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Modern Family's Saddest Episode Featured A Heartbreaking Prediction

Sitcoms might be all about the laughs, but they're certainly not immune to occasional heart-wrenching moments. "Modern Family" is no exception, especially in Season 11, Episode 11 ("Legacy").

Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) is concerned that his father, Frank (Fred Willard), isn't well after he's spotted wandering around the grocery store. Though Phil desperately wants to bring up the subject to Frank, they keep getting sidetracked. Still, they end up spending an enjoyable day together, which concludes with Phil giving his dad a haircut, and Frank telling his son that he's proud of him. Sadly, Phil reveals at the end of the episode that, shortly after their outing, his dad passed away: "We didn't do much that day, but it might've been one of the best days I've ever had with my dad. I just didn't know it would be the last."

The storyline of this episode, which aired on January 15, 2020, ended up serving as a devastating foreshadowing. On May 15 of that same year, Willard died at the age of 86. "Legacy" marks the final moment between Phil and Frank, but also Burrell and Willard.

Ty Burrell enjoyed working with Fred Willard

Following the death of Fred Willard, Ty Burrell paid tribute (via People) to his on-screen father and longtime idol. From the moment Burrell saw Willard in "Spinal Tap," he was a fan. Therefore, the chance to work alongside him in "Back to You," followed by "Modern Family," was a massive thrill.

Burrell learned much about Willard's acting methods and personality, including his quiet demeanor and knack for tossing out impromptu comedic ideas on set. He said, "When Fred came in after 15 takes with something totally new and genuinely hilarious, it would bring the whole scene back to life. I really tried to emulate that."

After filming wrapped up for "Modern Family" Season 11, Episode 11 ("Legacy"), both Burrell and Willard seemed to sense that they might not be working together again. "I tried my best to explain to him what he meant to me, and how much he had influenced me. I fumbled over it for a while," said Burrell. "He was very quiet and took it all in and just said, 'Thanks.' And that was it. And then he said, 'I'll see you on the next one.'" According to Burrell, Willard said this with a wink because he knew there wouldn't be a next one.