Jon Seda rushes into The Camby’s Bees Knees lounge after spending a full day promoting his new Sunday night NBC show, Chicago Justice.
He’s missing the trademark earring of his character, chief investigator Antonio Dawson, but otherwise looked like he stepped right out of the show—snug T-shirt, black jeans and an intensity that travels beyond the person with whom he is speaking.
Chicago Justice is the fourth installment of Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchise, which also includes Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med. Ask Seda about his longtime boss, and a grin creeps across his face. In 2012, Seda joined Chicago Fire as Antonio, and two years later, be became part of Chicago P.D.’s main cast. Chicago Justice premiered on March 1 and follows the prosecutors and investigators at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“What’s amazing is I go back with Dick to when I was on Homicide,” he says about his stint on Homicide: Life on the Streets as Detective Paul Falsone.
“Dick is so passionate. These shows are his babies. He really cares about them.”
Ironically, Manhattan-born Seda didn’t set out to become an actor. Instead, he was an amateur boxer who fell into acting.
“Boxing was what I wanted to do. Acting came out of nowhere,” Seda says. “My mom wanted me to find something to fall back on if boxing didn’t work out. So she says, ‘Why don’t you try acting?’
“I wanted to please her and I started going with my sister to these classes at Weist-Barron Acting School. She saw something in me, and kept pushing me to really take this seriously. I didn’t want to. I was focused on boxing.”
Then, through the school, he landed a role in the boxing film Gladiator. He portrayed Chris Pérez alongside Jennifer Lopez in Selena and appeared as U.S. Marine John Basilone in Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s follow up to Band of Brothers, The Pacific.
He prides himself on the variety of roles he’s been able to play.
“I’ve been really fortunate to not be pigeonholed or typecast,” Seda says. “I’ve had roles that are so completely opposite of each other. That’s what you want as an actor.”
Seda says he didn’t quite “grasp” Antonio right away because he was really focused on his character on the HBO series Treme.
“My mind was in a different place,” he says. “I didn’t want to just be a cop, coming in every now and then, getting information and disappearing.
“Dick said I was going to love it and I would love working with great people—and he was right. For me, what was really intriguing, was the fact that I had a sister who was on the show, Gabriela, played by Monica Raymund. It was an interesting dynamic. That was the first real draw for me.”
Costarring with Philip Winchester and “some newcomer by the name of Carl Weathers” in Chicago Justice is fulfilling—if not a bit surreal.
“Just check this out: Here I am a kid, 12 years old or whatever, when Rocky came out,” he recalls. “I had no idea I wanted to be an actor. I wasn’t pursuing being an actor at all.
“If someone told me not only was I going to be an actor, but I was going to do a movie with Sylvester Stallone and work with Carl Weathers, I wouldn’t believe them.”
With Stallone, he starred in Bullet to the Head, which he calls “amazing.” Director-screenwriter Walter Hill wrote the part for Seda.
“Stallone and I had great chemistry,” he adds. “He was great. Now I’m working with Apollo Creed? Are you kidding me? He’s such an amazing guy. I look back to when I was a kid and now I’m working with the guys I saw on the screen. It’s amazing.”
He casually slides in that he learned a thing or two from Al Pacino, when the two worked on Carlito’s Way.
“I learned so much watching him go through his routine,” says Seda, who is filming Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire through April. “For me, I use the mentality I had when I was boxing. The script is my ring. I have to train for this script. I have to train in my mind and my heart.
“I need to make it believable when they say ‘action.’ I’m in that world and where I need to be. We have incredible writers on all of these shows. It’s my job to try and make it come to life. It’s a team effort. For me, it’s a matter of understanding where I am with the script.”