Exclusive Interview with Chicago Med’s Marlyne Barrett
On Chicago Med, Marlyne Barrett plays Maggie Lockwood, the head charge nurse in the emergency department of Gaffney Chicago Medical Center. I got the chance to talk with Marlyne about how she initially got the role on Chicago Med, what fans can expect from the rest of the current season, her foreign film obsession and much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Before we talk about the current season of Chicago Med, let’s go back to how you got the role in the first place. You had been a part of Dick Wolf’s world before, by making appearances on Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Trial by Jury before. But what was your audition process for Med like?
Yes…. I had taken some years off from acting, because of an unfortunate personal tragedy that had happened in my life. I often thought that I was going to not return to acting after, unfortunately, an assault that had happened to me.
When returning back, one of my first jobs was on American Crime and then the year after that I was offered this job by the Wolf Pack. Wolf Films is what we call the Wolf Pack. It had always been one of my dreams to work with Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski.
It’s a combination of what I call a divine appointment in time, what I call a kairos time, and just destiny opening up, because I don’t know how they knew I was available. I had auditioned for some spots on Chicago P.D., but by no means did they know I was available for full time, let alone for full-time as a charge nurse and ready to move to Chicago. They had as much faith as I did.
You mention auditioning for guest spots on Chicago P.D. So were you on their radar and they reached out to you or you heard about the role of Maggie and sent in audition tapes? How did you actually get the role of Maggie?
I was on their radar for a job on P.D. and they pulled the offer. They said, “No, we want you full-time on Med.” That happened within a span of three days. Within three days I was told I was relocating to Chicago for an undetermined amount of time.
I remember the first phone call was on a Wednesday or a Thursday, and Labor Day was happening that weekend. Sunday, I took a flight. Labor Day, I rested in Chicago. Tuesday morning, I was at my first medical practice.
Wow. That’s so fast.
Oh, yes. And the whole shock of the situation. I remember I was in Los Angeles and I was going to have a Labor Day party on Monday, which my husband still had and I wasn’t there. But the shock wasn’t just…it was meeting so many different people, the locations, everything, everything about the Wolf Pack team, because Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. already had their crews there and they just embraced us and made it feel like home. It was easy, an easy transition.
You came to Med with quite the medical background; your mother is an ICU nurse and your sister is a doctor, you went to school and received a degree in nursing before going on to pursue acting.
I did, I did.
Because of that, did you ever feel like your medical background was an advantage and still is an advantage?
I did, actually, because I knew what I wanted to portray on screen, because the medical institution is such a prominent figure in my family upbringing that we have honor for it. My mother is an ICU nurse, my father is a medical engineer, my sister is a pre-med student who went on to pursue law, I have a nursing degree, my aunt works for Kaiser, so it’s everywhere in my family. We have enormous respect for the medical institution. It’s probably the most constant thing in your life. You have to eventually see a doctor at some point in your life.
Having immense respect for the nurses and doctors in this country, I don’t necessarily appreciate the business behind health, meaning the drugs, how they pay the doctors and nurses.
Although, compared to PD and Fire, we haven’t seen that many episodes of Med due to the season’s late start, I feel like the show has come out of the gates really strong and is poised for a breakout season. How do you feel about Season 3 and do you think the show has changed from the past two seasons?
Yes, I think this season is rich. I think we’re hitting the marrow of what this cast and production company are able to put together. I think we’re able to go down as one of the great shows of healthcare, because of the parallel between what it takes to be a great healer and how to balance your life. I think, contrary to the other shows, we’re exploring, at a slower pace, this idea of the constant in our work relationships. Why am I disagreeing with Dr. Halstead again? Why am I disagreeing with Dr. Choi this time? Does Maggie know how to take care of her personal needs in order to be an efficient caregiver? Does it make me a better person now if I fall in love with someone or is my loneliness affecting my long hours? We explore all of that.
On top of that, Chicago Med is set in one of the most dangerous cities in the country: downtown Chicago. It’s not Houston with its hospitals that deal a lot with cancer patients. No, it’s gunshots and stabbings and car accidents and mental disorders. It’s just non-stop drama.
Maggie has now been the longest role you’ve had. What have you learned from playing her for so long and how do you feel like you’ve seen this character specifically grow over the past two seasons?
I think one of the biggest things that I’ve learned is to slow down the pace of my exploration of a being. I think one of the greatest things I learned from some of the greats is that you can never get tied to getting to know someone. If you ever think you’ve figured out a human being, no matter how much you feel like you’ve known them, there is always a deeper process in their current life exploration. Yesterday has affected them into a greater way of living or of compromising, but you can never fully know them.
So I don’t think I necessarily explore Maggie as a Marlyne that I’ve lived so many years of my life. I explore her as someone who has multiple faces to an octagon. Even if I think I’ve seen all eight faces, suddenly one of those faces develops a new eight faces. I think its the idea that you’ve never figured [out] a human being. I think I’m like that with my friends and family, when you allow people to change in front of you. I have a lot of long-term friendships, because I’m allowing people to change and also have a great expectation for change.
Would you say that Maggie is different/similar to the person that Marlyne is? How so?
She’s completely different. Maggie is a local Chicagoan. She loves her town and I doubt she would ever move from there. She believes in helping this city become a place that she’s hoped and dreamed it would become all her life, a multi-cultural place. I’ve often said that Maggie’s grandfather was there when Martin Luther King Jr. marched and said, “If you can take Chicago, you can take any town,” and that Maggie has become one of the people that takes Chicago. She learned that from her grandparents, because she was probably raised by her grandparents, because her mother had to work all the time, because her father walked away from her and then her mom passed-away from over-exertion and working all the time. That’s some of the storylines that I’ve been given, as the actor, by the writers, about my mother. I just saw that in the construct of Maggie.
Marlyne is so international, so patient, would probably never, ever pursue nursing, loves people. That Maggie and Marlyne have in common, loving people. Maggie never has time to sit and have conversations, she’s always trying to walk away. While Marlyne loooooves long dialogue with her friends, she will stop what she’s doing, sit down. Maggie doesn’t have many family members that are left. I have an extended, wide family that’s left. I’m really close to my sisters. I think there are a lot of things, outside of the fact that we’re both chocolate, that we don’t have in common.
We haven’t seen too much focus on Maggie so far this season. But from what you’ve filmed so far, are we going to get deeper into her personal life this season?
Definitely. I think Maggie is one of those slow burns. When you have a show with nine cast members, you have to have a couple of characters that are slow burns. Sometimes shows decide to add a cast member at the beginning of season three, and I saw Maggie as that, more this added cast member that they would start exploring in season three, which is something I perceived that they had to do because of all the doctors that we had and all the staff members that we had. Maggie is this great secret of Chicago Med that is about to be explored and be expanded on over the next couple of years, starting this year. You just have to keep some pieces in your back pocket.
Maggie is the head charge nurse in the ED so she has a little bit of a hand in helping everyone else out with not just their patients but also with their personal lives. I mean she really holds the doctors together and is an integral part of the show. Because of that you get to interact with all of the other doctors and help them out with not just their patients but also their personal lives. What’s been your favorite storyline of someone else’s that you’ve gotten to be a small part of either this season or just in general?
I actually have two. Dr. Halstead and Maggie have a really great brother-sister friendship. I think Dr. Halstead’s transition into becoming an Attending and learning how to let go of his stiffness to get to know Dr. Manning has been a great process for Maggie, because of the relationship she has with Dr. Manning. But also the relationship she really has with the idea of working, working, working, working, working and never doing the self-exploration that needs to be done in order to enter in a relationship. I think Dr. Halstead represents the other side of the pole.
Then there was the whole storyline with April. Maggie really watched April with her pregnancy and really wanted to be there during the birth, the way she was there for Dr. Manning, but it turned out to be her being there for a friend as a loss happened. I think that was a great place for Maggie to be. Now she’s watching April, in more of a sisterly way.
One of the questions we got from Twitter: are there any Maggie and Sarah scenes coming up?
Actually, there is. Sarah just lived some pretty intense times. It’s funny, because Rachel [DiPillo], who plays Sarah, and Marlyne have a really great relationship and we always wonder those things. I think Sarah is at a place where Maggie is watching her collect herself, it’s like PTSD. Sarah watched a father-figure get shot and Maggie knows that she needs to grow up from it. Trauma happens in a hospital, and I think there is an inevitable moment where Maggie is going to have to comfort her in a way where, if you’re going to be in a metropolitan city, you’ve got to get over that. So there’s a scene coming up for that.
Going off of that, is there anyone you haven’t worked with a whole lot that you would like to have a scene with in season 3?
I think I would start with Rachel on our show, just like someone mentioned. But if we’re talking about crossing over, I would have to say Jason Beghe, who plays Voight. It always works out to be some great movie magic when you have two strong personalities together. I did some really great stuff with Taylor [Kinney] last year on Chicago Fire. I think Severide is a really great friend of Maggie’s. I’ve had some nice work with Monica [Raymund]’s character. Oh, I’m trying to think. [pauses] Paddy [Patrick Fluger]. Mr. Swagger, himself.
Another question we got from Twitter: Are we gonna see more of Maggie’s relationship with Barry?
Standby and yes…. We’re about to air episode 7 and it just keeps going from there.
I always like to end with: what is something that you nerd out over?
What’s your favorite one?
Right now: a Korean film called Villainess. I think I’m a nerd over great action sequences. Bad-ass women doing bad-ass stuff. This chick, let me explain what she did. This chick went into someone’s house and proceeded to try to kill him silently in his sleep. Unfortunately, she made a little bit of noise so about 20 people show up out of nowhere. After running out of bullets, in both of the guns she had available to her, she had to use her sword, which she figured she should make sure she takes with her, after they follow her to her motorcycle. As everyone is speeding down the road they’re in tunnels sword-fighting with this chick as she’s trying to avoid trucks and cars and still [she] arrives home to take care of her kids. Point-blank, finished, done. When I saw that sequence, I think I almost shed tears. My reaction was, “Well, I was available to do it. Why didn’t anyone call me? [laughs]
I also love all foreign stuff, in general, on Netflix, Amazon. If, God forbid, that I love a show, I will re-watch the show right there, the entire series, as if I’ve never watched it. I just love story-telling. I’m an intense nerd about it.
Is there anything on Netflix that you would recommend?
La Casa de Papel, which is a Spanish show. Spanish meaning from Spain. The third season of Narcos. The second season of The Crown. A French tv show called Ten Percent. Mindhunter is a must.
That’s what I’ve been hearing!
Girrrrrl, be ready. David Finch got problems. There are some people that you ask yourself, “Do you think he sleeps at night?”
And he’s one of them?
Oh, my god. Everyone who can get past the first scene of the pilot episode. It’s fantastic. It’ll get you right away, because you’re like, “Holy Toledo. What are they talking about here?”
But what I’ve just given you there, this is outside of Stranger Things, obviously, and hopefully people are watching Dark, which is a German television show. It’s kind of like Stranger Things for adults. What I mean by that is I think Stranger Things can be watched by adults, but I think Dark is specifically made for an adult perspective. There’s no 80s music to entice you more, there’s no kid banter. It’s darker.
That is my list that everyone can bite onto for the next six months, but I would watch all of that in the next two and a half weeks, max, if that was me.