photo by Rowan Daly
by Justin Tucker
Television mogul Dick Wolf, creator of the venerable Law & Order franchise, is one of the major forces keeping the Windy City relevant in the entertainment industry. His popular dramas Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. are part of a shared universe that feature character and plot crossovers, and the franchise continues to expand with Chicago Med.
Torrey DeVitto, who has appeared in The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, stars as Dr. Natalie Manning, who works in the ER of Gaffney Chicago Medical Center. I was able to recently chat with the actress about her new role, working in Chicago, and her animal rights activism.
UR Chicago: On Chicago Med, you play Dr. Natalie Manning. What was it about the character that piqued your interest, and how does it compare to other roles you’ve done?
Torrey DeVitto: Well, I had been really putting a lot of energy out there that I wanted a character just like Natalie. I loved that she is this character that has a lot of strengths, is also compassionate, and it was just the mature role that I really was looking for. I feel so, so honored to play this character.
UR: Dick Wolf’s Chicago universe is undoubtedly a major force in television right now. As someone who’s a veteran of some of the hottest shows in recent memory, can you provide some insight as to why the Chicago universe is resonating with audiences?
DeVitto: We’re doing a big crossover January 5th and 6th with these three shows seamlessly, and it’s never been done before like this. It’s really cool because it gives audiences a chance to just envelop themselves into a whole world. Not just one episode of something a week. It’s three different shows. And the characters are so intermingled. It’s really a universe! It’s one Chicago family, one Chicago world. It’s just really cool! You get attached to a world, not just a show.
UR: On this new show, there are some veteran actors you star alongside. As an actress, is there anything that you’ve learned from Oliver Platt and some of these other veteran actors?
DeVitto: Oh my gosh! Yes! I had a full day where I just worked with Oliver... I had some insecurities that would come up for me personally that I was working through... We started a conversation and I was talking about certain things that kept coming up for me, and he just looked at me and said, “Isn’t that the worst? It’s always worse in our heads than it is.” I could really tell that it was something he had gone through before, and he was speaking from experience, and it just made me feel like, “Oh, wow! Everyone goes through this. He went through this. That’s so cool!” And also getting to see him work, and he just really picks apart each scene and adds his own twist and comes up with so many great ideas. It’s really inspiring to be around.
UR: Sounds like you’re in good hands with your cast mates.
UR: How do you enjoy working in Chicago, and how does it compare to working in, say, Los Angeles and other places?
DeVitto: I love working in Chicago! Chicago is a really great city. I didn’t know a lot about it before I arrived. I spent one summer there when I was a teenager and I haven’t been back since. I love the pace of the city. I love working in that city... the air of the city is really great. There is an aspect that I miss of working in Los Angeles because my dogs are there and my boyfriend’s there, but there’s an energy about Chicago that’s really cool. There’s a faster pace like New York, but at the same time it’s a little slower than Los Angeles... and I don’t sit in as much traffic when I’m in Chicago as I do in Los Angeles, so there’s this stress level that’s taken out. I can walk everywhere, which I love! So, it’s just different.
UR: Are there any roles on the horizon or other projects that you’re involved with that you can tell us about today?
DeVitto: There is a movie I did over the summer called Amy Makes Three that should be coming out in 2016, which I’ll be excited to share when that happens. As far as filming anything else right now, I’m just focusing on the show at the moment, but you never know what will pop over the summer. I’ve just been focusing on [Chicago Med].
UR: Your father is a musician, having worked with Billy Joel. Do you have any musical aspirations?
DeVitto: Yes, actually. I’ve been playing violin since I was six. I am actually really excited for [an episode this season] because I play violin... [When they] asked me if I would be willing to play violin, I was so through the roof because the last 13 years that I’ve been out in LA and in this business, I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to marry violin and my acting world together. To get to do it on this show — that means so much to me, and I’m so proud... It’s just so thrilling!
UR: You are also involved in a lot of animal rights causes. Can you tell us more about your involvement?
DeVitto: I’ve always been a big advocate of anti-fur and anti-exotic skin used for fashion. Animals that are just specifically used for fashion... it’s ridiculous! We have so many different and amazing faux products that are just as useful. We don’t need to kill animals for their skin. That transferred into me being vegetarian for eight years and now becoming a vegan. I don’t buy leather anymore. I’m completely anti-kill! And now I work with The Humane Society of the United States.
Chicago Med airs Tuesday evenings at 8 PM on NBC 5 Chicago.