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April 16, 2014

Fred Willard Picks Who Should Play His TV Wife on 'Modern Family'

by Gabrielle Dunn, posted Jun 15th 2010 3:30PM
Fred WillardOn 'Modern Family,' the Dunphy grandfather -- first shown on Skype talking to his son Phil's family -- is played by Fred Willard, a veteran actor with a career spanning five decades.

Willard finally got to spend time with his TV family in person in a recent 'Modern Family' episode where Grandpa Dunphy rolled up in his camper and cried over potentially losing his canine BFF.

Willard talked to AOL TV Squad about improvising on set, whom he'd want to play his TV wife and some scenarios for the return of Frank Dunphy next season.

Was there any improvising going on on the 'Modern Family' set or was it all scripted?
Yes, quite a bit. They seem to want to do that. I was aware of that and the first scene I did, I was only on about a minute or two. I was on the Skype talking to the family and we did it over and over. They'd want me to do different things. It was 7 o'clock in the morning and I look back and think, "I don't know how I did this." We did it for about an hour and a half. The second time I came in, I was expecting that, so after the first two takes where we stay on the script, we start ad-libbing and we get looser and looser and after about the fifth take, they said, "Okay, now let's just go for it." And I said, "Well, gee. I thought we were going for it." And what they do is, they get the set stuff a couple of times and then they get a little bit of what you've added. And then the last take, a lot of times you just go off on a tangent and 75 percent of it they can't use. But if they can find a line or two in there, they stick it into what's set, then it's kind of gold.

Modern FamilyThey haven't shown Phil's mom yet. Who would you want to play your TV wife?
[laughs] Let me come on down the line. I'm kind of a cynical actor. I had a feeling they just used me, they'll use Phil's dad and see if he doesn't work out, then we'll bring in Phil's mom and see if that works. They seem to like my character because they had me in twice and then they asked for a photo they could hang in the hallways so I'd be part of the family. I think if it goes well, maybe they'll bring me in for a storyline with Phil's mom. I thought maybe Jennifer Coolidge would be great. Catherine O'Hara. And something I also thought would be a great plot point if I separated from my wife, maybe I'd get together with Shelley Long, who made a great appearance on the show. I know Shelley. We've been friends for a long time and I think she's just great and it'd be great if we met and sparked a little romance. I'd take her away in my camper.

The show's definitely going to have you back, right?
I assume so, yeah. They didn't send me a note saying, "Thanks so much and we'll see you on the next project." They said, "You know, send us a photo. We'll hang it in the hallway because you're part of the family." So maybe the family can come to Disney World in Florida because I think that's where I am supposed to live.

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