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Modern Family Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

"Modern Family" became one of the most successful sitcoms on the air after it hit TV screens back in 2009, breathing new life into the mockumentary subgenre. Following the lives of three very different branches of the same family, the Los Angeles-set show won numerous awards and received widespread critical acclaim for the way it portrayed modern family life in the United States. Running for 11 seasons and 250 episodes in total, "Modern Family" featured a large ensemble cast and some big names made guest appearances over the course of its run. Sadly, not all of them are still with us today. In fact, we've lost way more members of the show's extended family than you may have realized.

Some of the actors on this list actually made their final career appearances in "Modern Family," which is not a bad way to wrap up a resume. Here's everyone who has acted in the show that has since passed away.

Jon Polito

Earl Chambers is a former business partner and friend of Jay who turns into his enemy when he sets up a rival business. Most people think of Robert Costanzo as the person behind Earl, but he wasn't the first actor to play him. Earl was originally portrayed by Jon Polito, who appeared as the character in three episodes in Season 6 and Season 7.

Polito amassed more than 200 credits over the course of his astonishing career. He got his start in 1981, playing real life mobster Tommy Lucchese (one of the Mafia's "founding fathers," per The Mob Museum) in the NBC series "The Gangster Chronicles." He went on to gain recognition for his performances in "Homicide: Life on the Street," bringing Detective Steve Crosetti to life. Speaking to Groucho Reviews, the actor revealed that the character was originally Irish and that the creators changed his background on the strength of his audition.

Fans of the Coen brothers will know Polito well, as he appeared in five of their films. They approached him about "Miller's Crossing" after seeing him perform on stage, and he would go on to appear in "Barton Fink," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "The Big Lebowski," and "The Man Who Wasn't There." In more recent years, Polito had a significant part in "Big Eyes" and voice roles in "Batman: Arkham Underworld," "Ultimate Spider-Man," and "Tangled: The Series." He died in 2016 "due to complications from cancer," Entertainment Weekly confirmed. He was 65.

David Brenner

David Brenner only appeared in a single episode of "Modern Family," but he made a big impression in Season 1's "My Funky Valentine." The episode largely revolves around Jay taking Gloria to a comedy event for Valentine's Day, where Brenner is performing. Gloria is not particularly happy about the choice, but, in the end, it's Jay who regrets the decision — he walks out after the comic hones in on the age difference between the two.

A well known stand-up comedian throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Brenner was perhaps best known for his frequent appearances on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." He appeared in more than 150 episodes of the talk show and even occasionally hosted it when Carson was unavailable. Brenner also appeared on "Late Night with David Letterman" and "Real Time with Bill Maher," and he starred in the short-lived NBC comedy "Snip."

Brenner became a comedian after spending several years working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry as a writer and producer. He ultimately became a respected comic and was looked upon highly by the likes of Richard Lewis. He died from cancer in 2014 at the age of 78. Publicist Jeff Abraham told The Hollywood Reporter that Brenner "died peacefully at his home in NYC surrounded by his family."

Marsha Kramer

Character actor Marsha Kramer, who died in 2020, played Jay's assistant Margaret in "Modern Family." Appearing in more than a dozen episodes between Season 5 and Season 11, her character was a close friend and ally to Jay. She made her debut on "The Bill Cosby Show" in 1970 and went on to make appearances in shows like "Cheers," "The Bob Newhart Show," "Malcolm in the Middle," and "Dr. Ken." She was well-known to fans of "Frasier," in which she played Tooty the Store Lady. She only physically appeared in the show a couple of times, but the character — who hosts the story time talk show on KACL — is mentioned in numerous episodes.

Margaret from "Modern Family" was Kramer's final role and the one she will be remembered for (she played the character over a dozen times, way more than any of her other characters), at least in terms of TV. She was also well-known for her stage work, which "Modern Family" creator Jeff Greenberg mentioned in his tribute. "So sad to hear that my long time friend, Marsha Kramer passed away yesterday at the age of 74," Greenberg wrote on Twitter. "She was so delightful in the 14 eps she shot as Margaret on 'Modern Family' over the last 7 yrs, but I'll always remember her soaring aloft as Wendy to Sandy Duncan's Peter Pan."

John Heard

Most people know John Heard for playing the father of Macaulay Culkin's character in the first two "Home Alone" movies, but he appeared in a bunch of other memorable roles over the years. In "Modern Family" he played Gunther Thorpe, Gil's father. Gunther shows up in the Season 5 episode "The Feud," in which Phil loses his position as social chair of the realtor group to Gil and has to hand over his medallion. This was Heard's one and only appearance in "Modern Family" and the character was not mentioned again.

Heard made his debut in the TV movie "Valley Forge" in 1975. He went on to appear in a few notable TV shows in the years that followed, such as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Miami Vice" and "The Equalizer," but before long he had established himself on the big screen. Two years before he made his debut as Peter McCallister in "Home Alone," Heard played the rival of Tom Hanks in "Big." Not long after that he appeared alongside Robert De Niro and Robin Williams in "Awakenings," which was met with critical acclaim and nominated for three Academy Awards.

Heard's performance in "The Sopranos" as Detective Vin Makazian earned him a Primetime Emmy Award nomination in 1999. He didn't win, but his peers knew how talented he was. Bette Midler, Jeff Bridges, Elijah Wood, Rob Lowe, and Marlon Wayans were among the many actors who paid tribute following his death. Heard was found dead at a hotel after having back surgery, according to Variety. He was 71.

Elizabeth Peña

Although she didn't have a regular role in "Modern Family," Elizabeth Peña did make more than one appearance. The actor portrayed the character Pilar, the mother of Gloria who disapproves of her marriage to Jay. The protective type, it is made clear throughout the series that she owns an heirloom known as "the family gun." Pilar only appears in two episodes, "Fulgencio" and "The Old Man & the Tree," but she is mentioned in many more.

According to Empire Magazine, Peña was the daughter of two people heavily involved in the performing arts: Her father established a theater company in Cuba, while her mother was a producer. Her first role came in the 1979 film "El Super," in which she played the teenage daughter of an exiled Cuban couple living in New York City. She went on to appear in shows like "Cagney & Lacey," "T.J. Hooker," and "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" in the 1980s, as well as films like "La Bamba" and "Batteries Not Included."

Peña was perhaps best known for her turn as Detective Tania Johnson in 1998's "Rush Hour." Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker star as odd-couple cops trying to track down a kidnapped girl. Johnson, the long-suffering partner of Tucker's Detective James Carter, comes to the rescue at the end of the film, disarming a bomb that's been strapped to the girl. She was also the voice of Mirage in "The Incredibles." She died in 2014 at the age of 55 following a brief illness, per the Los Angeles Times.

John Cygan

"Modern Family" fans may not recognize John Cygan, as he only appeared in a single episode of the show before his death. He played the Admissions Dean of a private school in a Season 4 episode called "The Future Dunphys." Jay takes Manny to Dryden Academy hoping to get him enrolled, but he doesn't get into the school after messing up his interview with the Cygan's character.

Active since 1990, Cygan made his screen debut in the television series "Babes." A few years later he landed the regular role of Harlan Stone in the Bob Newhart sitcom "Bob." He would go on to play a sheriff in "The X-Files" and appear as part of the main cast of shows such as "The Commish" and "Space Strikers." In the years that followed he made guest appearances in everything from "Diagnosis Murder" to "Frasier," but Cygan was arguably best known for his off-camera work.

Cygan was a veteran voice actor with some big characters and projects under his belt. He voiced Twitch in "Toy Story 3" and provided additional voices for a bunch of other animated films, including "Monsters University," "The Lorax," and "Minions." In the video game world, Cygan was known for providing the voice of Solidus Snake in 2001's "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty" and Canderous Ordo in 2003's "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic," both of which were big hits. Per The Hollywood Reporter, he died from cancer in 2017 at the age of 63.

Fred Willard

A veteran of over 300 career credits, Fred Willard was the man responsible for bringing the character of Frank Dunphy to life in "Modern Family." The father of Phil, he appears in 14 episodes in total. He was almost always shown with a fun smile on his face and was constantly joking around with Phil and others. Frank died of old age in season 11, bringing Willard's time on the show to an emotional close.

A talented baseball player in his youth, Willard actually considered a career in the sport before pursuing showbusiness. He spent time in the Army and was stationed in Berlin for a while, where he played for the regimental baseball team. He turned to acting after moving to New York and eventually made his debut in 1966, appearing in a pair of TV shows ("Hey, Landlord" and "Pistols 'n' Petticoats"). He would become best known for his collaborations with Christopher Guest, appearing in five of his films ("Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show," "A Mighty Wind," "For Your Consideration," "Mascots") between 1996 and 2016.

His performances in "Modern Family" earned him two Primetime Emmy Award nominations, adding to the three he earned from his guest role in "Everybody Loves Raymond." Willard died in 2020 at the age of 86, with TMZ later reporting the cause of death as cardiac arrest.

Jackson Odell

Jackson Odell played the character Ted Durkas in "Modern Family," a student who attends the same school as Luke Dunphy and Manny Delgado. He's something of a bully, taking advantage of the other kids and making a general nuisance of himself. In Season 1's "My Funky Valentine," he steals Fiona (Manny's love interest) away from him using a poem that Manny wrote. He also appeared in Season 4's "Open House of Horrors," tricking Manny into thinking that he wanted to be his friend only to humiliate him.

Unlike most of the other actors who passed away after appearing in "Modern Family," Odell was still a relative youngster at the time, making his death all the more tragic. The actor (who also worked as a musician and recorded songs for the movie "Forever My Girl") was perhaps most famous for his role in "The Goldbergs." He played Ari Caldwell, the brother of Adam Goldberg's love interest Dana Caldwell, between 2013 and 2015. The Colorado native also had parts in "iCarly" and "Arrested Development."

Odell died on June 8, 2018 from an accidental overdose. He was found unresponsive at the sober living home where he was staying. The cause was "acute heroin and cocaine toxicity," the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office ruled (via People). He was only 20 years old. "He will always be a shining light and a brilliant, loving and talented soul," the family said in a statement.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Lillian Adams

Lillian Adams is another actor that even dedicated fans of "Modern Family" may have trouble recognizing, because she only appeared in the pilot episode. She portrays an airline passenger on the flight that Mitchell and Cameron are on after returning from Vietnam with their newly adopted baby. While she was never a major star like some of the other actors on this list, Adams was a familiar presence on television screens for more than 50 years. She had guest appearances in a huge number of shows, ranging from "The Outer Limits" and "The Twilight Zone" to "Two and a Half Men," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and "Parks and Recreation." Television viewers might also recognize her from the many commercials she was in over the years.

In terms of feature films, Adams plied her trade in several comedies. She was in "The Jerk," "Little Nicky," "Private Benjamin," and Jim Carrey's box office smash "Bruce Almighty." She played Mama Kowalski, whose bakery is visited by Carrey's character during his time as a frustrated reporter. The shop is making a giant cookie in the hopes of generating some good press following a scandal. She was 89 when she died from cardiac failure in 2011. According to Variety, she was living at the Motion Picture & Television Fund in Woodland Hills in California at the time.

Philip Baker Hall

The insular and deeply neurotic "Modern Family" universe expanded on numerous occasions to include various friends, co-workers, and others who orbited the Dunphys and Pritchetts. In Seasons 2 and 3, audiences were introduced to Walt Kleezak, who was at first pitched as Phil and Claire's stereotypically grumpy neighbor. But an unlikely friendship between Luke and Kleezak—forged over honesty and video games—eventually changed the Dunphys' perspective, and Kleezak became a family friend until his death in Season 3's "The Last Walt."

Character actor Philip Baker Hall, who played Walt in all four of his appearances on "Modern Family," toiled for decades in features and on television, most notably as Richard Nixon in Robert Altman's "Secret Honor" and "library cop" Lt. Bookman on "Seinfeld," before forging a creative connection with Paul Thomas Anderson. The filmmaker first cast Hall as a gambler in his 1993 short "Cigarettes & Coffee," which he expanded into his 1996 feature directorial debut, "Hard Eight." Hall earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination, which led to more work with Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia") and turns as world-weary and wise types in Michael Mann's "The Insider,"  David Fincher's "Zodiac," and Ben Affleck's "Argo."

Though exceptionally busy with features, Hall also continued his TV career during the 1990s and 2000s through appearances on "The West Wing," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The Newsroom" and "BoJack Horseman." Twice nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award with his castmates on "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia," and a recipient of awards from the Broadcast Film Critics Association (for "The Contender") and Hollywood Film Awards (for "Argo"), Hall worked until two years before his death from emphysema at the age of 91 on June 12, 2022.

Norman Lloyd

Everyone is running late to Manny's birthday party in Season 2's "Manny Get Your Gun," and in typical "Modern Family" fashion, the extended family can't help but complicate matters even further. In the case of Mitchell and Cameron, a last-minute trip to the mall hits a roadblock when they encounter Donald, an elderly man trying desperately to win back his wife (played by Norma Michaels). Their attempts to help Donald—which only run out the clock on Manny's gift—take a weird turn when it's revealed that Donald has been kicked to the curb for a very good reason.

Norman Lloyd played Donald in "Manny Get Your Gun," which also happened to mark the 70th anniversary of the legendary actor/producer/director's first appearance on television: "The Streets of New York," a drama broadcast on the experimental NBC station W2XBS in 1939. Lloyd was a veteran of the stage by the time that program aired, most notably with Orson Welles' and John Houseman's Mercury Theatre. Lloyd went to Hollywood in the 1940s to work with directors like Alfred Hitchcock, who cast him in "Spellbound," among other films, and also hired Lloyd to produce and direct his anthology series, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

Most modern audiences knew Lloyd from his six-season run on "St. Elsewhere" as the kindly Dr. Auschlander, or for character roles in films like "Dead Poets Society" or Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence." He continued to act well into his ninth decade, logging guest roles on episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Wings" and in the 2015 feature comedy "Trainwreck," which marked his final acting appearance. A two-time Emmy nominee as a producer, Lloyd died at his home at the age of 106 on May 11, 2021.

Kobe Bryant

There are a lot of great moments in Season 1's "Family Portrait," which is anchored around Jay's desire to bring together his sizable brood for a picture. But the episode really belongs to Ty Burrell's Phil, who gets two opportunities to exercise his talent for barely controlled anxiety. Gloria plants a kiss on him on live television while the pair is in the crosshairs of the Kiss Cam at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game ("He made me. It's Kiss Cam!" she later explained), which requires serious explaining to Claire, but before that, he completely flubs a chance to ask Lakers legend Kobe Bryant a question. When a panicked Phil blurts out, "Do you like being a basketball player?" Kobe—playing himself—calmly scolds, "Little preparation next time, it's a mental game." Ouch.

Bryant was, of course, one of basketball's most legendary players, claiming five National Basketball Association (NBA) championships during his two-decade tenure with the Lakers, for which he held the franchise's all-time scoring record. He also played in 18 All-Star games, and claimed Game MPV for four of those (a record he shared with Bob Pettit). His star status rarely dimmed during his time with the Lakers, even during a high-profile sexual assault case in 2003. After claiming gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Bryant retired in 2016 and expanded his influence to various pursuits, including film production, which netted him an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film with 2017's "Dear Basketball." On January 26, 2020, a helicopter carrying Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others crashed in Calabasas, California, killing everyone aboard on impact.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Ann Morgan Guilbert

On a family visit to Cameron's family's farm in Season 5's "ClosetCon '13," Mitchell finds himself in an untenable situation. Cam's elderly grandmother, known as Grams, is unaware of his sexual orientation, and for the sake of preserving her fragile health, he's asked to play a new and not particularly bright farmhand. The absurdity reaches a boiling point when everyone is forced to take shelter from a tornado in the farm's basement.

Playing Grams in "ClosetCon '13" was TV comedy veteran Ann Morgan Guilbert, who enjoyed not one but two indelible small-screen characters over the course of her five-decade career. She was Rob and Laura Petrie's neighbor, Millie Helper, on five seasons of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and later played Fran Drescher's grandmother, Yetta, on "The Nanny." Between these roles, Guilbert was a comic presence in several features during the 1960s, including "Two for the Seesaw," and a guest player on everything from "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" to "The Partridge Family," "Barney Miller," and "Cheers."

The popularity of "The Nanny" kept Guilbert exceptionally busy in the new millennium, both in features like Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give" and on series like "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and "Life in Pieces." She also enjoyed a recurring role as a patient on the short-lived "Getting On." Married first to TV writer/producer George Eckstein and later to character actor Guy Raymond, Guilbert died of pancreatic cancer on June 14, 2016, at the age of 2016.

Ray Liotta

Having forgotten to plan a surprise birthday party for Mitchell in Season 7's "Playdates," Haley, Alex, and Luke decide that the next best thing is a last-minute search for Barbra Streisand—or at least her house. They don't find Barbra but do run into Ray Liotta, who's dismayed to learn that the kids have no idea who he is, but still takes pity on them after they own up to forgetting Mitchell's big day. Liotta takes them to Streisand's house and dials her up on her gate intercom; though brief, the conversation—with Streisand providing her own voice—delights Mitchell.

Ray Liotta played himself on "Playdates," which provided the Emmy-winning actor with an opportunity to flex his comedy muscles. Though best known for intense dramatic work in films like "Goodfellas," "Something Wild," "Marriage Story," and "The Many Saints of Newark," Liotta also played for laughs on several occasions throughout his three-decade screen career. He appeared opposite the Muppets twice, including "Muppets Most Wanted" (with Ty Burrell), and enjoyed comic turns in "Youth in Revolt," "Hubie Halloween," and episodes of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "Young Sheldon," and "The Simpsons."

A prolific character actor who logged up to nine films a year in the 2000s, Liotta had at least five films due for release at the time of his death on May 26, 2022, as well as the Apple+ series "Black Bird." One of his final film roles was, in fact, a comedy-horror film, "Cocaine Bear," which was directed by recurring "Modern Family" player Elizabeth Banks and featured Jesse Tyler Ferguson in a supporting role.

Orson Bean

Character actor and comedian Orson Bean also appears in "Playdates" though in a different storyline. His character, an 80-year-old named Marty, has a younger wife and son the same age as Jay and Gloria's son, Joe, and the two couples come together at a playdate for the boys. Marty describes Jay as seemingly "old" to him, which naturally puts Jay on the defensive.

A puckish and occasionally eccentric comic presence on television, stage, and in films for over a half-century, Bean—born Dallas Frederick Burrows—earned his stage name while performing stand-up comedy in Boston (a band member introduced him with a different silly name each night, and "Orson Bean" stuck) and graduated to stage roles in the 1950s. Theater remained his most successful showcase, and he earned a Tony nomination in 1964 for "Subways Are for Sleeping." He also appeared on a number of dramatic TV series, including "The Twilight Zone," and was a staple of TV game shows, variety series, and talk shows.

After voicing Bilbo Baggins in the Rankin-Bass animated TV adaptations of "The Hobbit" and "The Return of the King," Bean enjoyed a renaissance in the '90s, playing grandfatherly types who often acted half their age. He was a series regular on "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," and enjoyed recurring and comic guest roles on "7th Heaven," "Desperate Housewives" (as Karen McCluskey's beau, Roy Bender), "Superstore," and "Grace and Frankie." The latter series marked Bean's final screen appearance: the 91-year-old actor was struck and killed by motorists while crossing the street in Los Angeles' Venice neighborhood on February 7, 2020.