Ty Burrell Is A Talking Dog [source: TV.com]
You may recognize Ty Burrell’s face from any number of his movie credits — The Incredible Hulk, Dawn of the Dead, National Treasure: Book of Secrets — but he’s really caught our eye as the bumbling Phil Dunphy on ABC’s hysterical new comedy Modern Family. Ty took some time off the set to chat with TV.com about his character and the show.
TV.com: Break down your character, Phil Dunphy, for us.
Ty Burrell: Luckily he doesn’t require a lot of psychological complexity. The easiest description of Phil is he’s a dog that can talk. He’s just this incredibly well-intentioned guy and he means so well, he’s so eager to please, and he’s so loyal, but he has no idea [what's going on] — the level of obliviousness is so much fun to play.
What is it about Modern Family that has made the show so easy for the audience to connect to?
Primarily it has to do with a warmth that the creators have built into it. They wrote a smart, sophisticated single-camera show that manages to bring people [in]. A lot of single-camera shows have been very smart and I’ve loved them, but they’ve kept a certain part of the audience at arm’s length because it’s hard to get past the irony and snarkiness. The genius of [creators Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan] is that they have built these three families that really love each other even though they’re constantly teetering on the brink of catastrophe.
I think the child actors do a splendid job on the show, which is part of what makes Modern Family work so well. Kids can make or break a family sitcom.
It’s totally true. It’s an under-appreciated aspect of all sitcoms, but I hope these guys get the attention they deserve because they’re uniformly great actors and really fun to be around. I would argue they are the funniest people on the show. It’s been really eye-opening for me, because I haven’t worked with kids this much. To be honest, they’re much more experienced in the profession. They’re all telling me union rules. I basically just know where to stand and talk.
There were rumors that your pal Ed Norton is making a guest appearance.
He is going to be on the show, we filmed it two weeks ago. He plays this former bassist for Spandau Ballet, but he tours by himself to make money, and all he does is play the bassline and sing background vocals.
Ed O’Neill is fantastic on the show. Is this his comeback role?
The thing about Ed is that what [Married with Children] did for him was gave him opportunity to turn down other work. We see a lot of people take work because we need to pay bills. If we haven’t seen Ed much, it’s because he doesn’t have to take anything he doesn’t want. He’s done the stuff he has been doing, the David Milch and David Mamet stuff, it’s really stellar work. He’s such a good actor. On the show, I love the relationship with Phil and Jay. He’s the perfect patriarch for this family because he’s so grounded and his performance is so grounded. It’s a great thing because there’s a range of personalities in the families, from bigger personalities to more demure personalities, and I think he grounds the show perfectly.
Can you sum up the difference between Phil and his wife Claire’s parenting styles?
Claire has a parenting style. That’s the difference.