Though not as big a mainstream name as his famous daughter, "Friends" star Jennifer Aniston, actor John Aniston has been a household name among soap opera fans for over 20 years, thanks to his portrayal of tough but tender mogul Victor Kiriakis on "Days of our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ).
Aniston was born Ioannis Anastasakis on July 24, 1933 on the Greek island of Crete. When he was two years old, his parents migrated to the United States, bringing with them Aniston and his two sisters. Aniston's father anglicized the family name (Anastasakis) to the Americanized version of "Aniston" and opened a family restaurant in Chester, PA. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Theater Arts, young Aniston served in the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer. He later rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the reserve.
After contemplating a career in medicine, Aniston turned to acting, eventually appearing in 40-plus theatrical productions. The performer made his stage debut in the Broadway musical "Little Mary Sunshine" and the Hollywood production of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." Later on, Aniston was in line to play the role of Ted Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" until producers cast Ted Knight in the part. Aniston worked regularly on TV shows such as "I Spy," "The Virginian," "Mission: Impossible," and "Kojak." It was on the latter 1970s crime drama that he guested alongside best friend Telly Savalas, who was also daughter Jennifer's godfather.
In the mid-70s, the actor found success in the daytime drama genre. He played Eddie Aleata on CBS's "Love of Life" (1951-1980) for a three-year run, starting in 1975. He next joined the cast of "Search for Tomorrow" (CBS, 1951-1986) as Martin Tourneur, love interest to Mary Stuart's Jo Gardner-Barron-Tate-Reynolds-Vincente- Tourneur. Aniston acted on "Search" until 1984, but after leaving the show, wasn't out of work for long.
In 1985, Aniston joined "Days" as the suave Victor Kiriakis, appearing on and off since that time, stirring up trouble for the inhabitants of the fictional town of Salem. His character proved so durably popular that he came and went numerous times. When his now-famous daughter Jennifer appeared on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" after he father had been written off "Days" in 1997, O'Donnell encouraged the soap to bring Aniston back. Since no one could say no to Rosie at that time, Aniston soon returned to "Days" after a two-year absence. Of course like all good soap characters, he was killed off in a murder mystery storyline that did away with several cast members in 2004. Fortunately for Aniston, several months later, it was revealed that all deceased characters were actually - surprise! - alive.
Apart from his work on the iconic soap, Aniston made episodic appearances on such programs as "The West Wing" (as Alexander Thompson) and "Gilmore Girls," both in 2002; the short-lived Nia Vardalos sitcom, "My Big Fat Greek Life" in 2003; and "American Dreams" in 2004.
Although portraying a fictional character on "Days," Aniston's personal life read almost like a real-life soap opera itself. After almost 15 years of marriage to Nancy Dow, the couple acrimoniously divorced in 1980. Jennifer would go on to admit later that her parents' ugly split impacted her adult relationships with men. The now former father-in-law to Brad Pitt and his current wife, Sherry Rooney, had a son, Alexander.