Eamonn Walker of “Chicago Fire” films in Chicago on Nov. 30, 2012
*He plays a fireman on TV, but for the longest time, British actor Eamonn Walker saw very few flames as Battalion Chief Wallace Boden on NBC’s “Chicago Fire.”
In recent weeks, however, the actor – who famously played spiritual inmate Kareem Said on HBO’s “Oz” – has not only gotten to leave his desk and go on calls, but he’s suddenly in the thick of some meaty storylines – including tonight’s episode, which sees him trying to intervene in the life of a troubled youth.
In next week’s show, EMT Gabriela (Monica Raymund) comes to Boden for advice after her cop brother Antonio (“Treme’s” Jon Seda) draws attention away from her job.
To sell their roles as firefighters, Walker and the rest of the cast put in work with real Chicago fireman for weeks before production began.
“I do have a new respect for firefighters.The training that they put us on in the academy, through a great deal of fire and smoke and mock situations to get us up to speed, I now know what firemen do,” Walker told us. “They’re real heroes, so I appreciate them.”
With all due respect to our county’s bravest, can the rigors of fire training for Dick Wolf’s drama even come close to the preparation it took to play an inmate in producer Tom Fontana’s deadly Oswald State Correctional Facility?
Listen to Eamonn’s answer below.
“Chicago Fire” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC. Watch a behind the scenes clip with Eamonn below.
Eamonn Walker (R) as Chief Wallace Boden in “Chicago Fire” episode “One Minute”
*British actor Eamonn Walker was 9-years-old when he saw Sidney Poitier in the film “In the Heat of the Night.”
“I was sitting next to my mother. And England not being the best place in the world for young black folks, or old black folks at that time, I recognized something in that film and a sense of power in that man and somebody who was fighting against injustice, and I said, ‘I want to be an actor’”
Fast forward 41 years later, and Walker has left his indelible mark in dozens of film, television and stage productions, including his Cable Ace Award winning turn as Kareem Said in HBO’s “Oz” and his 2005 Broadway debut as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar alongside Denzel Washington as Marcus Brutus.
Eamonn Walker as Kareem Said in HBO’s “Oz”
Walker’s current gig, Battalion Chief Wallace Boden in the new NBC drama “Chicago Fire,” is a continuation of this career journey that comes with just as much satisfaction off camera as in the script.
“I’m still discovering Wallace Boden as he goes along, and I’m sure I will over the series. But what makes me happy as an actor, we’ve got the writing, and we’ve got this team of people who I know they’ve got my back,” says Walker. “I know that when we walk into any situation and that’s on and off screen I can turn around and say a word in the ear, or they can say a word to me, and it’s all going to be OK. So that’s who Wallace Boden is. He’s taking care of his family.”
Walker, born in London to a Grenadian father and a Trinidadian mother, says his reason for becoming an actor has changed somewhat since he saw “In the Heat of the Night.” Listen below.
“Chicago Fire” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC. Watch the Oct. 10th series premiere below.
*Eamonn Walker, best known for his role on HBO’s “Oz,” is the first actor cast in NBC’s ensemble drama pilot “Chicago Fire,” executive produced by Dick Wolf.
In the action-driven drama exploring the complex and heroic men and women of the Chicago Fire Department, Walker will play Chief Walter Boden, a former Golden Gloves champ who is mulling retirement, reports Deadline.com.
Jeffrey Nachmanoff is directing the pilot from a script by Derek Haas and Michael Brandt.
Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje attends the 2011 Angel Ball To Benefit Gabrielle's Angel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street on Oct. 17, 2011 in New York City
*Before the modeling, the big Hollywood career and the iconic turns on “Oz” and “Lost,” Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was on the verge of becoming a lawyer in his native UK.
Born in London to Nigerian parents in 1967, the actor received a Master of Law from University of London’s King’s College. But the profession, as it turned out, was not his passion. And unlike most people who are currently trapped in a career they once thought they wanted, Akinnuoye-Agbaje stepped out on faith and decided to follow his heart.
The road to Hollywood first meandered through Milan, where he put his chiseled features to work as a successful model. Soon, Akinnuoye-Agbaje worked his way to Los Angeles and in 1994 began in earnest the Hollywood shuffle.
He landed bit TV roles in “Red Shoe Diaries” and “New York Undercover,” but it was the 1995 film “Congo” that got him noticed among casting directors. The role led to bigger parts in such films as “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” and eventually the character that has become his most popular – the drug-addicted killer Simon Adebisi in the HBO prison series “Oz.”
That role most certainly paved the way for cushy big screen appearances in “The Mummy Returns” and “The Bourne Identity,” as well as his last TV role as Mr. Eko in ABC’s hit drama “Lost.”
Imagining someone other than Akinnuoye-Agbaje as these colorful villains is nearly impossible – but it was close to being a reality had the actor been too afraid to abandon the law degree that he spent so much time – and his parents’ money – to achieve.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in a scene from "The Thing," in theaters Oct. 14
*No matter the variety of roles taken on by Nigerian-British actor and former model Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, fans of HBO’s “Oz” will forever see him as Simon Adebisi – the inmate with the gravity-defying knit hat that sat on the side of his bald head.
Agbaje as Adebisi from HBO's "Oz"
Agbaje’s fan base may have expanded with such intense roles as Mr. Eko on ABC’s “Lost” and Nykwana Wombosi in “The Bourne Identity,” but the characters all remained in the vein of Adebisi – menacing and intimidating. The 44-year-old, however, switches things up a bit in his latest project, “The Thing.”
Billed as a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 remake, the film, opening Friday (Oct. 14), begins three days before the events of Carpenter’s take. A Norwegian scientific team stumbles across a crashed spaceship buried beneath the ice of Antarctica. They discover the frozen corpse of a creature that seems to have died in the crash. [Scroll down for the trailer.]
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and co-pilot Joel Edgerton in "The Thing"
Agbaje adopts an American accent and goes against type as the mild-mannered, affable Derek Jameson, part of a three-man helicopter crew running supplies to the scientists. The three, also close friends, are left in the dark as to why they are there and the mysterious thing the scientists have found.
“I just thought this was a departure from what I’m known to play, which is the heaviest kind of bad guys,” he told EURweb’s Lee Bailey exclusively about his decision to take the role. “Derek Jameson was really an all-around nice guy. He’s an American, too, so that was also a nice challenge.”
In the bonus audio below, the London native continues on about how much he craved a role that would allow him to use the softer, gentler side of his acting muscles. [Scroll down to see the trailer.]