Modern Family star ‘almost joined crime gang’

US News

Modern Family star Ed O’Neill has revealed he almost became a member of an organised crime gang – after failing to earn a place on the American football team the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 77-year-old actor, who played Jay Pritchett on the sitcom, said he was tempted to join a gang when he was “broke” in his 20s.

He said he grew up around “gangsters” in Youngstown, Ohio, and was approached by a friend after he was signed but ultimately cut from the Steelers in 1969.

MODERN FAMILY, (from left): Ed O'Neill, Rico Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Nolan Gould, Julie Bowen, Ariel Winter, Ty Burrell, Sarah Hyland, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonstreet, (Season 1)

30 Jul 2009 Photographer
ABC Inc/Everett/Shutterstock
Ed O’Neill with the Modern Family cast in 2009. Pic: ABC Inc/Everett/Shutterstock

“I had friends in organised crime. My friend Jim called me and said ‘Hey take a ride with me. I want to talk to you’,” O’Neill said.

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The actor added: “He said: ‘You can do this stuff for me, 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 but you’re good at that. You can make some good money’.”

O’Neill told his friend he would think about it, saying he told him, “I might be leaving town to pursue this acting thing”.

He continued: “I went home and I was thinking about it. I thought, what else am I going to do?

“So my father, he didn’t know anything about this but he knew I took a ride with Jimmy because he was on the porch.

“The next day he said, ‘Can I talk to you about something?’

“He said, ‘I saw you take a ride with Jimmy… I just want to ask you a question. Can you do time? You’d have a hard time being in jail, right?'”

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O’Neill said he then refused the offer and moved to New York.

He was speaking on the Dinner’s On Me podcast, hosted by fellow Modern Family actor, Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

O’Neill went on to play Al Bundy in Married With Children from 1987 to 1997, before landing his role in Modern Family in 2009.

He won four Screen Actors Guild Awards along with the Modern Family cast, as well as being nominated for two Golden Globes and three Emmys.

O’Neill has also voiced characters in animated movies Wreck-It Ralph and Finding Dory.

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