If playing Phil Dunphy is like being on vacation, then Ty Burrell doesn't want to leave.
"It's nice to be on vacation, right?" the Modern Family star tells TVGuide.com. "But that's what being Phil is — a vacation from my mind."
It was a holiday Burrell didn't know he needed until the part of the dopey, well-intentioned suburban dad came his way. The role was written with Burrell in mind by series creators Steve Levitan and Chris Lloyd, who previously worked with Burrell on the short-lived Back to You.
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"First, I was like, 'Cool! This is for me?' Then it was like, 'Wait, what are you trying to say?'" he says, laughing. "But I realized I was getting a break from myself. My brain is full of neuroses and I think about everything, but Phil's brain is the complete opposite. It's like a golden meadow — just peaceful, simple and happy. ... It's so fun and refreshing to play him. He's like a child exploring the world for the first time."
Phil's uncomplicated mind also explains his adolescentlike fascination with Gloria (Sofia Vergara), a running joke that culminates in Wednesday's season finale (9/8c on ABC) when the two head to a Los Angeles Lakers game (watch for a cameo by Kobe Bryant). And what's at basketball games? The Kiss Cam, of course.
"[The writers] went there and it works at this point as opposed to earlier in the season when you were getting to know them. What I love about [Phil] with Gloria is that there's nothing salacious about it," Burrell says. "He's kind of like a kid in the candy store when he sees her. He sees something shiny and must touch. He has no control over it. If he did, it would be a completely different show! But he's not someone who's ahead of the game. He doesn't think about the consequences."
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The consequence of this incident — as is the case with most of Phil's mishaps — is facing his harried, sometimes uptight wife Claire (Julie Bowen). "Claire has nothing to worry about because she knows Phil so well and that he's not going to act on anything," Burrell says. "And you see it in his reaction to the kiss that he really doesn't have an interest in Gloria."
Claire, meanwhile, is already preoccupied with another mission in the finale: taking a family photo dressed in white.
"As usual everything ends up going completely wrong, but in the end [everyone's] being good to each other and loving each other," Vergara says. "What it shows is what happens in reality. Even though you have problems and sometimes you hate each other, at the end of the day, a family really loves each other and wants the best for each other."
The premise and happy ending may seem basic after last week's big trip to Hawaii (which was filmed on location after this week's episode was in the can), but that's precisely what Burrell likes about it.
"I love that we don't feel the need to go all out on a big, 'very special' finale. It's not one of those shows. I think why the show works so well is because there's nothing extravagant about it," he says. "The show is relatable, just funny — and that's solely due to our writers ... [who've] kept it edgy and modern — pardon the pun — but also sweet and old-fashioned. I like the minimalism — it's simple almost like Phil! The finale is understated, but it hits all the right spots."
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Not everything is wrapped up neatly: There is a cliff-hanger involving the Dunphys' pesky loose step on the stairwell that has caused many a pratfall this season.
"Something drastic does happen to it. I think we're all waiting on the edge of our seats to see how it's going to be resolved!" Burrell says with a laugh. "Claire wants Phil to fix it, but I don't think he should. He could barely get his sunglasses and make it out of the garage in one piece. How is he doing to fix a step? He'll get distracted by the tools — until Gloria comes in."