• Image about Ty Burrell

Nice, Phil certainly is. But he’s also decidedly imperfect, often wanting to be more of a friend to his three children than a parent. “[Co-creator] Steve Levitan based a little bit of Phil on himself, and I think he’s kind of having a laugh at his own expense,” Burrell explains. “I do think that has become a part of the way people parent: ‘If my kid is going to be into skateboarding, I’m going to be into skateboarding.’ That definitely was not, at least in my experience growing up, what dads were trying to do. My dad was an artist, essentially, and it was like pulling teeth to get him to throw a football with us. [His school of thought was,] ‘We’re grown-ups. We’re doing grown-up things.’ It’s so funny that now it’s gone completely the other way.”

Outside of his acting work, Burrell is involved with the Grand Canyon Trust (cofounded in 1985 by the father of his friend Edward Norton), which works to protect the Colorado Plateau public lands. The project became a passion for Burrell after he and his wife moved to Utah two years ago. “We just love the land,” he says. “They’ve done a tremendous amount of work protecting the landscape both physically and culturally and actually protecting the water that ultimately ends up in Los Angeles. I don’t think people know that, but the rest of the basin states are benefiting from the Grand Canyon Trust’s work to keep uranium out of the Colorado River.”

While environmental preservation is a goal much loftier than those on his character’s agenda, Burrell says that’s actually a nice reprieve. “At first I felt like I was extremely close to Phil, like I rolled out of bed and stepped into the part,” he says. “But the more I play him, the more I actually feel like it’s kind of a break to play Phil. He has such a serene, simple mind. I get so excited to go to work because I get to actually shut down these bees buzzing in my brain to play this guy whose mind is essentially like a fish brain. Something shiny flashes in front of Phil, and he just goes after it.”