Matt LeBlanc turned down the role of Phil Dunphy on Modern Family after getting the feeling the role was written with a different actor, Ty Burrell, in mind.
The NBC hit Modern Family began its 11 season run in 2009, but the diverse clan at the center of the show almost had a very different look. Matt LeBlanc, famous for his role as Joey Tribbiani on Friends, said in an interview with USA Today that he was offered the part of Phil Dunphy on Modern Family back in 2009, but declined the role because he felt it was not right for him. According to the show’s producers, LeBlanc was right.
Network executives at NBC, the place where Friends found a decade of massive success, wanted Matt LeBlanc to join Modern Family, but the show’s producers intended the part for Ty Burrell. A script came to LeBlanc in 2009, and he loved it. However, he could sense that the part he was being asked to play was meant for someone else, and he felt his involvement would hurt the project.
The offer came about six years after the series finale of Friends. Matt LeBlanc continued his role as Joey Tribbiani for two seasons of the spinoff show Joey, which ended in 2006, before entering a long career gap that Modern Family could have closed. “I’d be doing the project an injustice to take this,” recalled LeBlanc. “I know what I can do, I know what I can’t do. Plus, I’m having too much fun laying on the couch.”
“I’d be doing the project an injustice to take this, I know what I can do, I know what I can’t do. Plus, I’m having too much fun laying on the couch.”Matt LeBlanc on turning down the role of Phil Dunphy
After Matt LeBlanc turned down the Modern Family part, the role went to Ty Burrell, and the rest is history as Burrell joined co-stars Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and more for 11 seasons of sitcom glory. Modern Family went on to win 22 Primetime Emmy Awards out of 80 nominations, among a host of other awards across its 11 years on the air. The mockumentary style show continues to live on through streaming, and is available on Hulu, Disney+, and Peacock.
Had Matt LeBlanc taken the part on Modern Family, he would have reunited with actor Ed O’Neill following LeBlanc’s guest appearance alongside O’Neill in the fifth season of Married… With Children. In the early 1990s, LeBlanc appeared on that show as Vinnie Verducci to date Kelly, the daughter of O’Neill’s character, Al. LeBlanc then reprised the role of Vinnie in the short-lived spinoff show Top of the Heap.
Turning down the role of Phil was not the end of Matt LeBlanc’s involvement with Modern Family. In 2012, the cast of Modern Family sued 20th Century Fox over a salary dispute, and star Jesse Tyler Ferguson contacted LeBlanc for advice. LeBlanc and the cast of Friends had a similar dispute during the run of their hit show, and LeBlanc was happy to offer wisdom.
Matt LeBlanc told the Modern Family star that the only way to be taken seriously was to walk out, and that the cast must stick together in order to have power. The cast took LeBlanc’s advice, only for Ferguson to be hit with a joke from the Friends star. “Hey, I killed it as Mitch today at the table read,” LeBlanc texted Ferguson, “thanks for the opportunity!”
Since Matt LeBlanc declined the role in Modern Family, he has starred in five seasons of the Showtime original series Episodes, and in four seasons of the CBS comedy Man With a Plan. He also executive produced Friends: The Reunion, which was released on HBO Max in 2021 and reunited the original cast of Friends for a retrospective on the series. Since then, LeBlanc has expressed that he is once again taking a hiatus from acting, with no immediate plans to return to the spotlight.