Inside the Alberta Arts District bar that bears his name, Tom O' Leary embodies the beaming spirit of this exceedingly family-friendly Irish pub. He greets customers, helps pull drink orders and, with twinkly charm and lilting brogue, recalls the events that drove him from the old country seven years ago.
"My wife had an incestual affair with her half brother that she couldn't let go," explains O'Leary. "So, the brother returns, they end up together again, but he's dying of cancer from a brain tumor, dealing with extreme pain. He comes to me, the doctor, and begs me to kill him. I do the lethal injection, and he literally dies in my arms. Following that, the police find out that this happened, I get pulled in, and I get found guilty of murder. I escape to Brazil, where there's no extradition laws. I've been there for seven years. Apparently."
Originally given just a few weeks' contract as the new husband of a troubled lass shamed by her brotherly love, O'Leary soon became a cast mainstay deserving of his own lurid story arcs. Offscreen, though, he'd fallen in love with Portland royalty—the niece of Portland Development Commission chairman Tom Kelly and daughter of light-rail czar Richard Feeney—and would follow her back to the states.
After stints in New York and Los Angeles, where he worked in theater and as a voice actor, the couple came back to her hometown to raise their daughter and, last November, open their popular Northeast Portland pub. By this point, O'Leary had been happily retired from the stage for several years.
"All of a sudden, with this place just open a month or two, we get an email from Ireland looking for me," says O'Leary. "They were checking the website, T.C. O'Leary's Pub, and they asked, would I be interested in coming back to the show in May for a storyline they're working on. If I'd called the pub 'The Emerald Whatever,' it's quite possible they might never have found me. So, there's a lesson for all bar owners—put your name over the door!"
Should his character survive this new arc, O'Leary won't rule out further visits. "I haven't been back in over two years," he says. "It would be lovely to return to that environment once or twice a year and still come back to Portland and this wonderful business as well."
Moreover, his adopted homeland offers an additional opportunity that may be of some use to Fair City producers. "Apparently, euthanasia is allowed in Oregon," he continues. "So, wouldn't that be an interesting storyline to move forward?"
Go: T.C. O'Leary's, 2926 NE Alberta St., 503-477-5969, tcolearys.com.
See it: Fair City at rte.ie.