Not to call it type casting, but James Colford’s appearance as an extra on the hit NBC drama “Chicago Fire” was natural – the Somonauk man, 24, has been a volunteer firefighter in his hometown for eight years. Although he didn’t have a speaking part, he did work as an extra for two episodes first aired in January: “Shoved in my Face” on Jan. 7 and “Out with a Bang” on Jan. 14.
Reporter Debbie Behrends talked with him recently about his appearance on the popular show and his background as an actor.
Behrends: Are other members of your family firefighters?
Colford: My dad is a fireman, a bunch of my cousins, my sister and my brother-in-law. I guess you could say it runs in the family.
Behrends: How did you happen to apply to be an extra on “Chicago Fire?”
Colford: One of my friends heard they were doing casting calls so I sent my picture, along with my height and weight and little about my background to the casting agency. I kind of forgot about it, but a couple of months later I got a phone call asking me to come downtown.
Behrends: Is the show actually filmed in Chicago?
Colford: They shoot almost everything in Chicago, at various locations around the city and they have a studio in the city. Sometimes they do leave the city to go to areas in the suburbs.
Behrends: What was it like working with the actors? How did they treat you as an extra?
Colford: They work long days, shooting for 10 hours, and in between the main actors talked with us. It was fun because we all just talked like normal people. It was just like talking to other firemen. The crew is awesome, too. They treated us like family. It’s a good atmosphere. They have their mission, but they kept us busy, kept us fed and they were nice to us.
Behrends: Had you done any acting before?
Colford: I’ve always been interested in acting. I did some high school plays, church plays and I was in a musical in college. I took some acting classes at NIU and after graduation I studied improv at Second City. I’ve also done a couple of independent films with a production company created with some friends that we entered in smaller festivals. It’s just a hobby; something I like to do on the side.
Behrends: What are you doing now for work?
Colford: I’m currently working as a server and bartender at an Olive Garden and testing to get a full-time job with a fire department.
Behrends: Is acting something you would like to pursue in the future?
Colford: If the opportunities arose, yeah. It’s something I enjoy, like firefighting. I would never want to stop firefighting, but if I ever had an opportunity to do some more acting, I would take it. It’s a great way to express myself creatively.
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