Jeff Hephner loved filming "Boss" in Chicago so much, he asked NBC to cast him in "Chicago Fire."
"I think I poured it on enough," the actor said during my Aug. 20 visit to the show's firehouse location. "I'm like, 'Listen, I really want to work there again.' So they sent me back. ... I'd love to live here. Keep me working here."
Hephner spent part of the last two years in Chicago playing fictional Illinois treasurer Ben Zajac, who had a contentious relationship with Kelsey Grammer's powerful Chicago mayor, Tom Kane. Zajac also slept around a lot in the Starz drama, but we'll get to that later.
"Chicago Fire" begins its second season Sept. 24, with Hephner in a recurring role as firefighter Jeff Clarke who, the actor said, is "the complete opposite of what I did with Zajac, which is nice."
Clarke is new to Firehouse 51, and his poor social skills and private demeanor don't win him fans among the crew. "He's got a bit of a mystery behind him ... In a tight knit family like this, it's gonna bubble up some trust issues and loyalty issues," Hephner said. "There's a ton of alpha males in [the house] and I think everybody's got to find their own place. People sometimes take a little while to warm up."
Hephner said he didn't have time to train or prepare for the stunt work involved with the show, but as you can see he says in the video above*, he's "enjoying the hell out of it" even though it's quite different from his last experience filming here.
In "Boss," his womanizing character spent a lot of time with his clothes off.
"All the time," he said with a laugh. "Yes, my wife reminds me all the time. And everybody on the street reminds me."
Even a security guard at the airport brought it up, Hephner said. Before boarding a plane from Chicago to New York recently, a security officer asked him, "How was it?"
"I was like, 'What?' He's like, 'You know what I'm talking about,'" Hephner continued. "And he wanted me to [tell him about filming the sex scenes] and I'm with my kids and my wife and I was like, 'I'll catch you when I come back through town. Maybe I'll tell you about it.'
"He wanted to know a little more detail than I was probably willing to give."
Hephner admitted that some Zajac's sexual adventures were hard for the actors to believe, including his infamous Season 1 scene with Kathleen Robertson at the Palmer House Hotel. Zajac had the mayor's press secretary, Kitty O'Neil (Robertson) pressed up against one of the giant columns in the hotel lobby while his family and the press were nearby. In reality, the lovers would have been spotted easily.
"We're just shaking our heads going, 'This is just low. This is low,'" he said, laughing. "I mean I can see them doing it in a public place. I get all that, but with [Zajac's] kids going by right in my eye line, too? I was like, 'Euh, this is weird.'"
Hephner won't be stripping in "Chicago Fire," which should keep his profile low while he's out enjoying the city. He's been praising Chicago to actor friends who are coming here to film other shows or movies.
"When people come here I'm like, 'You guys, get ready to be in a real city. There's everything here,'" he said. "I've seen improv shows. I've seen live music. I've seen country, rock. I've seen a ton of jazz. I mean, it's amazing what's here every single night. I'm running for mayor, too, by the way."
Look out, Rahm.
* If you can't view the video interview here, watch it at my YouTube page.
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