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Why Friends' Matt LeBlanc Turned Down Playing Modern Family's Phil Dunphy

joey shocked on friends

On both the big and small screen, there have been tons of iconic characters that could have easily ended up being portrayed by completely different actors. And in the case of ABC's long-standing hit Modern Family, it turns out that current Episodes and Man with a Plan star Matt LeBlanc could have turned Phil Dunphy into his first major TV role after playing Joey Tribbiani across ten seasons of Friends and two seasons of the spinoff Joey. Here's the reason why he passed on the part that Ty Burrell eventually won Emmys for.

[The Modern Family pilot script] came across my desk with an offer to play Ty Burrell's role. I remember reading it thinking, this is a really good script, (but) I'm not the guy for this. 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.

Joey would be so disappointed that Matt LeBlanc was laying on the couch and not relaxing in something more along the lines of a La-Z Boy recliner, possibly while Baywatch is on. But more to the point, Joey would also be disappointed in LeBlanc down any acting jobs, especially on hit shows like Modern Family (or Days of Our Lives, for Drake Ramoray fans). However, the real-life actor has something going for him that his ladies man Friends character did not: a sense of his own strengths and quasi-weaknesses.

While we're not going to make any solo assumptions about the kinds of performances that Matt LeBlanc might not excel at as well as others, it's certainly hard to see him within the role of Phil Dunphy after so many years of watching Ty Burrell's magnificent awkwardness. And even without all those performances to look back on, the kind of "goofy" that LeBlanc is good at is shaded quite differently from how Burrell portrays Phil. That said, I have little trouble believing that Joey would be responsible for having children like Haley and Luke.

That's not Matt LeBlanc's only tie to Modern Family, either, as he also told USA Today that he'd offered star Jesse Tyler Ferguson advice back in 2012 when the comedy's ensemble cast was stuck in contract negotiations. Having been a part of some major contract talks himself back in the Friends days, LeBlanc advised Ferguson that the casting sticking together would be what made them prevail. And here we are, five years later, and the show is still kicking.

Without Matt LeBlanc on board, Modern Family will return to ABC for Season 9 on Wednesday, September 27, at 8:00 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, you can catch Matt LeBlanc Sunday nights on Showtime for Episodes, while CBS' Man with a Plan will be back for Season 2 at an undetermined point. Meanwhile, head to our summer premiere schedule and our fall TV schedule to see what else is hitting the small screen soon.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.