LMU College of Communication and Fine Arts welcomed three-time Emmy-nominated actor Ed O’Neill to a virtual Q&A earlier this year to discuss his incredible career in television and film. O’Neill was interviewed by theatre arts professor Kevin Wetmore followed by a Q&A with the LMU community.
“Ed O’Neill is a talented, experienced and generous performer,” said Wetmore. “He gave honest and seasoned advice to the students, discussed his own career triumphs and setbacks and was very encouraging about their own potential for success in the business.”
O’Neill is an experienced stage, film and TV actor from Youngstown, Ohio who is best known for his roles in the TV shows “Modern Family” and “Married…with Children.” He has appeared in several movies including “The Bone Collector,” “Little Giants,” and “Wayne’s World.” O’Neill has also voiced notable characters such as Mr. Litwak in Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” and the Hank in Pixar’s “Finding Dory.” On Broadway, O’Neill has starred in the productions “Lakeboat” and “Keep Your Pantheon.”
“I’ve been a fan of Modern Family for a while,” said senior theatre arts major Alexandra Bowman. “Being able to hear about Ed’s experiences on the show as well as his overall career was incredible and I’m so grateful that he came and shared so much.”
The event was fun and breezy, with O’Neill engaging the audience with stories about moving to New York City, how he got started in the entertainment business, and how to land the role of a lifetime. O’Neill stressed the importance of taking acting as seriously as any other job, including learning lines well, working on enunciation, and allowing the writers to worry about the character arc, while focusing on bringing the character to life as the actor. He also shared tips about auditioning.
O’Neill got personal about his struggles starting out his career while living in New York and working as a busboy at a restaurant. “There were some nights when I thought ‘I’m getting out of here. I can’t keep this up.’ But then the next day I got up and looked at the blue sky and I started again,” he said. “There’s a lot of those nights when you’re close to giving up and for whatever reason I didn’t.”
“I think the most valuable thing I learned was that auditions are opportunities to do what you love and that it’s okay if not every audition is good,” said Bowman.
O’Neill shared his detailed experience finding a method of acting that worked best for him. Many theatre arts students at the event appreciated his candid advice about approaching the craft.
“When I was younger, I tried method acting and eventually gave it up as something I didn’t enjoy,” said O’Neill. “Most actors have a split way of thinking. Part of it is the job at hand: the character, and the actors you’re doing it with. And the other half is thinking about where’s the light, where’s my eye-line and technical things. You develop this split way of thinking over time and after a while you stop thinking about it and it’s just automatic.”
Method acting is an emotion-oriented acting technique in which the actor conveys sincere emotion by fully identifying with the role of the character. Ed O’Neill’s wife, Cathy O’Neill, also attended the event and provided additional clarity during Ed’s interview.
“My theory is that Ed doesn’t like method acting because he doesn’t need it. He is very instinctual naturally,” said Cathy O’Neill. “Ed has ADHD. He is in the moment already. His emotions are available so to balance him out he is more British of an actor. As his biggest fan, I can say he is a perfect storm of talent.”
LMU community members flooded the Zoom chat at the end of the evening with effusive thank you messages to Ed for giving such an honest interview. Ed gave the audience a real glimpse into the world of acting and inspired theatre arts students and alumni alike.
“Ed represents the kind of person we love to bring to LMU,” said Wetmore. “He offers great insights into the business for our students and models a generosity of spirit and wisdom. Ed is very down-to-earth and honest, lifting others whether through advice or stories designed to bring smiles and laughter.”