AIFF Presents a Conversation With Ty Burrell

photo via
photo via

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.

You can see Ty Burrell in Modern Family on ABC and in Mr. Peabody and Sherman, playing in theaters now.