Tag Archives: Modern Family

Back to the Dogs (and Cats) for Busy Fred Willard

Fred Willard at Farm Sanctuary event 2011Fred Willard gets back into his “Best In Show” character of clueless commentator Buck Laughlin this weekend, when he and Jim Piddock – a.k.a. doggie show announcer Trevor Beckwith — will be chatting about the merits of celebrities’ pets on behalf of Actors and Others for Animals. The shtick will be part of the entertainment at the luncheon and show taking place at the Universal Hilton and Towers Ballroom in Universal City, California. Fred’s wife Mary is among the organizers of the Sept. 28 event.

“My wife has been very active in [Actors and Others for Animals] for several years. It’s a great group of people who really do a lot,” he says. “I see how much work goes into it. She’s working today.”

Willard is in the midst of a run of work activities himself — including the big screen “Anchorman 2” and a couple of upcoming episodes of “Modern Family,” in which he has the recurring role as the father of Phil (Ty Burrell).

“I don’t know what I’m going to be doing on it, but they’ve already contacted me,” he tells us. “You know, I was on the first season and then I didn’t do the second. I thought they forgot me. And then my wife and I were in Bora Bora, and I took a boat over to the main island, and I was on the dock waiting for the little tugboat to take me back when Steve Levitan’s wife walked by,” he recalls, referring to “Modern Family” creator/showrunner.

“She said, ‘Fred! How are you?’ We’re in Bora Bora. I said, ‘Oh, hi!’ She said, ‘Oh, I must go tell Steve you’re here.’ She left and then all of a sudden, Steve Levitan came over and said, ‘Fred, how are you?’ So we stood on this little Tahitian dock, talking. A few months later I got a call to be on the show. So you never know where you need to go to have a high profile.”

When last seen on “Modern Family,” his character’s wife had passed away and Phil and his friends were trying to hook him up with a single woman. “So I don’t know whether I’m going to have a romantic interest now or what,” says Fred, “but it’s a great show to be on.”

The gifted funnyman, whose gallery of rogues ranges from the dim lieutenant in “This is Spinal Tap” to the smarmy corporate president on “Wall-E,” returns as TV station director Edward “Ed” Harken in “Anchorman 2,” due in December.

“People have been talking about it for a year. And through much of that year people would say are you in ‘Anchorman 2,’ and I would have to say, ‘I just don’t know,'” Willard admits. “Finally I got a call that they wanted me in it. I went in and did a couple of days on it. I didn’t have as big a role as in the first one, because the group is off on a new adventure. They stop off to talk to me and want me to join them, and my character doesn’t want to join them. He discourages them and sends them on their way.”

Adds Willard, “I have to say it looks just as funny as the first one. You know, if half the people see it who seem to be interested in it, it should be a big hit. It was great. I worked with Steve Carell, and Paul Rudd and that whole gang, all being funny and silly.”

On top of that, Willard has been back in action for Pixar, voicing The Secretary of the Interior for a future flick in the “Cars” and “Planes” franchise.  So he gets to add being an animated vehicle to his list of career accomplishments. “I’m not sure what I’m going to be. Secretary of the Interior — I’ll probably be a van or something.”

Celebrating his birthday this month with a trip to Hawaii with Mary, Fred is in the midst of a happy time in his life.  It’s clearly a far, far better year this year than last, when he was arrested for a lewd act in an adult theater – an incident he has called deeply embarrassing, though ultimately, he was not charged. When the difference between summer of 2013 and 2012 is mentioned, he quickly moves on to another topic.  He seems to have put the incident behind him, and obviously, Hollywood continues to keep him busy.

Fred and Mary are involved in a number of causes and have been for years.  Since their grandson was treated at L.A.’s Children’s Hospital years ago, they’ve been supporters of the not-for-profit teaching institution.  Their ongoing charitable activities include the Boys and Girls Clubs, Farm Sanctuary, and the previously mentioned Actors and Others for Animals.  They’re all things that have to do with kids or animals, points out Willard, who gives Mary much of the credit for their involvement.

So right now it’s The Actors and Others for Animals event – for which tickets are available to the general public — in the forefront of their minds.  This brings up the softest of softball conversations — pets.

Fred and Mary have a cat.  He explains, “I’m actually a dog guy. I had one growing up and I just love them. I just don’t want to have one right now.”

The cat “started coming around our house. We think someone abandoned him. My wife started to feed him, and then one day she said, ‘Fred you might as well accept it, we have a cat.’  He’ll come and sit on my wife’s lap and watch television. He’s an indoor-outdoor cat, a pretty lucky cat.”

Fred is feeling like a pretty lucky cat himself these days.


John Benjamin Hickey: ‘The Big C’ to End Season With ‘Shockers’

John Benjamin Hickey Showtime photo

“The Big C” has its second season finale Monday (9/26) — with a third season already guaranteed for the acclaimed, risk-taking dramedy that stars Laura Linney as cancer patient Cathy.  They’re winding on a note of tragedy and of hope, with the latest episode (SPOILER — SKIP TO NEXT GRAPH IF YOU’VE YET TO SEE THE SEPT. 19 EPISODE) having included the death of Cathy’s beloved Lee (Hugh Dancy) and the return of her bipolar brother Shawn (John Benjamin Hickey). 

“I can’t say what’s coming at the end.  There are shockers,” Hickey tells us.  “And it’s too early to be meditating on what is in store for Cathy and her merry band of dysfunctional family members in Season 3.”  He does admit, however, that considering its weighty storylines, “There’s a real challenge ahead in the next year or two in keeping the funny.”

Hickey’s certainly had his share of laugh-inducing moments.  “It’s been such a blast to play a character as original and as unexpected as Shawn,” he says.  “I’ve heard from a lot of bipolar people and their families, and the thing I get so much is that they love that he’s a funny character.  His illness is very real and very, very serious and causes a lot of problems and concerns.  But this is a show that dares to have a sense of humor about disease and tries to find the funny in the human condition.” 

Hickey is also amused by the fact that “though it’s born out of his illness and instability, lot of what Shawn espouses — about veganism and environmental problems, for instance — isn’t so crazy after all.  He makes a lot of sense.  And he is weirdly, deeply moral.  In many ways, he’s a very conventional guy, but he’s got this wildly unconventional way he lives his life.  I love that contradictory aspect of him.

“As the series progresses, if we get to do a couple more years, I hope Shawn finds the right kind of medication that allows him to function and be the kind of brother he wants to be to his sister — who is his lifeline, his tether to the world.”

Hickey, as himself

Hickey still sounds surprised about having even made it through the season’s production — since he was performing eight shows a week on Broadway in The Normal Heart while shooting the Showtime series.

“It was a crazy confluence of events that made it the exact same time.  I’d be shooting all day, get in that van or train and get back, jump in the shower and then make it on stage by eight o’clock every night,” he recalls.  “Laura, who has known me forever, said, ‘You have no idea how your exhaustion is feeding you.’  There’s no time to think.  I believe there’s something to that — when you have less time to consider your options, you can only perform.”

Obviously, Hickey did something right, since he wound up winning a Tony for his work in the play this past June.  He should have been nominated for an Emmy as well.  Maybe next year.  In fact, the series warrants more Emmy love than it got — with no writing nods and nominee Linney going home empty-handed.

But Emmy night was certainly not a complete loss for Hickey, who was also on hand to cheer on his life partner, Jeffrey Richman.  Richman and Steve Levitan won writing Emmys for their “Caught in the Act” script for “Modern Family.”

“Emmys are so much bigger than Tonys.  I may have to put my Tony on a platform,” says the actor with a laugh.

Nick Zano: Sexy Scenes With Courteney Cox Arquette All in a Day’s Work

Nick Zano Photo Element Films

Nick Zano Photo Element Films

Ssssssssss.  That’s the sound of steam coming from the set of “Cougar Town” while filming was underway on episodes with Courteney Cox Arquette getting it on with her first “cub,” Nick Zano

The actor of “What I Like About You” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” fame describes his average day:  “You read what they put in there for you.  Usually, it involves being wet, a bathtub scene, or a bed scene.  So, I’d go into my trailer, open up my closet, see five pairs of boxers and a terrycloth robe.  So it would be, put on the boxers, put on my robe, walk over to the set, talk to the camera guys – ‘How was your weekend?’  The AD pulls back the sheet.  Courteney comes in.  Talk about her family.  ‘How’s David doing?  How’s Coco?’  She gets into the bed, I get on top of her and we start making out.”

And there you have it.  But wait.  Zano adds the mandatory advisory, “As much fun as it sounds, it’s also pressuring.  We can see maybe 14 people standing around, a group of big Teamsters text messaging while we’re fake making out.  And it’s very, very choreographed.  You have to remember how far up your shoulder goes, how high you can bring your head up.”   

 Zano’s storyline runs over six episodes, the funniest being next Wednesday’s (10/28), according to him, and in a couple more weeks, “There’s my last one.  It’s a big one.  It’s a doozey,” he says.

As for what he thinks of the whole “cougar” trend?  “As a former young man, I applaud it,” he says.  “I think guys could use a mature woman.  It’s truth. The woman teaching a younger man thing – that woman basically takes that young man to school.  He carries that with him when he dates younger women.”

FROM THE INSIDE LOOKING OUT:  Funny lady Julie Bowen, who with Ty Burrell heads the traditional nuclear family of ABC’s “Modern Family,” admits, “I’m always thinking everybody else has the great job.”  Referring to the comedy’s older man-younger woman match of Ed O’Neill and Sofia Vergara, and the couple played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet., she notes, “Theirs seem like bigger characters than ours in a lot of ways.  There’s such a rich mine of jokes for the gay couple and for Ed and Sofia.  And then, you know, Sofia has that body and that accent, and she says to me, ‘Don’t be jealous.’  I am jealous,” Bowen claims.

“But on the other hand, anyone who has a life filled with kids knows they’re the weirdest people,” she adds.  For instance, her own three sons – Oliver, 2 1/2, and six-month-old twins John and Gus.  “Right now, the older one is into a thing of making me stop the car and back up every time he sees certain Halloween decorations.  ‘Back up!  Back up!  Back up!’  That’s huge.  There’s a bloody dismembered arm.  Where is the other arm?  He’s two.  I can only imagine how it’s going to be in the years to come.”

 Bowen agrees with a critic who wrote that for all of its snap, “Modern Family” has a soft, sweet center.  “I didn’t want to say that at first, because I didn’t want people to think of it as sickeningly sweet.  But that’s what resonates.  The writers gave the show and the characters in it heart.  When we read our Christmas episode, Ty Burrell was weeping,” she says.  “I was choking up.  At the end of 22 minutes, it’s not just funny, it’s satisfying.”

 BACK TO THE BOARDS:  Kathleen Turner has been enjoying her time on television with a recurring guest spot on “Californication,” but she tells us that the stage is her first love and she plans to get back to it very soon.  “To be on Broadway was always my first dream.  When we finished the three-year run of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,’ that’s what I had been dreaming of for the 30 years I’ve been doing this work,” says Turner.  “Now I’ve been offered a new Broadway piece for next year, which I’m looking forward to.  I can’t talk about it, though, until we sign.” And so we wait!

LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD:  Hollywood’s leading actresses are expected to keep fit in order to look great on camera, but “Dexter” star Julie Benz says it’s one part of the job she doesn’t mind. “I do keep myself in the best shape as possible, but fitness has been a huge part of my life ever since I was a child.  I was a competitive figure skater growing up,” she tells us.  “It’s my stress reliever to go to the gym and work out.”  

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster