Introducing 'Chicago Fire' Star Monica Raymund

Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Chicago Fire, the new NBC series, follows firefighters and paramedics in (you guessed it) Chicago, as they navigate their careers and lives, while trying to save the lives of others. Monica Raymund plays Gabriella Dawson, a fast-thinking paramedic. We caught up with the star to talk more about the show, her character and her love of Cate Blanchett

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

"I am Dominican American. My father was born and raised in the US and his heritage is German and Eastern European and my Mother hails from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. My parents raised my brother and me Jewish..... I call myself a "Jewminican." Mom came to the States to attend college around the age of 19. I was born in Tampa and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida." 

How did you get into acting? 

"I was always involved in the arts from a young age. I started studying classical piano at age four as a student of the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music. My piano playing fostered a good ear for music and I started singing as well and eventually got up on stage. I sang, danced, played music, acted... basically any art form that could allow me to express myself! My mom, being Dominican, always played Merengue and Salsa in the house, especially when we were cooking in the kitchen so I grew up loving music and food in the same room. Obviously we Latinas can be very passionate women and so when my parents saw that I had a calling for the performing arts, they supported it and encouraged me to continue exploring the craft."

How does your heritage play into your pursuits or drive? Does it?

"I absolutely love that I am a 'mixed' woman - half Latin, half American Jewish. I grew up in such a racially diverse family that it really inspired me to embrace both cultures. A huge part of my passion as an artist and business woman is to promote diversity and hopefully cultivate a strong female community in Hollywood. I am an aspiring producer and run a production company that I hope, as we expand and progress, becomes a company that promotes these values. I am also determined that there is a dire need for more female producers in both theater and TV/film to diversify the market and introduce new and sophisticated perspectives in the industry. I want to be a part of that movement."

What can you tell us about your role on Chicago Fire?

"I play the Paramedic Officer for the Chicago Fire Department, Gabriella Dawson. She's a rebel who breaks the rules if lives are at stake. She also holds a flame for Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) and we get to see how their relationship is affected by their work in the firehouse."

How did you get introduced to the project? What drew you to the character of Gabriella?

"I was reading a variety of scripts when Chicago Fire landed on my desk. After I read the pilot and saw that it was executive produced by Dick Wolf, I knew I wanted to be a part of this show. I loved the tough and also vulnerable character of Gabriella. I thought it would be challenging to play someone who makes risky decisions every day and still has to sleep at night. I'm attracted to characters that really challenge me as an actor and push the envelope."

What's the most surprising thing about being on a show about firefighters?

"How they deal with the trauma they face every day is through humor. You would think that it'd be a heavy atmosphere all the time due to the nature of their job, but the most surprising thing is that they laugh all the time and keep things light as a way to get through all the tragedy they face."

Did you do any specialized training to prepare for the role?

"Yes! I did numerous ride-alongs with real paramedics and any time I have to perform a medical procedure on the show I have to train at a simulation lab to make sure every action is as authentic as possible."

What can viewers expect from the show? Any surprises?

"This show is about the lives and relationships of these firefighters and paramedics. They can expect action-packed scenes every week and lots of fun drama between the members of the firehouse. Every week is a new surprise because every call we receive is different and we have to be prepared to save lives at a moment's notice."

What are your thoughts on Latinas in the industry?

"I think Latinas are definitely making strides and as the American population becomes more mixed and diverse over time, Latinas will be in even greater demand because they represent part of the American experience. I think there is more work to be done to acknowledge Latinas in the industry, but we're on our way."

What's been your favorite or most fun character to play? Why?

"I have to say my fourth year production of The Greeks as Clytemnestra at Julliard. It was tons of fun with rock music, classical text, and lots of cool effects. I adore playing strong, psychotic female characters!"

Who would you love to work with either actor or director-wise? Why?

"I'd love to work with Michael Shannon while being directed by Wes Anderson. Why? They're brilliant at their craft and every time I see their new body of work, I'm always surprised and moved and yearn for more!"

Who is your career icon?

"Cate Blanchett. She plays juicy characters, creates art, and does both stage and film. I'd love to have a diverse career like that."

What's next for you? What projects?

"I am currently executive producing a new indie film, "Submarine Kid," which I'll also be starring in and I have some TV projects I'm developing."

Why are you most excited about being a part of this show?

"There is nothing more noble than putting yourself in the line of fire to save a life. The firefighters and paramedics of the Chicago Fire Department are true heroes and this show is about their lives in and out of the fire house."

Catch the premiere of Chicago Fire on NBC Wednesday, October 10 at 10 PM/9 PM Central.