Fred Willard attends the LA Premiere of “50 Shades of Black” held at Regal L.A. Live on Tuesday, … [+]
Fred Willard, who was recently seen in his recurring role as Frank Dunphy on ABC sitcom Modern Family, died Friday of natural causes.
“My father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old,” said Willard’s daughter Hope Mulbarger in a statement. “He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever.”
Born on September 18, 1933 in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Willard’s stage career began when he moved to New York in the late 1950s. Paired with his early comedy partner Vic Grecco under the moniker of “Willard & Grecco,” the two began touring and making guest appearances on series like variety-themed The Dean Martin Show and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in late night.
After breaking up in 1968, Willard’s career break came in 1977 as Martin Mull’s sidekick and the announcer, Jerry Hubbard, on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman fictional talk show spin0ff Fernwood 2 Night (which was revamped into Forever Fernwood and America 2-Night).
Martin Mull, center, and Fred Willard, right, reprise their roles from the “Fernwood 2Night” … [+]
Willard performed in improv, starting with Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe, and began guest-starring in TV series like Love, American Style, Get Smart, The Bob Neehart Show, and Laverne & Shirley. He was an original cast member on the NBC series Real People in 1979 (and again from 1981 to 1983). And his first regularly scheduled series role came in one-season NBC sitcom Sirota’s Court in the 1977-78 TV season.
Over the course of his career, Willard appeared in a number of memorable films including Best in Show, Waiting For Guffman, A Mighty Wind, Roxanne, and This Is Spinal Tap. In 1995, Willard reunited with his Fernwood 2 Night co-star playing Scott, the romantic partner of Mull’s character Leon Carp, on sitcom Roseanne.
Willard’s other recurring sitcom roles included Family Matters, Sister, Sister, Mad About You, and Everybody Loves Raymond (the latter which resulted in Primetime Emmy nominations for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy for three consecutive years). He also had regular roles in comedies D.C.’s Follies from 1987-89, and Maybe It’s Me on The WB from 2001-02. And his fourth Primetime Emmy nomination came in the guest acting category in a comedy for aforementioned Modern Family 2010.
In 2015, Willard won a daytime Emmy award in 2015 for his guest appearance on The Bold and the Beautiful. His stage credits included Off-Broadway performances in Little Murders, Alf, Isn’t It Romantic and Elvis and Juliet. His regional roles included Call Me Madam in Chicago, and the musicals Promises, Promises and Anything Goes, both in Los Angeles.
Willard is survived by Mulbarger, her husband, Mitch Mulbarger, and his grandson Freddie.