If you only know Colin Donnell from his TV work, like his current starring role on NBC’s “Chicago Med,” you’d think the guy was a pretty dark soul, right? Brooding, rarely flashing a smile and just being harder than hell on himself.
The good news is that Donnell is just a very good actor, because to talk to him in person, he’s anything but dark and brooding. In fact, the actor/singer is quite jovial and engaging and has done much more outside of television, including an extensive theater career including Broadway productions like “Anything Goes” and “Holiday Inn.”
During a recent press lunch when Donnell was in Los Angeles to help celebrate the career of legendary producer Dick Wolf at this year’s PaleyFest, he talked about his “Chicago Med” role as well as what sitcom he would love to guest star in and how he and his wife are strong allies to the LGBT community.
Here are seven things I learned during our chat:
We’ll learn more about Connor: For those of you who want to know more about Dr. Rhodes, Donnell teased this week’s episode. “There’s a situation with a young kid who makes a terrible decision regarding a drunk driving incident, and the way that his family deals with it hits very close to home with Connor,” he said. “Some things are revealed about [Rhodes’] past which further explain not only why he ended up running away, but his relationship with his family.” The actor said that future episodes will continue “to sort of chip away at who Connor is and why he is the way that he is.” Donnell also said the DNR patient storyline will come back up and come full circle.
Favorite scene coming up: Shooting a hospital drama can be hectic, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t scenes that impress both the audience and the actors. “There’s a wonderful scene between Rhodes and Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss) that I won’t spoil anything about,” the actor said, “but it’s been one of my favorite scenes that we’ve done so far. It’s sort of a culmination of a lot of stuff that’s happened throughout the season. There’s a great set up for it, [and] we haven’t actually interacted too much in the last few episodes…it will hopefully be something that builds to a relationship and a friendship between us. I think it’s going to be fun to watch.”
Those “Chicago” crossovers: Nobody says orchestrating the crossovers with sister shows “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” is easy, but Donnell doesn’t mind the extra work one bit. “To be woven into those stories that don’t necessarily affect our timelines… we bring whatever’s going on in our episodes into what’s going on. It’s not like all of a sudden I’m happy-go-lucky Rhodes over on ‘P.D.'” He added that going to the other sets gives him a chance to hang out with some of his buddies. “Personally speaking, it’s fun to see all those people. It’s fun to see how their sets work versus our set, especially since they’ve been doing it for three or four years. To get to hang out with Sophia [Bush] and Jesse [Lee Soffer] and Marina [Squerciati] and all those people on the “Fire” side, like the other Jesse [Spencer] and Taylor [Kinney]…we’re the new kids on the block; they’re the older brothers and sisters and we just love hanging out with each other.”
Allies to LGBT community: Donnell has played the occasional gay role in his career (like last season on “Mysteries of Laura“), but he and his wife, Patti Murin, are big supporters in their everyday lives, too. “One of our good friends is [performer/activist] Rory O’Malley, and his efforts into the marriage equality movements were unbelievable,” Donnell marveled. “It’s a huge cause for us and a big part of our lives, not only from working in Broadway, but [our] personal lives. Such close friends and people we consider family are part of the [LGBT] community. We’re constantly looking for ways to do more to support that advancement of the equality movement.” Donnell admits that while we have made great strides, there’s still work to be done. “We’ve got a long way to go, and diversity has been such a hot button topic and I think the progress that’s been made is amazing, but I hope people don’t get complacent with it.”
Nothing like a gay wedding: Donnell said he hasn’t gone to too many gay weddings yet but the wedding of his brother’s friend stands out in his mind. “Their wedding was off-the-charts amazing…but they were waiting until it was legal in Philadelphia,” he explained. “For them to be able to have the wedding that they wanted in the place that they wanted, that’s all you can ask for, and I’m so glad we’re at that point in our culture and lives.”
Oh, shirtlessness: Donnell does do the occasional shirtless scene on “Chicago Med” and didn’t seem to mind that both female and male fans like what they see. “Somebody’s into it, I guess, aside from my wife,” he said with a smile. “I’m fine with it.”
Speaking of Donnell’s wife, Patti Murin, check out their duet of Sara Bareilles’ song “I Choose You” last year at NYC’s 54 Below:
Bring on the comedy: Donnell and Murin are fans of NBC’s freshman sitcom “Superstore,” and he made no secret of the fact that he’d love to do a guest spot. But would he want to be an employee or a customer? “I’d be a pain-in-the-ass customer!” he said. Also a fan of “Telenovela” and other half-hour comedies, Donnell wondered how the bulk of his TV work has ended up being on heavy dramas. “I don’t know how I ended up on dramas because I’m not like this in my life,” he laughed. “I don’t know how I’m playing a coked-up drug dealer on ‘The Affair‘ and then all the Daddy issues I’ve had between ‘Arrow‘ and ‘Chicago Med.'”
“Chicago Med” airs Tuesdays at 9 pm on NBC.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.