LOS ANGELES — Matt LeBlanc was offered a lead role in ABC's hit Modern Family, but he turned it down, fearing it was a bad fit and had probably been written with someone else in mind. It was: Producers were set on Ty Burrell, who perfectly embodies rubber-faced real-estate broker Phil Dunphy but had met resistance from ABC brass.
LeBlanc could have reunited with Ed O'Neill, who plays family patriarch Jay Pritchett: One of LeBlanc's early roles was on Fox's short-lived spinoff Top of the Heap, after a guest role on Married ... With Children as Kelly Bundy's dim boyfriend, Vinnie Verducci. (Joseph Bologna, who died this week, played his dad).
But after he spurned the Family offer, Burrell prevailed, helped make Family ABC's biggest comedy hit in years, and the show begins its ninth season next month, with a 10th guaranteed.
But LeBlanc did help out in another way: Before the cast staged a sickout and sued 20th Century Fox in a 2012 salary dispute, co-star Jesse Tyler Fergsuon called him for negotiating advice since the Friends cast had similarly banded together for negotiating leverage.
He told Ferguson, who plays gay son Mitchell Pritchett: "You have to walk out, or they won’t take you seriously," LeBlanc recalls. "If you stick together, you have power."
But he couldn't resist a delicious prank: On the day the cast huddled together after refusing to show up for work, LeBlanc texted him: "I said, 'Hey, I killed it as Mitch today at the table read, thanks for the opportunity!' "
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