Like many child actors before him, Robert Iler, who for six seasons played A. J. Soprano on the landmark series "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007), ran into his share of trouble along his path to fame. Starting off with a number of commercials, including an ad for Pizza Hut, Iler made his screen debut in "The Tic Code" (1999) before landing the role of the underachieving A.J. who is a constant source of anxiety to his mafia father, mainly due to his inherent inability to take over the family business. But just as his career had started, Iler ran into trouble with the law in 2001 when life began imitating art following his arrest for armed robbery and possession of marijuana. After receiving three years' probation, Iler branched out beyond "The Sopranos" to land roles in "Tadpole" (2002) and "Daredevil" (2003), while nabbing guest roles on "The Dead Zone" (USA Network, 2002-07), "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010). Meanwhile, he faced further legal problems in 2005 when he was part of a police raid of an underground poker club in New York City. Though his time on "The Sopranos" ended when the show wrapped in 2007 with one of the most talked about finales in television history, the adult Iler remained relatively under the radar with his future as an actor apparently uncertain.
Born on March 2, 1985, in New York City, Irish-American Robert Iler began his acting career at age six, after being discovered by a talent agent. Sensing a charming, ineffable quality about the pudgy little boy, agent Jeff Mitchell gave his card to Iler's father with an offer of representation for his son. After some consideration, Iler's parents finally agreed. True to his word, Mitchell quickly found their son work on a television commercial: a nationally run 30-second spot for the chain Pizza Hut. More commercials followed. After appearing in ads for such companies as IBM and AT&T, Iler auditioned for and won the role of Anthony 'A.J.' Soprano Jr., the only son and youngest child of mobster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) on "The Sopranos." As the series progressed, the show grew from a critical darling to a mainstream cultural phenomenon. Beginning his evolution as a relatively naïve, trouble-making schoolboy, Iler transformed from cute kid to handsome young man over the span of the show's run. As the actor approached adulthood, A.J. began to receive increasingly more screen time and much deeper storylines. Unfortunately, life imitated art a bit too closely in the summer of 2001, when Iler's off-screen shenanigans got him into trouble with the law. While on hiatus from filming, Iler was arrested as an accomplice in a mugging of a Brazilian tourist. Found with marijuana in his possession, he faced a sentence of up to 15 years if convicted. Unlike his onscreen father, Iler wised up and pled guilty to a lesser misdemeanor, receiving a sentenced of just a three-year probation.
Returning to the set of "The Sopranos" in 2005, Iler appeared to have put his criminal past behind him, instead, focusing on his work. Now an adult, A.J. gradually came to the fore as a major character during the show's sixth season. In one particular story arc, audiences saw just how deeply scarred A.J. had been by his father's near-death shooting at the hands of Uncle Junior. In a futile attempt to avenge Tony, A.J. goes to see Junior at the hospital with the intention of murdering the old man, only to fail and get himself arrested. Later that season, A.J. seemed to mellow out after falling in love with his single mother coworker. Settling into a sweet domesticity his girlfriend and her toddler son, A.J. finally seemed on the road to happiness. Unfortunately, A.J.'s world would once more fall like a house of cards at the start of the next season, after being unexpectedly dumped. Slipping deep into depression and drug abuse, A.J.'s destiny once more seemed dangerously uncertain as the series wound to its inevitable and highly publicized conclusion in June of 2007. Fans believed A.J.'s depression following the breakup would be the price Tony Soprano paid for the life he had led. In fact, during the much-watched series finale, A.J. - and the entire family, for that matter - seemingly went out unscathed, much to the dismay of many "Sopranos" fans who expected someone to pay a price. Meanwhile, Iler landed episodes of the perennial procedurals, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010), but following "The Sopranos" finale he remained relatively under the radar with his future as an actor apparently uncertain.