• Image about Ty Burrell

With the fall TV season getting under way this month, Ty Burrell returns as America’s favorite dopey dad, Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy. PLUS: which shows and stars we expect to break out this season.

PLAYING PHIL DUNPHY, the bumbling, endearing dad on ABC’s hugely successful sitcom Modern Family and one of the biggest breakout characters of last season, has at times been tough on actor Ty Burrell. Not mentally; in fact, more often than not, Phil’s exploits demonstrate an aversion to overthinking anything. But physically, Burrell has sustained occasional cuts and bruises from simulated family fun gone wrong, like an errant toy airplane hitting him in the face. Burrell, though, couldn’t be happier about it.

“This is literally the first time in my life I’ve had a job for more than one year,” admits the 43-year-old actor. “That includes waiting tables and weird construction jobs when I was younger. It’s crazy.” So why couldn’t he hold a job? What’s changed for him now? “I think it might be a combination of my lack of skill sets and also dumb luck by landing on this show,” he offers.

But luck is only part of the equation. Burrell has earned his success outright, working plenty of theater, film and television gigs over the past decade (even if most of them were short-lived). In addition to the ongoing work, though, the chance to do something different has also been fun for Burrell, who admits that aside from Modern Family, he’s often cast as a jerk. Cases in point: the lazy bon vivant he portrayed in the remake of the apocalyptic Dawn of the Dead; the smarmy reporter he plays in the forthcoming Morning Glory; and his charming but womanizing plastic surgeon on TV’s Out of Practice, a show that was co-created by Modern Family’s Christopher Lloyd. (“I’ve been able to benefit from Chris’ genius for a long time now,” he says.)

The typecasting did give Burrell pause. “I thought, ‘Am I a jerk?’ ” he recalls. “My mom was like, ‘Please don’t make any more of those movies. Please, just play a nice guy for once.’ She’s so happy about Modern Family.”