Tuesday, January 15, 2013

01/15 Michael O'Neill

Renowned actor Michael O’Neill portrays “Mayor Ted Bennett” in the new CBS series, “Vegas” and can also be seen as New York Hawks’ interim General Manager “Hank Griffin” on the USA Network series, “Necessary Roughness.”  O’Neill’s road to an acting career began a few days before O’Neill was to graduate from Auburn University in 1974.  He received a call which would change his destiny.  Actor Will Geer, who was currently on the acclaimed CBS series, “The Waltons,” was given a copy of an audio speech O’Neill delivered at the University.  Geer tracked down the young student and impressed with his presentation, told him to consider acting before the “corporate structure snapped him up”.  With no prior acting experience, O’Neill was intrigued; it was too rare an opportunity not to be taken seriously. The only thing O’Neill knew for sure was that he did not know anything, but if Mr. Geer was willing to teach, he was willing to learn.  Soon after, O’Neill packed his car, and without a clue as to what his destination looked like, drove to Los Angeles. He spent the next four years studying under the tutelage of Geer and his very talented daughter, Ellen Geer, at Theatricum Botanicum.  From Robert Frost to Mark Twain to Woody Guthrie, O’Neill learned about American drama and literature and began to appear on television, most notably in “Shirley,” starring Shirley Jones and John McIntyre, which enabled O’Neill to secure his Screen Actors Guild card.  With a dream of the New York stage, O’Neill left Los Angeles and moved to NYC.  O’Neill joined the ranks of other New York based actors auditioning for roles, but with no offers on the horizon, he survived on a variety of odd-jobs as a carpentry, a bike messenger and a rail yard worker unloading box cars. Eventually, O’Neill started landing roles in TV commercials and off-Broadway productions, which led to his first film – an offer for the feature “Ghost Story,” which starred Fred Astaire and Melvyn Douglas in their last film roles.  Ironically, O’Neill received the role when the director’s first choice couldn’t drive. He got a late night call from his agent asking if he had a driver’s license.  “You bet your ____ I do,” O’Neill responded. Even on the days he was not filming, O’Neill felt compelled to be on the set and learn from the masters. Ellen Geer had taught him early on that acting was always an apprenticeship. Since that time, O’Neill has worked with some of the industry’s most respected film actors Leonardo DiCaprio in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar”, Matt Damon (“Green Zone”), Shia LeBeouf and Jon Voight (“Transformers”), Robert DuVall and Michael Caine (“Secondhand Lions”), Toby McGuire (“Seabiscuit”), Al Pacino (“Sea of Love”), Susan Sarandon (Lorenzo’s Oil), Michael Douglas (“Traffic”), Andy Garcia (“Jennifer 8”), Vera Farmiga (Nothing but the Truth), Morgan Freeman (“Dreamcatcher”) and Hal Holbrook (“Flying Lessons”). O’Neill received some of his most notable accolades for his wrenching performance as Red Pollard’s father, broken by the Depression and unable to hold his family together, in “Seabiscuit.” In 1992 when the IATSE strike shuttered NYC productions, O’Neill moved back to Los Angeles and after a variety of television episodic appearances, he landed a one day role on “The West Wing.”  That one day turned into a six season run as fan favorite “Secret Service Agent Ron Butterfield” on the series.  Following, he portrayed wheel chair bound veteran, “Sgt. Major Ron Cheals,” in “The Unit.”  A turning point in O’Neill’s impressive television career, which has included roles on “NCIS, “Numb3rs,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Leverage” and “Criminal Minds,” was his critically acclaimed portrayal of “Gary Clark”, an unstable widower seeking murderous revenge, on “Grey’s Anatomy.”  It was one of the most watched season finales in the history of television. Born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, Mr. O’Neill holds a degree in Economics from Auburn University. He is married to Mary O’Keefe O’Neill and has three wonderful daughters. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Birmingham. An enthusiastic golfer, O’Neill is also involved in numerous charities including The Shjon Podein Children’s Foundation, which was established to improve the quality of life and provide support to children facing extraordinary difficulties in their lives.

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