Con O’Neill is an English actor, primarily known for theatrical roles in musicals. In 1966, he was born in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. Weston-super-mare is located at the coast of the Bristol Channel, an inlet which separates South Wales from the English counties of Devon and Somerset. The town has been a popular holiday destination since the 19th century, though its tourism industry has experienced a decline since the 1970s.
O’Neill started his acting career at the Everyman Theatre of Liverpool. The theatre opened in 1964, using the Victorian-era main building of the former church of Saint John the Evangelist. O’Neill appeared regularly in theatrical productions during the 1980s, while also cast in small roles in various television series.
In 1988, O’Neill won the “Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical”, for his role as Michael “Mickey” Johnstone in the musical “Blood Brothers” by Willy Russell (1947-). The play concerns two fraternal twins (Mickey Johnstone and Edward ‘Eddie’ Lyons) who were separated at birth, were raised by different families, and belonged to different social classes. Their chance encounters in life start in attempts at friendship and eventually result in the deaths of both brothers. O’Neil later played the same role in Broadway productions of the musical, and was nominated for the “Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical” in 1993. The award for that year was instead won by Canadian actor Brent Carver (1951-).
In 1990, O’Neill had his first film role, playing the role of Peter McGeghan in “Dancin’ Thru the Dark”. The film was an adaptation of another play by Willy Russell, “Stags and Hens”. The play was set in a 1970s nightclub, where a working-class woman is depicted celebrating her hen night (bachelorette party). She is presented with an unexpected choice between marrying her betrothed (known by the nickname “Dickhead”) or resuming her romantic relationship with Peter, her ex-boyfriend who is a professional musician.
In the 1990s, O’Neill had his first recurring role in a television series, playing the character Nick in the comedy-drama series “Moving Story” (1994-1995). The series concerned a group of workers hired to transfer furniture from one house to another, and their work-related problems.
In 1998, O’Neill had the role of Terry in the comedy-drama film “Bedrooms and Hallways”. In the film Terry is a young man who feels envious of the same-sex relationship between his friends, Brendan (a bisexual Irishman) and Leo (an “openly gay” Englishman, who actually still feels attracted to his former girlfriend). While Terry eventually has a fistfight with Brendan over an argument at a birthday party, he starts dating Brendan shortly after their fight.
In 1999, O’ Neill played the role of Troy Fenton in the neo-noir film “The Last Seduction II”. In the film, Troy secretly runs a phone sex line in Barcelona, Spain and recruits recent acquaintance Bridget Gregory (played by Joan Severance) to help him. He is unaware that Bridget is a professional con-woman and suspected murderer, who starts forming plans to steal Troy’s profits.
O’Neill had the recurring role of Kenny Fletcher in the first season of the medical drama series “Always and Everyone” (1999-2002). The series was set at Accident and Emergency department of Saint Victor’s city hospital in Manchester. Kenny was depicted as the husband of the protagonist, Dr. Christine Fletcher (played by Niamh Cusack). During the first episode, Christine learns that her husband was involved in serious road traffic accident, and starts suspecting that he has been lying to her about his activities while she works. By the end of the season, Christine asks for a divorce.
O’Neill also had the recurring role of Jo in the second season of the drama series “Real Women” (1998-1999) and its sequel, “Real Women II”. The premise of the series was that five female friends gather for a reunion, and open up about the problems of their personal and professional lives.
In the early 2000s, O’Neill mostly appeared in guest-star roles in television. In 2005, he appeared in the leading role of Sam Clark in the black-and-white drama film “What’s Your Name 41?”. In the film, Sam is a professional artist who moves to Venice, Italy in hope of finding inspiration for a commissioned work.
In 2008, O’Neill played the role of solicitor (lawyer) Ralph Stone in the first season of the thriller-series “Criminal Justice” (2008-2009). In the first season, Ralph is hired to represent Ben Coulter (played by Ben Whishaw) in court. Ben is a young man accused of murdering his latest lover Melanie Lloyd (played by Ruth Negga) within her own house, though he has only partial memories of his activities during the night of the murder. The season deals with the question of whether Ben is guilty or whether he was framed by someone else. The second season of the series featured a new storyline, with another set of characters.
Also in 2008, O’Neill played the leading role of the songwriter and record producer Joe Meek (1929-1967) in the biographical film “Telstar: The Joe Meek Story”. The real Joe Meek was an innovative sound engineer and pioneer in the genre of experimental pop, credited for assisting the development of recording practices like overdubbing, sampling, and reverb. However he suffered from both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which led to a decline in his professional life. In 1967, Meek was the perpetrator in a murder-suicide crime.
In 2010, O’Neill played a supporting role in the biographical film “The Kid”. The film was an adaptation of Kevin Lewis’ autobiography. Lewis was raised in the crime-infested area of New Addington, located in the London Borough of Croydon, South London. He was abused by his family as a child, and joined a gang in his adult years. The film depicts his life of abuse, though the screenwriters (and Lewis himself) decided to tone down the level of violence in the film.
In 2013, O’Neill played the role of the apostle Paul of Tarsus in the mini-series “The Bible”. The series adapted various tales from both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The series was considered a ratings-hit in the United States, though it was criticized for deviating away from its source material in the depictions of several characters. The series was nominated for a “Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series”, but the award was instead won by a television version of the film “Behind the Candelabra”, which depicted the life of the famous pianist Liberace (1919-1987).
In 2014, O’Neill voiced the character Titchy Gren in the video game “Dark Souls II”. While nominally a sequel to the video-game “Dark Souls” (2011), the game features different characters and a different setting than its predecessor. Titchy Gren is depicted as an overseer of the cult-religion Brotherhood of Blood, and as a servant of the war god Nahr Alma. Gren’s purpose is to ensure war and bloodshed sufficient to please his deity, and to recruit new members for his cult. While capable of fighting in his own right, Titchy Gren is depicted as a mediocre fighter and can be killed when outright attacking players.He can be resurrected with a sufficient offering of stolen souls at his gravestone.
From 2014 to 2017, O’Neill portrayed the supporting role of Val in the sitcom “Uncle” (2014-2017). Val is the cross-dressing owner of a rock-and-roll themed gay bar, and the father of Gwen (played by Sydney Rae White), the ex-girlfriend of protagonist Andy King. Andy is depicted as an alcoholic musician with suicidal tendencies, who is heavily indebted to Val.
In 2015, O’Neill played the role of Queen’s Counsel Cliff Costello in the comedy-drama series “Cucumber”. Cliff serves as a lawyer for the prosecution in the murder trial of the character Daniel Coltrane (played by James Murray). However, Daniel’s victim was Lance Sullivan (played by Cyril Nri), a longtime friend of Cliff. So Cliff is tempted to personally murder Daniel, even if the man is acquitted in court. O’Neill also played the character of Cliff for a guest appearance in the anthology series “Banana” (2015).
In 2016, O’Neill was cast in the recurring role of Neil Ackroyd in the second season of the crime-drama series “Happy Valley” (2014-2016). Neil is depicted as an old friend of the series’ co-protagonist Clare Cartwright (played by Siobhan Finneran). Clare is depicted as a recovering heroin and alcohol addict, who is trying to raise a young son with the assistance of her sister and roommate, the police sergeant Catherine Cawood (played by Sarah Lancashire).
Also in 2016, O’Neill played the recurring role of Neil Grey in the second season of the crime-drama series “The Tunnel” (2013-2018) The series is a British-French co-production, depicting crimes which affect both sides of the Channel Tunnel. The series was itself a loose adaptation of the Danish-Swedish co-production “The Bridge” (2011-2018), which depicted crimes taking place in the border zone between Denmark and Sweden.
O’Neill played the guest role of folk singer Huw MacLean in the short-lived science-fiction series “Class” (2016), a spin-off of “Doctor Who”. Huw is depicted as a man with suicidal and homicidal thoughts, who was imprisoned for several years after attempting to kill his wife and daughter in a murder-suicide plot. After being released from prison, Huw tries to re-establish a relationship with his daughter April MacLean (played by Sophie Hopkins). However, at the time April shared the powers and thought processes of the villain Corakinus, the Shadow King (played by Paul Marc Davis), struggling with murderous impulses of her own. So April repeatedly feels tempted to commit patricide.
O’Neill played one of the main characters in the second and last season of the drama series “Ordinary Lies” (2015-2016). His role was that of Joe Brierley, the Head of Sales of a Welsh company. Joe is preoccupied with suspicions that his wife Belinda Brierley (played by Jill Halfpenny) is cheating on him, and starts obsessively spying on her to gain evidence. He discovers that she has a secret life of her own, and that she is obsessed with a personal crusade against online predators.
In 2017, O’Neill started appearing in the period drama series “Harlots” (2017-), playing the recurring role of 18th-century plantation owner Nathaniel Lennox. Nathaniel is depicted as an ex-lover of the series’ protagonist, the brothel-madam Margaret Wells (played by Samantha Morton).
In 2019, O’Neill played the historical figure of Viktor Bryukhanov in the period mini-series “Chernobyl”. The real-life Bryukhanov was the plant-director of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, in the vicinity of the city of Pripyat, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1986, Bryukhanov reported a serious radiation accident to his superiors, but his report underestimated the levels of radiation involved and claimed that the situation was under control. He was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment for his role in the accident, but was released prematurely in 1991.
By 2019, O’Neill was 50-years-old, but he remained a popular character actor.
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