'Anchorman' and 'Modern Family' star and comedian Fred Willard dies at 86 of natural causes

Willard played KVWN news director Ed Harken in "Anchorman."CBS via Getty Images
  • Actor and "Anchorman" star Fred Willard died in his sleep on Friday night, Rolling Stone first reported Saturday.
  • Willard, an Ohio native, was 86 and made his television debut more than fifty years ago in 1966.
  • He was a member of legendary improv theater The Second City and made his mark in mockumentary films, garnering four Emmy nominations over the course of his career.
  • Most recently, Willard gained recognition for his recurring role on "Modern Family," in which he played character Phil Dunphy's dad.
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Actor, writer, and comedian Fred Willard died in his sleep on Friday night, Rolling Stone first reported. Willard was 86 and died of natural causes, according to his representative, Glenn Schwartz.

Willard's daughter, Hope Mulbarger, said in a statement to Rolling Stone, "My father passed away very peacefully last night at the fantastic age of 86 years old. He kept moving, working and making us happy until the very end. We loved him so very much! We will miss him forever."

Willard was famous for his work in the "Anchorman" films, as well as "Best in Show," and mockumentary classic "This is Spinal Tap." He also collaborated extensively with actor and director Christopher Guest, and appeared in "A Mighty Wind," "Waiting for Guffman," and "For Your Consideration," among others.Advertisement

Born and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Willard cut his comedic chops at legendary improv theater The Second City in Chicago. He would go on to be nominated for four Emmy awards, three for his performance on "Everybody Loves Raymond" and the most recent of which was for his role in "Modern Family."

He made his television debut in 1966, guest-starring on an episode of the romantic Western serial "Pistols and Petticoats." Willard was married for over 50 years to his wife Mary, who passed away in 2018.

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