Interview with William Smillie

February 7, 2015 | Chicago native William Smillie plays fireman Kevin Hadley on NBC's hit drama "Chicago Fire". He talks to us about his time on "Chicago Fire" and says that we haven't seen the last of his character on the show. William Smillie also talks about his passion for music and shares his personal experience of struggling with depression.

German translation of the interview.

Note: © myFanbase 2015 - The interview is exclusive to myFanbase and may not be published on other websites or the like. You may share the first two questions (up to 180 words) if you link back to this site. Translations other than English and German may be posted with full credit including the link to this site.

Foto: William Smillie - Copyright: Janna Giacoppo
William Smillie
© Janna Giacoppo

1) Was there a special moment that led you to pursue a career as an actor?

Oh, sure. I have a brother who is five years older than I am. When I was around 9 years old, I saw him in his first high school play. He had a small part in, I think, Auntie Mame. I couldn't tell you exactly what it was about the whole thing that sent me over the moon, but there was something about it that got my blood going. I knew that night that once I was old enough, I was going to start auditioning for things at school. I wanted a piece of that mystery.

2) What has been your favorite acting memory so far?

All of my favorite memories of my time in this job come from being around great people. So, I don't know if you can call this an acting memory, really. It's actually a waiting to act memory. It was during Season One of Chicago Fire. It was the middle of the night and we were shooting a scene on a highway where there was supposed to have been this huge multiple vehicle accident. We were on this large expanse of a highway that we had blocked off for the scene. It was a very late night, very outdoor, a bit cold. The shoot was a long one. We'd been out there for hours and we were all getting a little tired. In some downtime between shots, Joe Minoso, Chris Stolte, and I were sort of huddled up in this space between wrecked cars, sort of laying around, keeping each other entertained. Like I said, it was late, and we were all getting a little punchy. Very tired. The kind of tired that brings on fits of laughter. I honestly don't recall what we were saying to each other that got us rolling, but I know that I have never laughed as hard or as long as I did that night, tucked in between these destroyed cars, in the middle of a highway, in the dead of the night, with tears running down our cheeks from laughing so hard. Three grown men laugh-crying themselves silly. Makes me grin now just thinking about it.

3) You played fireman Kevin Hadley on "Chicago Fire". What were your three favorite things about being on the show?

First and foremost, that cast and crew. I love that group of people. Spending 12-14 hour work days with them was always a pleasure. That's saying something. To find that kind of camaraderie and have it not just endure, but thrive during days and nights like we had is a testament. Love those people. Second, I learned a great deal. Acting for the camera and acting for the stage are very different skills. I'd done far more of the latter than the former. It was like going to TV University, surrounded by exceptional, generous teachers. I learned so much just from watching everyone else. It was really great. I'm not sure how to put the third thing into words, really. I met some of my favorite people and made some of my favorite memories and walked away with big love in my heart. And that's still in there. So, that. That's number three. This thing in my heart that I can't properly describe here.

4) Even though you haven't been on the show for quite some time, how can we picture a typical day on set of "Chicago Fire"?

Parking. Trailer. Coffee. Definitely coffee. Breakfast, if you have time. Groggy hellos to all. Change into costume. Hair. Makeup. Coffee. Wait. Read. Wait. Talk. Shoot. Wait. Talk. Wait. Shoot. Rinse. Repeat. Shooting a television show is, I imagine, a lot like an army crossing a river. There are many things to do, that all need to be done in a very specific order, by very well-trained people, in a certain amount of time. You need to be ready to go, but there's a lot of down time while other people do their thing. It's a lot of hurry up and wait. But, with the right people around, you'd be surprised how painless that can be.

6) When your character Kevin Hadley was fired in Season 1 of "Chicago Fire", did you know that they were planing on bringing you back?

I honestly had no idea what the plan was. I just sort of assumed that if the folks who decide these sorts of things needed me, they'd find me. I will admit to being curious.

7) After Hadley was fired he became so frustrated, that he began to attack his former colleagues - why do you think he went through such extreme measures?

Well, I think Hadley clearly has an exaggerated sense of competition in him, and defined himself by his job. Combine that with the feeling that he was wrongly sent away from a place and a job that he loved, for what he perceived to be a minor transgression. There are folks like that. People who let the echo chamber of their own head magnify what, for others, would be a mild rebuke into a full on assault on their sense of self. It seems there's an unfortunate overabundance of people in this world who can make a murderous mountain out of their own particular molehill.

8) Is there any chance we might see Hadley again? Or do you think his story is told on the show?

You will see Hadley again. [Editor's note: The interview took place before #3.13 Three Bells aired on NBC.]

9) Besides "Chicago Fire" you were also guest starring on "The Chicago Code", both series set in Chicago. What makes this city special to you?

Chicago is my home town. I live here. I work here. I play here. I love this city. Particularly the artistic community here. There's a lot less Me Me Me here and a lot more Us. It's a collaborative community. I love visiting other places, but this is the home I believe I'll always return to. Come visit. You'll see.

10) You covered quite a few songs (and have a great voice btw). Is singing something you try to pursue on a professional level or is it just a hobby (for now)?

Look at you, with the Internet sleuthing. Yeah. That. I do that for me. A friend of mine posted a video of herself playing piano and singing and it got me thinking. What a brave thing it is to put yourself out there like that. I have a lot of artist friends who take risks all the time as a part of their craft. They put themselves on the line either physically or emotionally in pursuit of something larger. That's why I do it. It's a little homage to those folks. The brave. I do it because I enjoy it. I do it because it's difficult. And I find it so much more polite to do it that way, via a video, rather than, say, busting out a guitar at a party. This way only people who are interested have to listen. And - and this is the real sweetener - they can turn it off the second they don't like it.

11) Taking a look at your playlist right now: Which are the three songs on top of that list?

Forgive me for not quite answering your question properly, for I intend to respond with artists, not songs. I'm currently playing George Ezra, Andrew Bird, and my long time favorite, Iron and Wine with so much regularity, I'm beginning to think I have a problem. Cannot get enough.

12) You talked openly about the suffering from depression on your facebook page. What was your motivation to share a private thing like that?

Because when I found out you didn't actually have to sit around all day working up the energy to do laundry, I was a little surprised. That's the thing about depression. It's fucking sneaky. It isn't so much a thing that happens to you as a thing that you become. It's not sadness, although that can be a component of it. It's not a bad mood. That's something I didn't understand. It's something else.

Depression is a weight, hanging around your neck, and the longer you live with it, the more you just assume that the weight has always been there. The reason I talked publicly about it was because I wanted to do my bit to let other people who might be having the same trouble know that they can get out from under the weight. They can feel good again. They can have the energy to see the world and enjoy their friends and live a real life. All they have to do is ask for help. It starts with simply asking someone to help you. There's no shame in that.

It's like this. If you wake up on a Sunday and you don't want to do the dishes, that's fine. That's one day. You can handle it on Monday. If you wake up on Monday and don't want to do the dishes, that's procrastination. You should probably just do the dishes, but it's not the end of the world if you don't. If you go a week without doing the dishes there's a fair chance that you are either very busy or very lazy. Either way, you should probably change something and get those dishes done. But if you go a month, and the dishes aren't done, and you hate walking the dog, and you intentionally cancel appointments, and back out of plans with friends, and you have a real tough time working up the will to pick up a piece of trash from your floor? You're almost certainly depressed. And if that's you, you don't need to feel like that. Call your doctor. Call a therapist. Call a friend. Call. Anyone. And ask for help. Because it can be good again. You can have your life back.

13) Since you know how hard the business is, what advice would you give a young student who wants to be an actor?

There's an old adage that suggests, "If you can do something other than acting, do it." I'm not sure I would go that far. But I would say this. Learn to do something else in addition to learning how to act. I'm not saying that just so that you'll have a viable income for the times when acting gigs are thin on the ground (although that's VERY important). It's because there's a whole world out there. You have to see it in order to reflect it. You have to meet and interact with people who maybe aren't artists. You have to have struggles other than getting your lines memorized. In short, if you intend to portray life, you need to live life. And part of life is work. So, find a gig you can tolerate and use it to see the world.

14) Would you tell us three things that are currently on you bucket list?

Everything. Everything. Everything else.

15) Since myFanbase is an online magazine about tv shows, we would like to know what your favorite shows are?

I'll just say that I think "The Leftovers" is one of the finest efforts I've seen in ages. It's hard stuff, but they are doing something quietly ambitious on that show and I think everyone should catch up with it.

Thank you so much, William, we wish you all the best for your future!

Thanks very much for the interest and the outlet, and good luck to you.

Annika Leichner - myFanbase