended and such a positive force while he’s wreaking havoc.

Shelley Long was fantastic.
Yeah, she was amazing. We have an episode with Elizabeth Banks and Edward Norton and they’re both hilarious in it.

How was that plane flying into your nose simulated?
[laughs]. Well it was me out there hamming it up with nothing, and then they brought in the plane and flew it into a green-screen head. So, believe it or not, it was a blast. I’d stayed up the night before practicing my falls on my bed like an eight-year-old boy. It’s the pure essence of why this job is so good — a 48-year-old man bouncing on my bed at one in the morning.

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