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‘Modern Family’ star Ed O’Neill almost joined the mob before making it in Hollywood: I was ‘broke’

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Ed O’Neill revealed he almost didn’t become an actor after he received an offer to join the mob.Getty Images

Ed O’Neill revealed he almost ditched his plans to become an actor in a bid to join the mob.

The “Modern Family” alum sat down with his former co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson on his “Dinner on Me” podcast Tuesday and revealed how he almost picked up the gig when he was “broke” in his 20s.

O’Neill explained the opportunity came to him in 1969 after he had been fired by the Pittsburgh Steelers and didn’t “have a clue” what to do next.

“I had friends in organized crime,” he said, referring to his old pal named Jim, who lived in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.

“[Jim] called me and said ‘Hey take a ride with me. I want to talk to you,’” the actor recalled

The “Modern Family” alum told Jesse Tyler Ferguson on his “Dinner on Me” podcast that his childhood friend offered him a job in organized crime when he was broke. Getty Images
O’Neill explained he was in his 20s when he got fired from the Pittsburgh Steelers, which his pal Jim knew. ABC

“We’re driving and he said, ‘How you doing? You know, you, you got cut, you got no money,’” O’Neill continued. “I said, ‘No, I’m broke. You know, I don’t know what I’m going to do.’”


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The “Married … with Children” star, 77, explained Jim took him to a “fancy” restaurant he “never would go” to.

“He started talking to the bartender,” the actor recalled. “He says, ‘I’m looking for this kid, his name is whatever, Demko, his name is Jimmy Demko, do you know him?’ And the guy says, ‘No, it doesn’t ring a bell.’”

“We’re driving and he said, ‘How you doing? You know, you, you got cut, you got no money,’” he recalled. 2002 ABC, INC.

O’Neill continued Jim began describing the man before eventually bribing the bartender.

“He gives him 20, and he says, ‘Look, he’s an old friend of mine, I haven’t seen him in years, you know, I’m looking to reconnect, but I’d like to surprise him. So if he comes in again, this is my, you can call this number. You can reach me,’” he explained.

The duo then left the restaurant and O’Neill was offered a job he almost couldn’t resist.

“We left and he 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,’” he added.

O’Neill claimed Jim then took him to one of his jobs, which required his friend to find the location of another man. CBS
“We left and he said, ‘You can do this kind of stuff for me, you know, I’ll protect you,’” the actor continued. ABC

“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 continued.

That night, the “Wreck-It Ralph” star returned home where his father saw him leaving the car with Jim in the driver’s seat.

“He said, ‘I saw you take a ride with Jimmy … I just want to ask you a question. Can you do time?’” O’Neill recalled his father saying. He told his dad, “No.”

However, the “Married … with Children” alum recalled later talking with his dad, which led him to move to New York in a bid to be an actor instead. Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“He said, ‘You couldn’t do time. You’d have a hard time being in jail, right?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t think I could do time.’ He said, ‘OK,”’ the actor remembered.

The father-son conversation led O’Neill to head to New York to pursue acting where he soon became a stage performer within months.

O’Neill’s success eventually led him to land the gig as Al Bundy in “Married … with Children,” which aired from 1987 to 1997.




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