Fred Willard: 6 Movies and TV Shows Where You’ve Probably Seen the Late Actor and Comedian
Fred Willard has passed away at the age of 86. While the name might not be recognizable to everyone, Willard’s face probably is. In fact, over his decades-long career, the veteran star of movies and TV shows appeared in countless projects that impacted pop culture. So, as fans mourn his loss, here are some of the most popular movies and shows Willard starred in.
‘Best in Show’ (2000)
Willard’s well-known for his dry sense of humor. But his role in iconic comedy This Is Spinal Tap revealed one of the best applications of his talent. That Rob Reiner-directed movie served as the archetypal “mockumentary.” But one of its stars, Christopher Guest, adopted this type of comedy as his own brand. And he frequently turned to Willard along the way.
With his directorial efforts, Guest used many of the same repertory players in his mockumentaries, included Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, and Jane Lynch. But Willard appeared in five of Guest’s movies, most memorably in 2000’s dog show comedy Best in Show. The role even landed Willard some critics’ awards nominations.
‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ (2004)
The Anchorman movies are arguably among Will Ferrell’s most beloved comedies. But the Saturday Night Live alum is far from the only notable cast member in director Adam McKay’s films. Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, Christina Applegate, and David Koechner all deliver memorable turns. And so does Willard, who appears in both the 2004 original and its 2013 sequel.
As the station director forced to contend with Ferrell’s arrogant Ron Burgundy, Willard is positioned as the straight man. Yet, his reactions and comic instinct bring a lot to a role that otherwise might have proven forgettable. In fact, he plays a key role in Burgundy’s on-air meltdown, highlighting Ferrell’s performance and making the movie so much funnier.
Ever since the 1995 release of Toy Story, Pixar Animation Studios has continually pushed the envelope. But in 2008, the company offered moviegoers something even more ambitious. A post-apocalyptic love story involving two robots isn’t exactly a something anyone expected. And yet, WALL-E was a huge hit in 2008.
Even more surprising was the movie’s decision to include a live-action character for the first time. Via a recorded message, Willard appears as Shelby Forthright, CEO of the Buy and Large corporation. His brief but critical appearance adds a lot of backstory to the movie. But it also expands viewers’ understanding of WALL-E‘s connection to our own world.
‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ (2003-2005)
So far, we’ve focused on a lot of Willard’s film work. But he also appeared in countless TV shows over the years. Willard will appear posthumously on the upcoming Netflix show Space Force. However, of his many TV roles, one of the most celebrated roles he has played is Hank MacDougall on CBS sitcom Everybody Love Raymond.
Hank is the religious conservative father of Amy (Monica Horan), who marries Robert Barone (Brad Garrett) late in the show’s run. Along with Georgia Engel as Amy’s mother, he appeared sporadically throughout the show’s final few seasons. And Willard even earned three consecutive Emmy nods for his work on Everybody Loves Raymond.
‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ (2014-2015)
Willard was such a journeyman when it came to his career. From comedy to drama and everything in between, he did it all. And in 2014, he landed a role on daytime soap The Bold and the Beautiful as the older brother of Eric Forrester (John McCook) and the father of Ivy Forrester (Ashleigh Brewer).
While he was by no means a soap opera veteran, Willard won a Daytime Emmy award for his seven-episode run on the show. Tying with General Hospital‘s Donna Mills and The Young and the Restless‘ Ray Wise, it was the only major award win of Willard’s career.
‘Modern Family’ (2009-2020)
In the lead-up to the hit comedy’s finale, Modern Family delivered a devastating blow to fans. Phil’s (Ty Burrell) father, Frank Dunphy (Willard), passed away midway through the season. And the decision to include the character’s death was an important one for co-creator Christopher Lloyd.
But ultimately, Frank’s death feels like a fitting conclusion to Willard’s role on the series as well as his career as a whole. The actor played Frank for Modern Family‘s entire 11-season run and earned an Emmy nod in 2010. And much like his character, Willard’s legacy is one of humor and life.