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An Interview with Chicago Fire and Chicago Med Actors Joe Minoso and Colin Donnell

CHICAGO FIRE -- "The Beating Heart" Episode 410 -- Pictured: (l-r) David Eigenberg as Christopher Herrmann, Joe Minoso as Joe Cruz -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)

This week, we were invited to take part in a conference call interview with Chicago Fire and Chicago Med actors Joe Minoso and Colin Donnell. They told us their favorite things about being part of the Chicago Trilogy, talked about what’s ahead for their characters and gave us the scoop on what it was like to film the franchise’s first three-way crossover.

Colin, what does this One Chicago crossover mean for you? Is it a little bit more work? Are you excited for the fan feedback? What does it actually involve for you?

Colin Donnell: “You know, the crossover is an amazing feat of logistics first and foremost.

I mean, to pull together three casts of three extraordinarily busy shows into one unifying story is just amazing to me. It meant a little bit more work for everybody. I think especially behind the scenes.

But ultimately, I think it’s so worth it to give the fans such a unique experience of being able to unify three separate shows that are within one universe. It’s totally unprecedented in television, especially right now. And it’s amazing to be a part of that.”

Will both of you be live tweeting the event?

Colin Donnell: “Hopefully we will be able to. Yeah.”

Joe Minoso: “I will miraculously figure out a way, even if in the air, to live tweet because I obviously care more about it than Colin does.”

Colin Donnell: “Oh geez. No. Joe’s prettier than me. I know.”

Joe Minoso: “Oh, no, no, please Colin, that is not true. Are you kidding me? Those dimples on you – it’s amazing.”

Colin Donnell: “I think what’s actually going to happen is Joe’s going to tweet and I’m going to look over his shoulder on the plane and steal his tweets.”

Joe Minoso: “And that’s fine by me. I don’t really care about copyright infringement. I’m one of those guys – I feel like as long as it’s getting out there…”

Joe, we left your character in an emotionally precarious position. How is he going to be handling this? And is it going to affect him for the rest of the season, that he introduced this kid to the gang?

Joe Minoso: “Well, I think it’s going to weigh incredibly heavy on him. I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t. I think any opportunity where you introduce someone into the world or into your community or your family, you’re hoping that that is going to go well.

And that there’s going to be sort of a symbiotic relationship. In the case of Freddie, I think no one was expecting that he would become so volatile. But unfortunately it turned into a really serious thing. And Hermann, obviously as many have said and I agree with, is the heart of that house.

And so for it to happen to him of all people who reached out so willingly to help, it hurts the most. And it’s going to kill Cruz. And we’re going to see that unfold quite a bit throughout the season.”

Can you tell us if there were any challenges in filming these episodes as regard to the weather or anything else?

Joe Minoso: “I’m going to say it’s been awesome because thanks to the beautiful new Chicago Med cast and their lovely set, we get to hang out indoors instead of freezing our butts off outside. So that would be my answer to that particular question.”

Colin Donnell: “And speaking as a Chicago Med cast member, I just want to say you’re welcome, Joe, for being part of a hospital drama that allows people to have a little respite from the Chicago winter and come indoors, into our hospital, so you don’t have to freeze your butt off outside.”

Joe Minoso: “Thank you so much. It’s just like walking into a warm fireplace, you know? And they’ve got the chestnuts going. First of all, they’re so hospitable over there. They’re just the loveliest group of people. So not only do you feel this warmth because the heat’s on, but you feel warm inside, because there’s just so much love.”

Colin, do you have any more medical jargon than usual, or is it about the same?

Colin Donnell: “No. There’s a bit. There is one particular line that kept screwing me up. I think I had to do about five or six takes and I can’t remember whether it was in the Fire portion of the crossover or the Med portion of the crossover.”

Joe Minoso: “Definitely in the Fire portion. It was the crossover. I remember you had to walk in and deliver some news about what was going on with [Herrmann]. And I found myself by take five or six saying the words right along with him. Because I’m convinced I can do it. And I never once got it right. But he actually managed to nail it. And kudos to Colin, because that stuff is not easy.”

Colin Donnell: “I’m not the good one in the cast either. That’s the other people in the cast that really, really nail it.”

Joe, was Freddie maybe a way for you to make up for the gang member that you left in that fire a long time ago?

Joe Minoso: “Wow. That’s a very philosophical question. That’s very deep. I think for the audience’s perspective, perhaps that could very easily be the case.

I think in terms of Cruz, he dealt with that in a very personal way knowing that it was going to ultimately affect the life of his brother. And it was one or the other. And even so, his own life. Cruz was definitely on the watch list of those gang members and could have easily ended up just as dead as the next guy.

And that’s a reality of that neighborhood culture all the time; you walk on thin ice when you live in that kind of world because you never truly know what’s going to set someone off in what particular way. It’s a fine line that you have to write.

When they wrote it, there was a lot of controversy amongst the writers as to whether or not it would be a good idea or that it would be too much to take. I think they found a really interesting window to have true experiences to process. And a very kind of beautiful confessional scene in the first season.

But as of right now with Freddie, I think what that shows is more of how Cruz truly wants to help people get out of what he got out of. And for me, that’s a really personal thing, because I came from that kind of background. And I saw some real crazy things in my childhood. So I’m glad to be able to play that out on this show.”

Colin, are we going to see some fisticuffs between Rhodes and Halstead at some point?

Joe Minoso: “Oh, I hope so.”

Colin Donnell: “They certainly have two opposing viewpoints on how they approach medicine. We haven’t seen it come to that much of a heated argument. But even next week you see things get a little bit more aggressive between the two. It’s a contentious relationship.”

Colin, when the opportunity came along to join the Chicago universe, what was your reaction? Were you familiar with the shows?

Colin Donnell: “I was thrilled that I was being invited to be a part of such a cool series and being a part of a Dick Wolf universe. And I was a little familiar with the shows. Right after this all happened, my wife and I went back to the very beginning of Chicago Fire, Season 1 Episode 1 and we were like, let’s watch some. And we got hooked.

We were so thrilled and every single episode got me so excited to be a part of something that was so unique and so fun, so entertaining, so moving. You know, I fell in love with Cruz…”

Joe Minoso: “…you hit all the bullet points that we talked about before the phone call. Honestly, you nailed it. You know, I really thought that you were going to miss on the falling in love with Cruz part. But thank you. I’m so glad for that. I just wanted to say, it’s crazy right, because you go into a show and you just hope that it goes beyond 13 episodes then beyond Season 1. And what we’ve been involved in has been such an insane whirlwind.

And to know that we are now in the midst of a third show. If we’re just going to be doing a little backstroking on each other’s backs here, I’ve become such a fan of Chicago Med. I think that they really have great things going on.

I think they’re telling medical stories in a very interesting, unique way. And, the cast is just kicking butt. We had to do this quick promotional last year, right before the hiatus, right before the Christmas break where we had to say Happy New Year to a couple of folks, and it was all three casts all together. And it really felt like a big kind of Thanksgiving dinner with the family. It was so exciting. So I think I can speak for Colin when I say it’s been such an awesome experience just watching this family grow.”

You could say Cruz has had it a little rough lately. He had a new lieutenant on Squad, his best friend made a move on his ex-girlfriend and now the whole thing with Freddie is going on. Where would you like to see Cruz go from here?

Joe Minoso: “Hopefully on a vacation. In all honesty, you’re right. It has been a really kind of crazy year for him. And I couldn’t be happier. I experienced a great amount of great story in this season.

And they’ve really kind of taken the character on a different course. I’m really, really excited about the potential that working with Taylor has brought on the closer one on one level. And I get to do a lot more stunt work, which has also been insanely awesome.

But as of right now, I’m just enjoying getting to just play with such meaty dialogue. I think the writing staff is on a whole other level this season.

And the way that they’re weaving this crossover episode is just so seamless and it just all makes so much sense. And it’s so exciting to be able to do something that’s so innovative and interesting and new.”

Colin, we’re four episodes in and we’ve seen so many different medical cases on Chicago Med. Which one has been your favorite so far, whether it had to do with your character or not?

Colin Donnell: “Is it a copout to say it’s one you haven’t seen yet? The episode that aired just before the holiday break that dealt with the supposed gun violence and the shooting in the theater was one of my favorite episodes that we’ve done so far.

I think that what it had to say and what it did say was very powerful. And I think those are the kind of stories that I would like to be telling. I think it was very deftly handled by our director and our writers and our cast as a whole. And I was very proud to be a part of that.”

Joe, let’s say Cruz was given a workout Zumba video, who would you choose to be your dance backup partner?

Joe Minoso: “You’ve got to have a couple. They look better like in groups. As we all know Colin’s got mad moves. So I would definitely have him front and center. And I would probably have to include Charlie Barnett. He is definitely part of our universe and forever will be. And he is also my brother. And I would love to have him on the other side. If I just had the three of us, I think that we could kill. But if I had my way, I would just have Jesse and Christian in the background pretending to know what they’re doing or just looking like fools the whole time.”

Colin, what is the progression going to be with your character and his Dad?

Colin Donnell: “We’ve seen a little bit of the Rhodes family story unfold so far. And it won’t be just this week but next week, you’ll see some more of it unfold.

That’s what I love about all of our characters. Every single character across all of these Chicago shows has a story that we get to peek into and the writers of every show do a great job of shining a light on all of these characters.

And that’s what makes it so appealing to an audience is because you fall in love with each of them as you go along. Specifically, you’re going to see why there is such animosity between Connor and his father in the next couple of weeks. To say anything more would unfortunately give it away.”

You guys are very active on social media and it seems like you guys have a real good connection. Does that have a lot to do with how it comes across on-screen that you guys really have a good time?

Joe Minoso: “For me I think that it’s very much so the case. I don’t know how we’ve been as lucky as we have in terms of all of the cast members that keep coming in. You hear horror stories when you’re a young actor about working with a bunch of divas and how that can be impossible. We have not come across that. Everyone that keeps coming into the shows are just such lovely people to work with.They’re true professionals. They’re ready to do their work and at the same time act like five-year old morons. They enjoy one another and can not be afraid of just being silly. And that I think is why it just makes this job so easy and such a pleasure to do.”

Colin Donnell: “Before coming into this, I had heard nothing but amazing things about how everybody was so nice and so wonderful and you won’t believe it. I actually was preparing myself not to believe it because it sounded too good to be true how wonderful of a group it was. But that’s exactly what I walked into. And specifically doing this crossover because the crossover was my first opportunity to step on another set aside from Chicago Med. Joe was actually one of the first people who came up to me when I came on the set. He personally walked me through and introduced me to every single person who was there. And it was such a wonderful welcome to the family. It was such a warm, warm welcome.

And it was so appreciated on my part, being able to drop in to something that’s been going on. Dropping into a family that’s been together for three plus years and not feel like the new kid that was invading space.”

The word on the street in Chicago is that you work with a language person to help you get the things that [Chicagoans] say and how [they] say it. Is that true?

Joe Minoso: “I’ve been in Chicago for going on twelve plus years, so I think that whatever happens that may sound like Chicago when I talk is just kind of been ingrained in me from just being here. I personally don’t think that my Chicago accent is that good. There’s definitely a speech person that we have on Chicago Fire who works a lot with Jesse [Spencer] and Eamonn [Walker] to really get that dialect down. And funny enough, she was my teacher in college at NIU when I was there for a Master’s program. And now she’s the go-to in dialect work in Chicago. So just what’ll happen in ten years is amazing.”

Colin Donnell: “Connor Rhodes has a bit of a special scenario since he spent so long away from Chicago, in Mexico doing medical school and his training afterwards and then being in the Middle East working for years, before he finally came back. But I’m a Midwestern kid myself. I’m from St. Louis. So I grew up around plenty of Chicagoans. I went to school in Indiana as well. So my ear’s been attuned to it for most of my life.”

What were your initial reactions when you found out that you were going to be doing the crossover episode?

Joe Minoso: “Hallelujah! No. I think this has been something that has been bred into the thinking of this show from the very beginning. Dick Wolf has really been reaching for a new look at how you produce television and this has been something that has been on his mind from the very beginning. It’s actually a real honor for me to see it unfold.

I think that they’ve done such an exceptional job in putting this whole thing together and now that Med is here, I’m really looking forward to us telling some really interesting, well-rounded, fully developed stories.

I feel like if you think about it, there’s going to be three shows telling the same story over the course of one week. That’s an hour and a half of television, which is the length of most movies. So we’re really putting on a movie a week here, when we do a crossover event.”

Colin Donnell: “We knew it was coming but we didn’t know what story was going to be told. For me, I was just so excited to see what kind of story was going to take up that three hours of television. And it didn’t let down.”

What was the dynamic like for all of the cast members for all three of the Chicago shows to come together? Did you guys know each other pretty well already? What was like that working with everyone?

Colin Donnell: “I would say it was sort of like the dance at the gym in West Side Story, especially Joe – and Joe and I were Maria and Tony.”

Joe Minoso: “Yeah. I think that makes perfect sense. The analogy couldn’t have been more suited. I wish that I could come up with something more ideal but he’s nailed it.”

Colin Donnell: “I touched on it a little bit earlier, at least from my perspective. The welcome was so warm and as the newbies on the block, the expectation was that we would live up to the standard and the work ethic that has been set by Fire and PD for the last few years. When you’re walking into a situation like that, you feel like you have every tool to succeed. And to walk in and not only see them working so hard and know that the product that they’re creating is amazing, but also just to feel the warmth and the love that extends not just within the cast but the crew and the directors and the cameramen. Everybody across the board is so welcoming and so lovely. It’s an amazing group to be a part of.”

There are rumors of a fourth Chicago spinoff or a third spinoff series. What you guys would want the fourth show to be?

Joe Minoso: “Chicago Streets and Sanitation.”

Colin Donnell: “Chicago Notary Public.”

Joe Minoso: “I think what makes sense is probably something on the politics side of the city. Or something along the line of a law show, maybe. At this point everything’s game.”

Fire and PD did the crossover with Law & Order SVU last year. Have you heard from them? Are they kind of jealous that they’re not in on this crossover?

Joe Minoso: “I can’t imagine that they’re not. It’s like we’re cool over here in Chicago. So I would want to be a part of it. I’m sure that they’re very busy doing their own thing, but they’re always fun to play with. I get to be able to work with those guys and I’m really, really ready to meet everybody over there because I’d love to work with them. Because I’m a big fan.”

Chicago Fire has these bursts of comedy between the intense scenes. Why do you feel it’s important for them to incorporate the comedic elements in between the drama?

Joe Minoso: “I think especially for Fire that we have that luxury to be honest with you, to take some real moments of levity- just because that’s just how they live. That’s how firefighters and paramedics coexist in the universe. You spend enough time with a lot of these people and you realize that they do a lot of things to keep themselves happy and to distract themselves from the seriousness of the job.

You get to see some of the world’s most atrocious things as a firefighter and you’re the last line of defense for a lot of people’s lives. And sometimes that doesn’t necessarily happen. And I’m sure that this is the same for the people over at Med. There’s a great responsibility that comes with trying to save a human life. And when that doesn’t happen on your watch that can be a real low.

So I think fortunately, Fire has the best kind of avenue in all us goofball firefighters to take a break and laugh at ourselves a little bit, because it really is how they handle all that stress.”

What’s ahead for your characters? Are there any story lines you’re really excited for fans to see this season or to explore?

Colin Donnell: “There’s some really cool stuff coming up not even particularly for Connor, but there are some story lines that we’re doing right now. I think we’re on episode 9 on Med right now. I’m super excited. I can’t give anything away. I wish I could. But suffice to say the stories have just gotten better from where we started. I’m very excited for audiences to see what the writers are doing and what’s going on.”

Joe Minoso: “I’m excited. Once this crossover takes place, America will see the potential of what we’re really capable of doing when we’re telling a story now, with these three shows. I’m excited to see what the writers decide to do with it next time. Because I think that they’re going to find themselves with a great position to do some really interesting television and I think that for me is what’s most exciting. We’re going to explore uncharted territory in the world of TV.”

 

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