By: Janice Malone
NBC’s new high-octane drama series Chicago Fire (Wednesday nights 9 – 10pm) is drawing rave reviews from some of the media’s toughest critics. If the storylines and physical look of Chicago Fire looks authentic, that’s because it really is. Actual firefighters are used in several background scenes and as used consultants to the show. For the firefighters, rescue squad and paramedics of Chicago Firehouse 51, no occupation is more stressful or dangerous, yet so rewarding and exhilarating. These courageous men and women are among the elite who forge headfirst into danger when everyone else is running the other way and whose actions make the difference between life and death. A stellar cast of multi-talented actors give the show even more authenticity.
Eamonn Walker stars as Battalion Chief Wallace Boden, a fireman’s fireman who is confronted by important personal decisions each day. Born in London, Eamonn is perhaps best-known in the United States for his portrayal of “Kareem Said,” the Muslim leader on the critically acclaimed series “Oz.” His work on this show earned him a Golden Satellite nomination and a Cable Ace Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series. In 2005, Walker made his Broadway debut as Marc Antony alongside Denzel Washington and Colm Feore in “Julius Caesar” at the Belasco Theatre. He recently performed to standing-room-only audiences and great critical acclaim as the first Black actor to portray Othello at the historic Old Globe Theatre in London.
It seems that Eamonn has fallen in love with his role of Battalion Chief Walker and the city of Chicago as well. “I’m so lucky to be playing this role. People now call me ‘chief’ every day by the cast members, and that’s a lot of fun. The people behind the scenes and the ones in front of the camera, makes it a pleasure to come to work each day. The 10-year-old boy inside of me who used to dream about riding in a vehicle 90mph with the siren ringing, is excited to be living that dream!” says Eamonn. “We shoot a lot of the show in Chicago and I’ve really fallen in love with the city. And I’ve also fallen in love with what it means to be a fire fighter. Some of the key actors had to take a crash course at this fireman’s academy. And it was here that we all developed this camaraderie with many of the actual firefighters. One of the first things we were shown is the Wall of the Fallen, which is a wall to remember the many firefighters who had lost their lives in the line of duty. That really made an impact on me and many others because it helped us fully understand the importance of what being a firefighter is all about. It’s something I will never forget.”
Long before Chicago Fire, the many films, TV roles and the theatre stages this talented thespian has graced with his talents, he recalls that he was inspired to become an actor after watching one of the world’s most prolific actors, the great Sidney Poitier, in one of his most memorable roles. As Eamonn recalls, Mr. Poitier’s portrayal as ‘Virgil Tibbs’ in the classic film In The Heat of Night, changed his life forever. “During a Broadway production of Julius Caesar, starring Denzel Washington, I was fortunate enough to be in the cast in the role of Marc Antony. Denzel and Sidney are friends. So one day as I’m walking backstage, I had just finished wiping the fake blood from the knife after the play. I look up and there was the great Sidney Poitier standing in front of me. I mean I had just finished performing on stage with Denzel, if that wasn’t great enough, and then have the realization that I had just performed in front of my idol Sidney Poitier, nearly sent me into shock! He was in the audience that night. I had a flash back to when I was a 9-year-old boy and seeing the power that Mr. Poitier possessed as an actor. He stood with so much power, dignity, respect and intelligence when he proudly stated the line, ‘Call me Mr. Tibbs…it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been because I’m going to change the status quo.’ (from film In The Heat of the Night). As a little boy, I received that line and that performance. It really inspired me to want to be an actor. It was as if the spirit of what he was saying somehow transferred to me and motivated me to pursue acting with fervor. So here I was now as an adult standing in front of this great actor, and I couldn’t find a word to say. I couldn’t even speak. But Mr. Poitier was so kind. He graciously said to me, ‘Thank you for performing.’ If everything ended for me today, I will take that one memory and experience with me to my grave. I’ve repeatedly said, Thank you God for allowing me to have that moment in my life when I stood face to face with my idol!”