‘Modern Family’ Star Ed O’Neill Nearly Got Into Organized Crime Instead of Pursuing Acting

Ed O’Neill, crime boss? The comedy star reveals that he nearly pursued a career in organized crime in an interview on Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s Dinner On Me podcast released this week.

O’Neill said he was short on money and looking for a job in his hometown, Youngstown, Ohio, in 1969, when his friend offered to pay him for participating in an organized crime ring.

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

The Modern Family star then recalled his friend, Jim, took him to a local bar, where O’Neill watched Jim conduct some sort of exchange for information.

“He started talking to the bartender,” O’Neill said of Jim. “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.’ So 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, you can call this number, you can reach me.”

The exchange eventually turned into a job offer once O’Neill and his friend left the bar. “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.'”

O’Neill said his decision to turn Jim down wasn’t easy.

“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 even consulted his father on the decision, who asked his son, “Can you do time?” O’Neill remembers saying, “No,” to which his dad said, “You couldn’t do time. You’d have a hard time being in jail.”

The conversation solidified O’Neil”s pursuit of acting, he said. “I went, and then I called Jimmy, and I thanked him, and I said, ‘I’m going to New York. Yeah. I’m going to try this, this other thing.'”

O’Neill starred as Jay Pritchett on ABC’s Modern Family from 2009 to 2020.

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