'Modern Family': Ty Burrell Almost Quit Acting Right Before Landing a Role on the ABC Sitcom

Believe it or not, actor Ty Burrell almost didn’t grace our television screens as the lovable and hilarious Phil Dunphy on ABC’s Modern Family. Before landing the Emmy-winning role, Burrell didn’t know if he could continue on in the industry and was pretty close to throwing in the towel before landing a lead role on the hit ABC sitcom.

Ty Burrell almost quit acting altogether

Before landing the role of Phil Dunphy on ABC’s Modern Family, Burrell was just like every other actor in Hollywood trying to make it big in show business.

Though he had landed guest and supporting roles in television shows and movies, many of those parts were short-lived, which resulted in Burrell regularly auditioning for projects.

By the late 2000s, Burrell had become so fed up with auditioning that he considered quitting acting altogether.

“It was actually right before Modern Family that I thought about [giving up],” the actor told Glamour magazine in 2012.

Burell explained that going on audition after audition had started to take a toll on him, and he had gotten to a point where he didn’t know if he had it in him to keep pushing forward.

“That winter before [Modern Family‘s] pilot season, my wife and I were talking seriously about how or if I could do something else,” the actor shared. “Auditioning was just getting the better of me. I had used up all my toughness getting to 40 and auditioning. You go on five or six auditions a week, and most of them are all rejections. My wife got out early on. She still loves performing, but the business is so weird and hard. I was in a similar boat where I didn’t know if I could keep it up.”

Ty Burrell became one of TV’s most beloved dads playing Phil Dunphy on ‘Modern Family’

Luckily for Burrell, not long after he contemplated quitting acting, he was cast in Modern Family as Phil Dunphy, the fun-loving, cheerleading, upbeat realtor patriarch of the Dunphy family. 

According to the show’s creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, they had written Phil Dunphy for Burrell because they appreciated his ongoing determination.

“We wrote Phil for Ty because there’s something about the fact that this guy is unrelentingly nice, never stops trying, and is a big kid,” Levitan told Marc Freeman, who wrote the book Modern Family, The Untold Oral History of One of Television’s Ground­breaking Sitcoms, per Entertainment Weekly. “All of that applies to Ty.”

“We knew him to be an extremely inventive and funny actor who hadn’t been properly exploited yet by Hollywood,” Lloyd said. “We thought, ‘This guy is waiting to be a star.’”

After the premiere episode of Modern Family aired in September 2009, Phil Dunphy quickly became a fan-favorite character.

Over the next 11 years, Burrell brought in plenty of light-hearted laughs, making him one of TV’s most beloved dads. He has even been awarded for his incomparable character.

Throughout Modern Family’s run on ABC, Burrell has earned several accolades for his portrayal of Phil Dunphy, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2011 and 2014 as well as five Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Although the show ended in April 2020, Burrell will always be Phil Dunphy to us, and with Modern Family currently on streaming services, we can still watch his hilarious antics and commentary whenever we’re in need of a good laugh.

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