Modern Family is back, as we discover how the Pritchetts and the Dunphys are dealing with the news of Gloria’s pregnancy, which was revealed at the end of the last series. Ty Burrell, who plays the hapless but well-meaning Phil Dunphy, talks to TV Choice about the hilarious, award-winning mockumentary, now in its fourth season.
In Modern Family, Claire and Phil Dunphy have been married for 19 years. Do you and Julie Bowen have that chemistry, or like a marriage is it something you have to keep working at?
Yeah. It’s funny, because I haven’t had a long track record of being on shows that keep going. So this has been an incredible luxury and an incredible learning experience. It’s really funny how much of a family you become. I don’t really know what the word is, but in sports you can’t put a team together on paper, it just somehow happens, and Julie and I got really lucky that we like each other. I love working with her. It’s not completely effortless, but from the beginning Julie has been an easy person to work with, and that’s an everyday thing, so it does become like a version of a marriage. She’s just a lot of fun, and more than anything, she’s just totally game.
Have you noticed whether you get recognised in the street more often since Modern Family, and how have you coped?
I would put it at 99 per cent good, and I’m very lucky because my character is such a positive person. I honestly thinkthat whatever your character is, you get that energy reflected back at you to a degree. I don’t think it's a black and white thing, but in general you do get some of the energy back, and I’m very lucky. The people that have come up to me are working on the assumption that those character traits are there. So I’m under a lot of pressure to be extremely positive and then fall over something. I’ve really enjoyed that; people approach you with a lot of kindness. Having kids, that part has been... Not negative, but that’s a little bit more of a challenge because I’d like for them to decide on their own if they want to be in the public eye. That’s not something that I want to decide for them. So that’s one of those things that has taken a little bit more managing.
Before Modern Family came along, weren’t you considering quitting acting? What was your plan B?
Oh that’s kind of funny - I really had no plan B, and I’m not burdened with another skill set. It really is a big part of why I continue to do it. I was really thinking more about stopping the steady flow of rejections. I guess I was 41, and the day-to-day life of auditioning is that sort of Gatling gun of 'No's, and you’re really putting yourself out there every day emotionally. For someone as soft as cotton candy, as I am, it takes a toll, and I had been doing it for about 20 years. It was like, ‘Gosh, I don’t know if I can handle it anymore.’ Luckily for me, I literally cannot do a single thing else. So I had no choice. Everywhere I looked it was, ‘Can’t do that. Oh I can’t do that either.’ I got lucky. I made the right decision by default.
Do you know anyone like Phil Dunphy? Did you base him on anyone?
Yes, a couple of people who will remain nameless. I have since met a lot of people that I like to take from. I’m really happy to find that his personality type exists in the real world. I do know of a few people, and met a few people before Modern Family started who were very positive, very loving, and a little bit unaware of their space in the room, or that certain jokes weren’t landing, but in the way that you can’t help but still like them. It’s not them doing it at somebody else’s expense. The only person coming off horribly is them, and I certainly know some of those people. And I guess probably I should be somewhat circumspect and realise that I’m sure that I’m like that. Some of that has to be based on myself, too.