Josh Gad on His ‘Modern Family’ Guest Stint and How He’s Like Phil Dunphy

Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen and Josh Gad in "Modern Family" (ABC)

Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen and Josh Gad in "Modern Family" (ABC)

Thanks to the megahit, Tony-sweeping musical “The Book of Mormon,” 2011 has been a pretty good year for Josh Gad. He was an up-and-coming name in the world of TV comedy before that, with a co-starring role on the FOX sitcom “Back to You” and a correspondent gig on “The Daily Show” on his resume before Trey Parker and Matt Stone tapped him to star in their Broadway debut.

Now, Gad has a ton of other projects on his plate, not the least of which is a guest stint on tonight’s “Modern Family,” playing an old neighbor of Phil and Claire Dunphy’s (Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen) who has gone on to be an internet billionaire. Last week, Gad sat down with to talk about reuniting with Burrell and the “Modern Family” prodcuers, which of the three families he sees himself in, how “Book of Mormon” has changed his career, and if he’ll return to “TDS” anytime soon.

You knew Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan from when you worked together on “Back to You.” Had they been looking to work you in to “Modern Family” at some point?
Steve, Chris and I became very close during “Back to You.” They came to my wedding; they’ve been amazing, not only as business partners, but as friends, and we’ve kept in touch. We actually tried to pitch a show to CBS before “Modern Family” aired. We all knew we wanted to work together, and it was just about that right moment, and that moment finally came, even though it was very, very rapid; I had to fly in on Monday morning and fly back on Monday afternoon because of my commitments to my Broadway show.

But it was amazing; I had the time of my life, especially the opportunity to work with Ty Burrell again, who I worked with in “Back to You,” and to see Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who I worked with on “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Are you finding yourself in more demand now because of “The Book of Mormon”?
Well, yes. I’m finding myself more in demand, but less in control of meeting that demand. It’s a good problem to have; it’s one of those things that it’s afforded me enormous opportunities. But it’s still a day job — or a night job, as it were — and it’s something that my heart is so devoted to that it’s keeping me very creatively satisfied.

But at the same time, I can’t really complain, because not only have I had the opportunity to do “Modern Family,” but I just wrapped a starring role in this great movie called “Thanks for Sharing” with Tim Robbins, Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow and Pink, I’m writing two pilots for NBC, I’ve got an animated show on MTV called “Good Vibes” and a voice in the new “Ice Age” film… I’m definitely keeping busy, you don’t have to worry.

Watch a clip of Josh Gad on “Modern Family”:

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What was the show you pitched to CBS with Lloyd and Levitan?
(Laughs) Without going into too much detail, because I don’t know if they’re going to want to revisit it, maybe not with me but with someone else, but the basic concept was a show about this weird character played by me with his father. And it was going to be Ed O’Neill at the time; interestingly enough, they already had that Ed O’Neill character in mind for something. That wound up going nowhere, but it ended up going everywhere because of “Modern Family.”

What do you think it is about “Modern Family” that has resonated so well with the American public, as opposed to “Back to You,” which had the same people behind it?
We all see ourselves in one of the three families, if not all of them. I think that there hasn’t been a real family comedy, since “Everybody Loves Raymond,” maybe, that’s universally touched on that. ┬áThe appeal of seeing things that all of us can relate to, as opposed to a generally higher-concept comedy that revolves around a news place and things like that, I think there’s something that really connects with the zeitgeist and it was the perfect time for it.

Which of the three families do you relate to the most?
I kind of relate to the Dunphys the most. I tend to find a lot of Phil in myself as I raise my daughter (Laughs). But there’s a little bit in the other families as well that reminds me of my family, so I connect to all of them in a different way.

So you’re the “trying to be cool” dad?
She’s 11 months old, so I don’t have to work too hard; I can just make funny sounds and I know she’ll be entertained. But I know the day will come where I’m just “the douche,” and she’s like, “Oh, God. We must not be seen together.”

You do play the sweaty, pathetic guy pretty well…
“Sweaty.” I love that adjective. Yes, that is not very difficult for me to play, the sweaty guy.

How do you see yourself spinning that into roles that are a bit different? Does “Book of Mormon” help with that?
I’m very fortunate, because I’ve had the ability to fill a certain niche for a while. But at this point in my career, I’m starting to get the opportunity to do more than that, which is something in my wheelhouse because of my training. Don’t forget, I went to conservatory for four years, and I trained as a dramatic stage actor; that was my foundation.

You’re seen in a certain light in Hollywood, and it becomes easy to repeat the same thing over and over again. But it’s nice, because people are starting to see me in a different light, and “Thanks for Sharing” will be a bit of a departure from anything anyone has seen me do.

Are you going to be in the “Book of Mormon” movie?
While I certainly hope at least to have a cameo (chuckles), the truth is that I don’t think Trey (Parker) and Matt (Stone) are really focused on that right now, I think they’re really busy with their commitments to not only the stage shows — they’ve got two companies opening in the next year, between the tour and Chicago. and I’m sure others will follow — but they’ve also recommitted to “South Park” for three more years.

So, it’s something I know they want to do, it’s something I’m sure they will do, but the question is when and how. Those questions will be answered eventually, but I wouldn’t hold your breath for it happening any time soon.

Will we see you back on “The Daily Show,” or is that not in the cards because of your commitment to “Book of Mormon”?
Yes! Absolutely. I actually resigned. It’s all a matter of schedule; I’m working eight shows a week, which makes it difficult to work other things, but I will definitely be on soon; we’ve tried to make it happen a few times now, but it’s just been a scheduling thing. But look for that.

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