Though he considers himself a late bloomer as an actor, having landed his first major role in the 2001 film "Evolution," "Modern Family" star Ty Burrell says he's been preparing to play "Family" man Phil Dunphy for most of his life -- sort of.
"I grew up in a family that really spent a great deal of energy trying to make each other laugh and telling stories and playing characters and improvising," Burrell says, "so it was the most natural thing in the world to me right from the beginning. My dad and his brother would improvise at dinner and stuff, and it just would make us giddy. So my brother and I started improvising when we were really young. I've told my brother this many times -- I felt like I've been practicing for this since I was 8 or 9 years old."
But, Burrell says, while he feels most comfortable in comic roles, it took a while to convince casting directors he really is a funny guy.
"For whatever reason, in my initial casting as an actor -- and I always attribute it to my raccoon eyes and Franken-brow -- there was a natural tendency to cast me as the bad guy. The brief experience of my face on casting folks early on was I would come in and read a villain part, and I think maybe on first glance I looked that part. That's how I made my living. And I am extremely grateful for those parts -- they paid the bills for a long time. But I'm really, really grateful to play somebody well intended."
In fact, the role of Phil -- the happy, oblivious real estate agent and father of three -- was written with Burrell in mind by series creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, who worked with Burrell on 2007's"Back to You."
And Burrell's been tickled to let a little Phil seep back into him.
"The thing that I really love about Phil is that he has such an incredible heart," he says. "There is a real sense that Phil just really cares. And I think he really knows how good he's got it. He is so grateful for Claire and for his kids, and that is truly the greatest pleasure to be able to perform. It's an energizing thing and a really great way to roll out of bed and get ready for my day."
Celebrity Scoop: Ty Burrell