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Chicago Fire

Wingman Wednesday

Joe Minoso

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Photo By: Brant Brogan

As firefighter Joe Cruz on the popular NBC series “Chicago Fire,” Joe Minoso has experienced every career first imaginable. The life-changing part was not only his introduction to a series regular role, but it is a job that has lasted for nearly a decade, paving unexpected pathways for the New York native both professionally and personally.

We recently sat down with Minoso to discuss where “Chicago Fire” has impacted his life the most, the mixed bag of social media, and how he found the love of his life at the job of his life.

TrunkSpace: The “Chicago Fire” universe has been a part of your life now for most of the current decade. How has your time as Joe Cruz – the work and everything involved with it – impacted your life the most?
Minoso: Wow! It’s really weird to hear most of the decade. But yes, definitely it has been incredibly impactful. I would say the largest way was that I met the love of my life and now wife working on “Chicago Fire.” She was a makeup artist for three seasons on the show and still does work there from time to time. But she’s currently moved on to her own business in paramedical tattooing, which is an incredible, emerging field that she’s just going to be phenomenal at. I’m super proud of her.

TrunkSpace: What has been the most enjoyable aspect of getting to play the same character for well over 100 episodes of a series? How has Joe changed since you shot your first scene to where you are today, and how has that changed the experience for you personally?
Minoso: I think what is most enjoyable about playing a character on episodic television is getting to learn new facets of the character year to year. As the writers discover interesting new story arcs for you, it develops more character nuances. Those are always fun to learn about when you come back every year. I would say since the first shot, Cruz has definitely become a firefighter who is more aware of his skill set and far more comfortable in a leadership position. He’s really made strides as a firefighter to be one of the best. And I think that that work ethic is starting to show up in his personal life. He just seems to be more put together. He’s really coming into his own and you can see that more readily, especially now with his new girlfriend Chloe.

TrunkSpace: The series is immensely popular with fans. How long did it take you to become comfortable with having the spotlight of a successful television series shined onto your own life, both in reality and in the social media world?
Minoso: I’m pretty lucky, I don’t get bothered most places I go, so any kind of fame or celebrity isn’t something that I really deal with often. Most of the time it’s someone who is very nice and asking if they can take a photo because they are huge fans of the show, to which I happily reply, “Absolutely!” I’m happy to do it. The fans helped keep us around. As for social media, that’s a mixed bag. I try to keep it as light and inspirational as I can. Whatever social media platform I may have developed over the years, I would like to use towards championing goodness, charity, respect, humanity and laughter.

TrunkSpace: What is the relationship like between the series and real world first responders? In particular, what is it like to hear feedback directly from those who live these types of experiences day in and day out?
Minoso: I would say mostly very positive. We come across a lot of first responders who absolutely love our show – across the world! There are definitely those who get on us about not doing things right, or not showing how things are in real life, but while I understand the issue, some of the things that we would like to show are almost too unbelievable or impossible for television. And firefighters or first responders love busting each others’ chops, so more than anything, I just think they’re looking for something to make fun of.

Honestly though, it’s mostly really great feedback. And they are some of the greatest, salt of the earth, bravest people you’ll ever meet in your life.

TrunkSpace: “Chicago Fire” seems to allow its performers the chance to play in various genre sandboxes, from heavy drama to lighter, more comedic moments, which we would imagine, helps to keep things fresh. Would it be more difficult to spend as much time on a sitcom where you’re always having to deliver on the same beats, as opposed to a show like this where each day brings a different approach?
Minoso: I consider myself one of the lucky ones on the show. I feel like I get to play in a lot of those sandboxes. Some of the other characters are limited to just drama or comedy, but I think Cruz is a character that seamlessly goes from one to the other. That’s been one of the great things about playing him is the opportunity to do so many different things.

TrunkSpace: To date, what are you most proud of with your work as Joe Cruz?
Minoso: I am really proud of my relationship work with my fellow firefighters. I feel like we really look and act like a family. I don’t know how much acting is actually involved. We pretty much are family at this point. But I think ensemble work is some of the hardest stuff to do and I think we are at our best as a show when we’re there as a group.

Photo By: Brant Brogan

TrunkSpace: Prior to on-camera work, you spent a lot of time on the stage. When it comes to performance, is theater your first love?
Minoso: There’s no way it can’t be. It introduced me to the great world of performing and storytelling. The immediate response you get from an audience is one of the most thrilling, adrenaline-inducing moments you could ever ask for. But I have really grown to love the camera medium. I feel that you can tell far more expansive stories this way. However, I’ll always love theater and I look forward to revisiting it someday.

TrunkSpace: When you started to do more work in front of the camera, did you have to take a different approach to your craft than you did with your work in a live setting? Did it take some fine-tuning for you to get comfortable in that new world?
Minoso: There’s a lot of similarities, but I would say the biggest change I had to make was understanding that the audience was not 100 feet away in a seat up in the balcony, but two inches away from my face. I think once I started thinking of it that way, it helped bring my performance down to an acceptable level for television. That being said, I can still be a pretty broad and bombastic actor. I work hard to try and keep it in a believable place.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Minoso: “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago Fire.” Everything that has come with the show has been a first and new for me. My first red carpet, my first premiere, my first photo shoot, my first pilot, my first series regular role, my first stunt sequence, my first autograph… and the love of my life to top it all off. It has changed my life in immeasurable ways and I will forever hold it as one of the most special moments of my life.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Minoso: I wouldn’t. Half the fun of the story are the surprises that come along the way. Just like a great film, you wouldn’t enjoy the peaks if you didn’t suffer the valleys. I feel like knowing would take away from that.

Chicago Fire” airs Wednesdays on NBC.

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Wingman Wednesday

John Hoogenakker

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Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

As Matice on the Amazon Prime Video series “Jack Ryan,” John Hoogenakker is the kind affable bad ass that you want to battle alongside of and then have a beer with, and that’s not because he’s the costumed king responsible for making “Dilly Dilly” a part of the pop culture lexicon. A versatile performer with a seemingly limitless character reach, the actor is an on-screen chameleon poised to pop the top on his already fizzing career.

We recently sat down with Hoogenakker to discuss the chance to dig deep in television, reveling in the way Matice fills his space, and why some people who wear his likeness on a T-shirt don’t necessarily recognize him in real life.

TrunkSpace: You always bring memorable characters to the screen, John. Do you approach finding each character – uncovering who they are – in the same manner each time or does each character require a different path?
Hoogenakker: That’s very kind, thank you! Getting to play roles that are different from one another has been one of the great blessings of my career. With each role, you get to explore a different facet of your own humanity, which hopefully makes you a more fully rounded human being. I do try to look at them as completely different people, though, and I do my best not to ‘fix’ the character, which is to say I don’t want to necessarily wrap them up in a neat little bundle to make them more palatable to the audience.

TrunkSpace: Your new project “Jack Ryan” feels more like a film than a television series. As someone who has worked in the industry for over 10 years, is it exciting to have seen television storytelling mature and become so much more character-driven?
Hoogenakker: Oh man, without a doubt! The opportunity to see an arc expand and grow and mature over many episodes and seasons is the ultimate gift for an actor. So much of that, though, is up to the writers and creators. As actors I think we’re always waiting for another opportunity to go as deep as we can.

TrunkSpace: “Jack Ryan” has a real buzz surrounding it since it was first announced. As an actor, is it difficult to not get swept up in that excitement and place your own individual expectations on a project prior to its release? How do you manage that “will it” or “won’t it” when it comes to a series or film finding an audience?
Hoogenakker: That’s a great question. There have been some wonderful projects that I’ve gotten to be a part of in the past, and I’ve learned over time that I do my best work when my primary focus is on connecting with the other people that I’m working with. Essentially, I try to do the best I can to be connected and to behave like a real human, and leave it all on the field. It is certainly gratifying, though, when people respond favorably to something that you’ve put so much time and effort into.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Matice. What was it about this guy, a block ops CIA bad ass, that intrigued you when you first read him on the page, and how did he develop into what we ultimately see today in Season 1?
Hoogenakker: I really enjoyed the way the guy filled his space, and his comfort level with his work. One of the first scenes I read of his was when he was giving Jack a primer on how to load his weapon and chamber a round, and it just felt so casual. Which is of course how it would be for a person who lives and breathes the realities of armed conflict on a daily basis. When John (Krasinkski) and Wendell (Pierce) and I met each other, we kind of hit it off right from the start and had a lot of fun working together, which I think translated into them allowing me more wiggle room to find as much humor as I could.

TrunkSpace: It seems like everything about the character needed to be researched, from the way he moves into a room or the way he holds his weapon. What is that detailed research like and does it help you better understand who he is, not just how he exists within a particular circumstance?
Hoogenakker: The research began the very first day I arrived on set in Montréal and met our technical advisor, Kevin Kent. We started by working on drills with the M4 and practicing how to clear a room and move with the weapon. Beyond that, I feel that some of the most important research I got to do was more passive, and came with the time I spent hanging out with Kevin and the rest of the advisors on the project, all of whom had been career Navy SEALs. Just the way that people who have been in dangerous situations, and had one another’s backs for years, interact in regular social settings. The way that they joke with one another was probably my favorite aspect of my time with them.

TrunkSpace: As stated, Matice is pretty bad ass. What have family and friends thought of your portrayal? Would they say that playing a bad ass is in line with who you are in real life or a far cry from the John they know?
Hoogenakker: It’s funny, though I am definitely not a Special Ops bad ass in real life (and only play one on TV), I’ve had lots of friends and family reach out and talk about how close they feel Matice is to me, which has been a first among the roles that I’ve played.

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TrunkSpace: You also have some great lines/quips within the series. As an actor, can you get a sense of a line when you read it in a new script from the perspective of it being dialogue that will stand out with the audience? Is it a gift getting those memorable snippets?
Hoogenakker: I think there are absolutely times when you read the script and things stand out to you as funny, for whatever reason. We all have to be kept in check when it comes to keeping the joke simple, though. You don’t want to put a hat on a hat, as they say. As an actor working in the medium of film and television you really have to take the temperature in the room when you’re filming a scene; for instance, if it makes the crew laugh you’re probably onto something. I think John is hilarious, too, and when I can see that I’m cracking him up, that’s also a good barometer.

Photo By: Bjoern Kommerell

TrunkSpace: Speaking of memorable lines… “Dilly Dilly” kind of became a cultural phenomenon. Was there any part of you who saw that coming? Could you have prepared for the type of response that advertising campaign received?
Hoogenakker: No, if you had told me that once “Jack Ryan,” starring John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce, premiered I would also be answering questions about my work in an iconic Bud Light campaign I probably wouldn’t have believed you. The director (Jim Jenkins) and I have worked together a bunch in the past, and I have a lot of faith in his ability to make things funny, but beyond that, we were all blown away by the response to the first spot. I’m starting to see my face on T-shirts, which there is really no way to prepare for.

TrunkSpace: The beauty of that part is that you’re in wardrobe that kind of disguises who you are in real life. Has it been a situation of having your cake and eating it too – you get to be a part of this massive campaign, and yet still walk down the street and have a level of anonymity?
Hoogenakker: It’s so funny you should ask that question. A couple days ago I was walking down the street in Chicago and a guy passed me wearing a Dilly Dilly T-shirt. I thought, you know what, I’m gonna speak to this guy, and see what happens! So as he walks by, I say to him, “I really like your shirt, man!” And he looks right back at me and says, “Thanks!” And just kept walking… at home and in the business it’s different. Family, friends and co-workers love bringing it up, whenever. In fact, when I was introduced at the “Jack Ryan” premiere, Carlton Cuse, an icon, and one of the creators of the show, leaned into the microphone and said “Dilly dilly!”

TrunkSpace: “Jack Ryan” is hitting right now, with a Season 2 already on the way. What else do you want to accomplish in the year ahead? What are some of your goals that you hope you can check off and achieve?
Hoogenakker: I’d love for the notoriety and the visibility of the project to draw attention to the different roles I’ve gotten to play, which people might not even realize were played by the same actor, and to keep challenging myself by playing new and different roles in the future.

Season 1 of “Jack Ryan” is available now on Amazon Prime Video.

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