The newest member of the “Chicago Fire” family, “Chicago Med,” began filming Wednesday in the Windy City, so it seems like a good time to get to know the men and women who will be roaming the halls of this fictional Chicago hospital.
Without further ado, meet the Med heads:
COLIN DONNELL (Dr. Connor Rhodes)
This “Arrow” and “The Affair” actor — spoiler alert — was killed off on his last two shows. He’s hoping to last longer on “Med.” “At least I’m surrounded by people who could potentially save me,” Donnell quipped about his character. “When we meet him it will be his first day coming to Chicago Med. He’s a trained emergency physician, which means all his training was to handle anything that comes through the door — gunshots, broken bones, stroke, heart attack — and be able to handle it quickly. He’s very much a self-made, sort of a blue-collar doctor. He comes from a humble background, never had anything handed to him.” UPDATE: The writers have done a 180 on the Colin character’s background since I interviewed Donnell. He now comes from money — serious money. And Will Halstead doesn’t care for the new rich kid at Med. Donnell got married in June to actress Patti Murin. “We started dating when we did Shakespeare in the Park in New York. We both do a lot of musical theater,” he said. “If they do a karaoke scene at Molly’s, I’m not opposed to jumping up and doing some Johnny Cash.” Donnell’s To Do List in Chicago includes dinner at Girl and the Goat and a Cubs game. “I’m a huge sports fan,” the St. Louis native said. “I’ll go to a hockey game any day. I’m a Blues fan, but I’ll whisper it. And if anybody wants me to sing the national anthem, I’ll gladly do it.”
BRIAN TEE (Dr. Ethan Choi)
Eagle-eyed fans of “Chicago P.D.” might recognize Tee from an episode last season, when he guest starred as a Triad leader from Chinatown. Shortly after shooting that, the L.A.-based actor stuck around Chicago to film an NBC pilot, “Love Is a Four Letter Word,” along with Donnell. The show didn’t get picked up. “Everything keeps calling me back to the city,” said Tee, whose “Med” character was a bit aimless until he joined the military and became a Navy flight surgeon. Currently on away rotation with the military, Choi is an expert in gunshot wounds. “I’ve done two or three medical shows being a doctor or EMT,” said the actor, whose mother is Korean. His Japanese-American father was born in an internment camp in California. Tee’s brother is a physician’s assistant, “so I’ve shadowed him a lot in the ER. Because he’s my brother, he tells me everything that goes on in a hospital.” Tee and his wife, “Lost” actress Mirelly Taylor, just had their first child last month. Tee could barely contain his excitement at being a new dad. Taylor and his newborn daughter, Madelyn Skyler, are moving here from sunny California so the family can be together. “I’ll be able to say my baby spent her first winter in Chicago. It’ll thicken her blood.”
YAYA DaCOSTA (Nurse April Sexton)
DaCosta’s career has gone from “America’s Next Top Model” runner-up to playing the late Whitney Houston in Lifetime’s recent biopic and, now, she’s joined the growing ranks of black actresses landing starring roles in TV series. “What we’re seeing isn’t this arbitrary need to compose color into television as a statement,” she said. “We’re just reflecting what the world really looks like, especially in these big cities.” The part-Brazilian actress who speaks several languages already has popped up several times on “Chicago Fire,” where she plays April Sexton, Lt. Kelly Severide’s (Taylor Kinney) old friend. (And in one steamy episode, his friend with benefits.) “The chemistry’s great,” she said about April’s spark with Severide. “They’re friends from high school, but they never hooked up. We’ll see how that friendship develops.” DaCosta described April as “the nurse who keeps things running. She probably knows enough to be a doctor, she just doesn’t have the degree.” At the TV critics’ summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California, DaCosta was sporting a big head of natural hair. Not surprisingly, she looked fab. A reporter asked if April would go natural on “Med.” “You can’t have a huge fro — I mean, you could. But on camera it’s less practical,” she said. “I’m working in the hospital. I’m going to have a ponytail 95 percent of the time. It’s probably going to be a little tamer, looser curl. What I like to call ‘ the safe curl.’”
NICK GEHLFUSS (Dr. Will Halstead)
Gehlfuss is another one who’s already a familiar face to fans of the franchise. We first met him last season on “Chicago P.D.” as Det. Jay Halstead’s (Jesse Lee Soffer) brother, an Ivy League-trained trauma surgeon. To research that role, Gehlfuss spent time shadowing real physicians at Cook County’s Stroger Hospital. He apparently looked so convincing in his scrubs, doctors assumed he was a resident and began assigning him tasks, like adjusting a patient’s oxygen level and monitoring his breathing. “I put [the stethoscope] on and couldn’t hear anything,” Gehlfuss said. “She looks down and turns the stethoscope over the proper way and says, ‘How about now?’ I finally had to let it out and say, ‘I’m an actor.’” This isn’t Gehlfuss’s first time acting in Chicago. He’s been here before to film scenes for Showtime’s “Shameless.” He originally hails from Cleveland, Ohio, where his mother works as a registered nurse in the oncology department at Cleveland Clinic. His sister wants to be a nurse, too. She’s in training at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. As for his on-screen sibling, Jay … let’s just say our dashing doctor hasn’t ruled out romancing his bro’s exes. “Maybe he asks Jay about it, maybe he doesn’t,” Gehlfuss said with a sly smile. “We’ll see.”
OLIVER PLATT (Dr. Daniel Charles)
Platt is no stranger to working with “Chicago Fire” creator Dick Wolf (“Law & Order”). He snagged his first leading role on the small screen in Wolf’s short-lived series “Deadline,” where he did a turn as a journalist at the New York Ledger, a tabloid paper often name checked on “Law & Order.” His latest role is head of psychiatry at Med. “This guy maybe isn’t a natural administrator, but he made a deal with the devil because he’s really interested in getting mental health support to people who don’t necessarily have $400 an hour,” Platt said. “He himself might be somebody who could benefit from his own advice.” Dr. Charles has four ex-wives — and a child with each of them. Platt has worked in Chicago before. He did a play at the Goodman and filmed “Flatliners” and “The Ice Harvest” here. One thing he’s looking forward to: pizza. “When you have Chicago deep-dish pizza outside Chicago, they make it all about the bread. It’s not very good. But the first day we were shooting the spinoff they brought pizza from Lou Malnati’s. Un. Believable. The perfect balance.”
S. EPATHA MERKERSON (Sharon Goodwin)
The Wolf universe is a familiar one to Merkerson, who spent 17 seasons on “Law & Order” as Lt. Anita Van Buren, fearless leader of the NYPD’s 27th Precinct detective squad. “I’m looking forward to getting out of the Van Buren hole,” said Merkerson, who plays the chief administrator at Med, the city’s largest hospital. “They’re both women of authority. Where we’ll have an opportunity to make Goodwin different is seeing what flaws she has.” Unlike Merkerson, her character is married. “She has four boys. There’s a great storyline coming with her and one of her sons.” A Midwest native, Merkerson has spent the last 40 years living in New York. “I grew up in Detroit. I understand the Midwest. My mom is getting older [she’s 88], so this is going to be lovely to be closer to home.”
A couple of other cast members weren’t at press tour because they signed on to the series shortly after the TV critics’ summer gathering ended. They are:
TORREY DeVITTO (Dr. Natalie Manning)
This “Vampire Diaries” and “Pretty Little Liars” alum plays a very preggers emergency pediatric medicine doc whose Type-A personality is about to be put to the test with the chaos that comes from being a new parent. “She’s a very grounded, Midwesterner — everything planned and according to schedule,” said former showrunner Andrew Dettmann, a week before word broke that he would no longer be in charge of the show’s writers’ room. “This is her first child. She’ll be in for a few surprises when the baby comes and throws a big wrench in her life.” I’m guessing by her name tag in the photo that she goes by Lilly, not Natalie.
RACHEL DiPILLO (Dr. Sarah Reese)
There always has to be a deer-in-the-headlights young doc who’s in over his or her head, and that would be first-year resident Dr. Sarah Reese, portrayed by “Jane the Virgin’s” DiPillo. This mega-talented overachiever has never had to struggle much at anything — until now. “She’s learning there’s a big difference between the A-plus know-it-all, book-smart student and when you have to get your hands on somebody and do chest compressions or intubations,” Dettmann said.
The 13-episode debut season of “Chicago Med” premieres Nov. 17 on NBC.
— Elizabeth Rodriguez (@eliza_rdz96) September 16, 2015