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Modern Family star reveals he nearly joined the mob instead of acting

Modern Family star reveals he nearly joined the mob instead of acting

Actor Ed O’Neill has recalled nearly joining the mob before landing his role as family patriarch on ABC’s Emmy-winning sitcom Modern Family.

The Ohio-born comedian, 77, starred as Jay Pritchett on the 11-season series, which ran from 2009 until 2020.

Speaking on former co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s Dinner on Me podcast on Tuesday (16 January), O’Neill shared that after he was cut from the National Football League’s Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969 he didn’t have a clue what he was going to do with his life.

“Youngstown [Ohio] was not a good place to live for opportunities. Really, there was nothing there for me,” the Married...with Children alum said. “The only thing that I had that I could’ve done – and thank God I didn’t – was organised crime because I had friends in organised crime.”

O’Neill remembered his childhood friend Jim taking him to a fancy restaurant where they met with a bartender whom Jim bribed for information on someone he was looking for.

“We left and [Jim] said, ‘You can do this kind of stuff for me, you know, I’ll protect you, I’ll give you easy stuff. Just you collect here. You do that. You run, you drop something off here and there. You know, you may have to lean on a guy. You’re good at that. You can make some good money,’” O’Neill recalled.

“I said, ‘Let me think about it, Jim. Cause I’m, I don’t know. I might be leaving town to pursue this acting thing,’” he said. “So I went home and was thinking about it! I thought, ‘What else am I going to do?’”

Ed O’Neill (Getty Images)
Ed O’Neill (Getty Images)

It was his father, O’Neill explained, who made him realise the mob wasn’t for him. Instead, he decided to move to New York to pursue acting.

O’Neill went on to land his first on-screen role in the 1980 crime thriller Cruising starring Al Pacino. Years later he landed the role of Al Bundy on the Fox sitcom Married... with Children, in which he starred for 11 seasons. Although, he’s perhaps best known for his role as the tough yet loving Jay Pritchett on Modern Family for which he landed three Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy nominations.

Last November, O’Neill reunited with his Modern Family cast where they accidentally sparked fear among fans for posting a reunion photo that appeared to jokingly suggest Ty Burrell had died.

“Nearly perfect reunion,” Ferguson wrote on Instagram. “We were only missing you, Ty! So we brought a cute pic in your place.”