From Modern Family to Best in Show, Fred Willard Hits A Home Run
Fred Willard recently got to recreate his role as the wacky judge in Christopher Guest’s film Best in Show at a fundraiser for Actors and Others for Animals. It’s a favorite role for the actor who is known for his improvisational comedy. This time, however, the animals benefited.
“My wife and I are active in Actors and Others for Animals,” he says. “This year we raised money to help shelter cats and dogs.”
“A number of our members created videos about their pets, which I judged with [Best in Show co-star] Jim Piddock,” he says. “We also watched a few hard-to-watch videos about animal abuse, and talked about the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs. Betty White, who is a member of Actors and Others for Animals, has a video on our site about the importance of spaying and neutering.”
Fred has always been interested in causes that help animals and children. He and his wife volunteer at Farm Sanctuary and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. “Since animals and children can’t speak up for themselves, it is our responsibility to make this a better place for them,” he says.
Adopted by a Cat
His cat, Mittenz, seems to have a good life. A few years ago, Fred and his wife found a cat hanging around his house. “Mittenz—that’s Mittenz with a Z—adopted us,” he says, “and has been with us for a while now. The house rule is that he has to stay indoors at night.”
Recurring Roles in TV and Movies
Fred plays Frank Dunphy, Phil Dunphy’s dad, on the ABC TV hit series Modern Family. In 2010 he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for that role.
He also finished filming Anchorman 2 with Will Ferrell and Steve Carell. “I play the same role as I played in the first movie,” says Fred. “It was a lot of fun. I am fortunate that I am working and doing work that I love.”
On Working with Jerry Lewis
An easygoing guy, who usually doesn’t get intimidated by other actors, Fred got flustered meeting Jerry Lewis. “I found it hard to work with him because I kept on thinking, ‘It’s Jerry Lewis!’” he explains. “I was in awe of him.”
Fred got cast in Max Rose, a film starring Lewis about a jazz pianist who makes a discovery days before the death of his wife that causes him to believe his 65-year marriage was a sham. “He was wonderful to work with, and he didn’t mind at all that I ad libbed.”
When he is not acting, Fred enjoys playing baseball. He actually thought about becoming a ball player, and was on the varsity team in college and on a regimental team in Germany while he served in the army. On Saturdays he can be found playing in a local pickup league. He plays first base.
He also enjoys watching the game. Being from Cleveland, he roots for the Indians, and as a resident of California, he is a Dodgers fan.
Michele C. Hollow writes about pets and wildlife. She frequently interviews celebrities for parade.com about animal welfare issues. Michele also writes the animal welfare and pet care blog Pet News and Views.