ASHLAND, OREGON – Ty Burrell, more commonly known as the lovable dad Phil Dunphy from Modern Family, filled the Ashland Armory Saturday night with a discussion focusing on the actor’s upbringing and career. The Armory was so filled, in fact, that this writer was only able to enter the Armory thanks to a young man named Broderick giving away his extra tickets. Thank you, Broderick.
However, it is no surprise that there was such a demand to see Ty Burrell. Not only was the actor raised in the Rogue Valley, but he’s starred in several blockbuster films such as Black Hawk Down, The Incredible Hulk, Dawn of the Dead, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Burrell graduated from Southern Oregon University, and shared the main stage with his childhood friend and SOU’s Professor Miles Inada.
“Um, I know everyone here,” opened Ty Burrell, who recognized many audience members from his childhood. “This is like a beautiful hallucination”. Burrell and Inada talked about the experience of growing up in a small community like Applegate, where Burrell’s parents owned the Applegate Store. They recounted playing soccer and football growing up, which Burrell drew parallels to. “That’s why sports people hate theatre people. They’re the same thing,” said Burrell. “You try out, you practice, you learn the plays, you improvise, and the coach or director screams at you.
During his time at SOU, Burrell worked as a bartender for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which helped fuel his passion for acting. When asked about his career prior to acting, Burrell laughed. “There were very charitable people who kept me employed.” Burrell revealed that the main reason he pursued a Masters degree was to escape the fear of having to audition for real work. “I’m not a confident person,” said the Emmy award winning actor.
A large part of the evening was devoted to discussing Burrell’s most famous role, Phil Dunphy on Modern Family. Burrell thoroughly enjoys the character. “How can I go to work playing such a good-natured person and feel anything but great?” he said. When one audience member asked if he connected with Phil Dunphy, Burrell responded, “Sadly, yes. You can’t play oblivious unless you’re used to people telling you what you missed.”
Towards the end of the discussion, Miles Inada noted that despite becoming famous, Ty Burrell has remained eerily, completely unchanged. Burrell’s humility and pleasantness seems to indicate this is no exaggeration.
Ty Burrell is not an especially funny man. He’s sorry about that. “I don’t want to let anyone down here,” he says with a rueful grin. “When you get on a comedy show, people assume you’re a comedian. I’d say I’m more of a comedy nerd.”
He certainly looks the part, wearing geek-chic glasses, with thick, square frames. Add to that a decidedly thoughtful demeanour, and the resemblance between Burrell and the character that made him famous – Modern Family’s farcical “cool dad”, Phil Dunphy – soon begins to fade.
And yet, as Burrell fusses around me in the Los Angeles hotel suite where we have met, administering to every social nicety expected of a host putting a guest at ease, it becomes clear that, like Dunphy, he is a man who genuinely cares about people. And like his well-meaning but disaster-prone character, he’s also upbeat, amiable, and so nice it knocks you sideways. He’s just not stupid. Dunphy, on the other hand, has a Tumblr account dedicated to his “Phil’s-osophies” – “Dance until your feet hurt. Sing until your lungs hurt. Act until you’re William Hurt.”
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. From the balcony of his room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Ty Burrell can see two young girls darting across the traffic-filled Wilshire Boulevard. His attention is drawn away from talking about his work in “Muppets Most Wanted” until it’s clear they’ve safely crossed the street.
It’s that paternal instinct that drives Burrell’s life these days. Not only is he the father to two girls, but also he stars in the top network TV comedy “Modern Family.” And his latest work includes the family-friendly Muppets movie and the voice of the talking dog inventor in the animated “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.”
In “Muppets Most Wanted,” Burrell plays a French detective who tries to unravel the mystery behind a series of break-ins at museums that happen to be at the same location where the Muppets are performing.
Even Burrell’s connection to the Muppets is a family matter.
Dalton Ross talks to Ty Burrell about his animated film ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ and what it’s like to do voiceover work. He’ll also talk about his upcoming film ‘The Muppets Most Wanted’ and his mustache!