Interview Date: 08/01/2010
Run Date: 09/22/2010
Ty Burrell is a busy man, thanks to his success as part of the ensemble of ABC’s “Modern Family,” but during ABC’s all-star party at the summer TCA tour, he was able to spare a few minutes to chat with me about that series as well as the show that brought him into Steve Levitan / Christopher Lloyd camp, “Back to You.” Burrell had actually been on site earlier in the day as a participant in a “Modern Family”-sponsored coffee hour, but as it proved impossible to get one-on-one interviews with any of the cast at that time, I figured it was best to wait until later in the evening.
Ty Burrell: Hey, how are you?
Bullz-Eye: I’m good. Good to meet you!
TB: You, too!
BE: Did you enjoy your coffee break today?
TB: (Laughs) I did, yeah! It was much better than a panel.
BE: And more informal, to say the least.
TB: Did you guys like that?
BE: Well, it makes it a little easier for access, but there’s a lot of stepping on everybody’s toes in a crowded situation like that.
TB: Well, that’s true.
BE: So how psyched were you for “Modern Family” to have turned into such a hit right out of the box?
TB: Incredibly psyched. I feel so lucky just to be involved. It’s been incredible. I mean, it’s felt really surreal. And then to get nominated for the Emmys…? It’s felt like a dream, essentially.
BE: And don’t forget winning a TCA Award, too.
TB: (Laughs) Hey, but we were actually very, very proud to get that award.
BE: What were some of your favorite episodes of the first season?
TB: Oh, gosh, so many. I loved “Up All Night,” which Chris Lloyd wrote, about my kidney stone. I loved the airplane episode. I loved the Valentine’s episode.
BE: Oh, man, my wife and I laughed really hard at that one.
TB: You and me, both.
BE: When you guys did the episode where Phil’s chomping at the bit to get an iPad, a lot of critics came out and said, “Oh, man, they’re just shilling for Apple.” Did it feel that way to you?
TB: No! Not while we were doing it, anyway. When I looked back on it later, though, I though, “Oh, I see how that looked like a commercial.” But when we were doing it, no, it seemed…we didn’t have any arrangement set up, so I never thought twice about it. It was just a storyline. But, you know, later on, I thought, “Oh, yeah, that did look like that…”
BE: How quickly did the chemistry come together with you, Julie (Bowen), and the kids?
TB: Very, very quickly. Julie and I hit it off right away. She’s just a good egg, you know? And then the kids are all just great. I mean, the kids are total pros. They’ve been around, they’ve been in the business longer than I have, so…it was a very fast, fun situation. When we first started working on the show, we all came together very fast.
BE: So how goes Season 2? Have you started work yet?
TB: We start tomorrow morning. This week’s episode is called “Earthquake,” and it’s basically…well, an earthquake happens, and all three families don’t handle it well. And that’s it. (Laughs) That’s all we know so far. We won’t get the next script ‘til next week.
BE: So is there any talk of guest stars yet, then?
TB: Yes, Nathan Lane is guest starring as Pepper. He’s our first guest star. Pepper is a friend of Mitch and Cam’s who throws these sort of legendary brunches.
BE: I have to tell you that, with your last sitcom, “Back to You,” I was pretty well sold on the pilot thanks to your performance.
TB: Oh, wow!
BE: Yeah, the scene when you’re out covering the weather was awesome. How was the experience for you?
TB: I loved it.
BE: It sounds like it was a last-second decision to not give the show a second season.
TB: Yeah, and I was disappointed that it ended, obviously, because it was so much fun. But while it lasted, it was great. I mean, I just loved working with Chris and Steve. I feel really lucky to have kind of hitched my wagon to those guys, so it’s been a pleasure from the beginning.
BE: Do you have a project that you’ve worked on over the years that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?TB: Hmmm. I think maybe it’d be “Fur,” a movie that I made in 2004, I think, that I thought was a really beautiful film. But for whatever reason, it never really caught on. It’s about Diane Arbus, the photographer, and about her life, basically. Nicole Kidman played her, and I played her husband, and Robert Downey, Jr. played one of her photography subjects, who she falls in love with. I thought it was a really interesting, cool movie.