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An Improvisation From Ty Burrell Became A Running Joke On Modern Family

With its sizeable main ensemble cast and a host of supporting players, "Modern Family" produced a fair amount of fan-favorite characters during its time on TV. One of the most beloved is Ty Burrell's Phil Dunphy: the often oblivious yet well-intentioned patriarch of the Dunphy family. Burrell does an excellent job bringing the material written for the character to life throughout the series. In doing so, he even manages to use his improv skills here and there, which led to a one-off moment becoming a running gag on the program.

Every now and again, the expert realtor Phil Dunphy finds himself at odds with his own home — specifically one of his stairs. He periodically trips on it, and upon doing so, says to himself, "Gotta fix that step." It turns out that the first time he stumbled and muttered this to himself, it was entirely off the cuff. Instead of this moment standing as a one-off that gave viewers and crew members alike a good laugh, the gag stuck around and became a recurring joke across the small screen run of "Modern Family" (via Cheat Sheet).

This is just one example of Ty Burrell's comedic brilliance in the role of Phil Dunphy — a character he very nearly never got the chance to play.

Despite his comedic skill, executives didn't think Burrell was a good fit for Phil

These days, it's hard not to look at Ty Burrell and immediately think of Phil Dunphy. He absolutely nailed that balance of loving father and over-the-top goofball, making him a consistent highlight of "Modern Family." Of course, it helped that even in the show's earliest stages, the minds behind it had Burrell in mind when crafting the Phil character. "We wrote the part of Phil for Ty Burrell, and we went to the network and said, 'We want Ty Burrell for this,'" revealed series co-creator and showrunner Steve Levitan, sharing that, surprisingly, network executives weren't keen on Burrell.

According to Levitan, the folks at ABC wanted to see Phil with more of an edge than Burrell could and ultimately would deliver. Burrell would also chime in on this topic, saying, "I got word that it was basically over. They're not finding you appealing, charming, funny. Basic things about you personally that they don't like." In a last-ditch effort to get Burrell on the show, he and Levitan filmed a comedy sketch based on Levitan's life that featured a dad accidentally hitting his son with a BB gun. The hilarious scene proved to be all the powers that be needed to change their tune (via Vulture).

Ultimately, Ty Burrell would turn Phil Dunphy into one of the greatest TV dads of all time, winning numerous awards and accolades, proving all of his doubters wrong, and putting his improv skills to good use in the process.