As the saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman. On NBC's Chicago Fire, supporting heroic Lt. Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) is his wife, Hallie, played by Teri Reeves. Teri knows strong women, having left her mark in Hulu's original series Battleground and before that, on CBS's Three Rivers. She recently sat down with me to preview her role on Chicago Fire and talk about underrated shows past.
"Chicago Fire had fantastic storytelling and characters you cared immediately about," she said, explaining what attracted her to the new series. "Hallie is a woman of strength, a woman that knows what she wants in her life, that is also entirely vulnerable and head over heels about this guy. We shot a scene yesterday where she's taking care of Casey, and you get to see her love for him and her fear, just a moment between them where the tension is so rich. You get to see her in her most exposed form. She's a whole person that people can relate to."
Indeed, where the hero's significant other might be relegated mostly to the background on another series, hospital resident Hallie is billed as a starring character on Chicago Fire, and the complicated relationship between her and her firefighting husband feels much more genuine than similar storylines. The difference is in the actors - there's a real sincerity in the performances given by Teri and Jesse Spencer that makes the audience care about what happens in their relationship, and what happens to each of them individually.
For Teri, she has some previous experience to draw upon. Hallie Casey isn't the first medical professional that Teri has played - eagle-eyed viewers should remember her as the recurring character of Nurse Alicia on CBS' underrated medical drama Three Rivers. Like Kelly Overton, Teri's presence on the show was small on paper, but not on screen. What could've been just another background character had true personality in her hands. Three Rivers recently became available on DVD.
Having played characters in the medical field on two different shows has given her two doses of medical advice: "On Three Rivers they had real nurses there training us. Chicago Fire has taken me to a real ER to shadow a real doctor," she said, adding that her previous experience made things a little easier. "Yesterday I shot my first scene in the ER. I remember being really nervous on Three Rivers and yesterday it helped!"
After Three Rivers but before Chicago Fire, Teri was also one of the leads on Hulu's first original series, Battleground, as Kara "KJ" Jamison, part of the campaign team working on a State Senate race in Wisconsin. A documentary-style blend of both comedy and drama, scripted well but also allowing for improv, the show gave Teri a chance to not only flex her dramatic muscles but also show how funny she can be. For people who want to see more of Teri's work, Battleground is the place to start. "It's lighter, so you get to see me play around a bit," she said. Hulu has passed on a second season of Battleground, but you can still view all 13 episodes from the show at their website.
Having been inspired to become an actress by a screen legend - "I was watching Katharine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story with my father and decided I wanted to be her. I was going to be a math major in college, and my father took me out to see The Philadelphia Story one more time before I left," she said - Teri's interests as a fan are as versatile as the roles she's tackled. "My favorite movie of all time is The Princess Bride, but I'm a huge fan of the action-suspense genre. I love fantasy stuff, vampires and horror films, too."
Having played characters with emotional strength, Teri would love to tackle a woman who gets to display her physical strength someday. "I really want to work with J.J. Abrams one day, and Joss Whedon," she said. "They write really strong women characters, their stories are complex. One of these days I want to play a woman who kicks ass a la Alias." Charismatic, funny and genuine, she certainly has the skill set to become a hero - and Lt. Matthew Casey couldn't have a better woman supporting him.
You can keep up with Teri on Twitter (@TeriReeves). Chicago Fire premieres tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on NBC. For more from Brittany Frederick, visit Digital Airwaves and follow me on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).