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updated: 9/25/2012 6:13 AM

'Chicago Fire' role meaningful to Naperville actor

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  • Actor David Eigenberg, 48, of Naperville, co-stars in the new NBC drama series "Chicago Fire."

      Actor David Eigenberg, 48, of Naperville, co-stars in the new NBC drama series "Chicago Fire."
    Courtesy of NBC

  • Actor David Eigenberg, 48, of Naperville, co-stars in the new NBC drama series "Chicago Fire."

      Actor David Eigenberg, 48, of Naperville, co-stars in the new NBC drama series "Chicago Fire."
    Courtesy of NBC

  • Actor David Eigenberg, 48, of Naperville, co-stars in the new NBC drama series "Chicago Fire."

      Actor David Eigenberg, 48, of Naperville, co-stars in the new NBC drama series "Chicago Fire."
    courtesy of NBC

  • David Eigenberg had a regular-guy role on "Sex And The City" when he spoke at alma mater Naperville Central in 2002. Now he sports a buff look but still plays a regular guy on TV.

      David Eigenberg had a regular-guy role on "Sex And The City" when he spoke at alma mater Naperville Central in 2002. Now he sports a buff look but still plays a regular guy on TV.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Actor David Eigenberg, posing in downtown Naperville in 2006, returns home frequently to visit his family and friends. He moved to the Chicago area from New York at age 4 and also lived in Aurora and Northbrook before the family settled in Naperville.

      Actor David Eigenberg, posing in downtown Naperville in 2006, returns home frequently to visit his family and friends. He moved to the Chicago area from New York at age 4 and also lived in Aurora and Northbrook before the family settled in Naperville.
    Daily Herald File Photo 2006

  • Actor David Eigenberg, 48, of Naperville, co-stars in the new NBC drama series "Chicago Fire."

      Actor David Eigenberg, 48, of Naperville, co-stars in the new NBC drama series "Chicago Fire."
    courtesy of NBC

  • Video: Chicago Fire trailer

 

He's not the kind of celebrity TMZ follows around or who winds up on magazine covers.

David Eigenberg says he's just a regular guy -- something that might have helped the Naperville native land a co-starring role in the new series, "Chicago Fire." The drama, based on the lives of Chicago firefighters, debuts Oct. 10 on NBC.

"Chicago Fire" has been filming around the city this month, giving Eigenberg a chance to visit with his mom, Bev, to see his old Naperville Central High School friends (whom he's always kept in touch with) and to show his wife and 3-year-old son the local museums and sights.

"We're renting an apartment in Bucktown, and when I'm at the park with my son, people will come up to me and say, 'You know, you look a lot like that guy from 'Sex and the City.' If they pick up on my voice, then they know," he said. "It happens all the time."

"Sex and the City," after all, was Eigenberg's highest-profile acting role. He played regular guy/bartender Steve Brady in the Emmy Award-winning HBO series, which spun into two movies and still reruns on cable.

"(When I first started in the business), my acting teacher used to always call me Steve. He'd say, 'I don't know why I do that.' And ... it became my biggest role," Eigenberg said. "I love 'Sex and the City' because it brought humor to sexual situations."

Eigenberg doesn't elaborate much about the famous series, because he said Steve Brady wasn't his favorite role. That honor goes to his current role on "Chicago Fire." He plays Christopher Hermann, the big-hearted, veteran Chicago firefighter (or "barn boss," as they say in firehouse slang) among the studly young firefighters. He's the guy who breaks up fights and isn't afraid to yell "Hey, shut up!" at someone.

"I love this job. It's everything for me. It's physically demanding, it's emotionally demanding, and you get a lot of banter," Eigenberg said.

Since most "Chicago Fire" cast members are relatively new to showbiz, they've looked up to the 48-year-old Eigenberg and his 30 years in the business. In return, the young actors have been a good influence on him: In preparation for the role, Eigenberg dropped 10 to 15 pounds and buffed up in the gym.

"I got a little doughy the last few years," he joked. "I've always tried to stay fit, but I'm a little guy. I'm 5-foot-7. I'm like a waif compared to (the other actors and real firefighters who were extras)."

Firefighters have always been near and dear to Eigenberg's heart. He was born in New York, moving to the Chicago area when he was 4, and one of his oldest friends was a Brooklyn firefighter on Sept. 11, 2001. His friend survived 9/11, but some in his firehouse did not. So Eigenberg set out to help raise money in their memory, even making numerous fundraising stops across Naperville in late 2001.

So it was with much respect that Eigenberg shadowed the Chicago firefighters in preparation for this role. He did a few 24-hour tours at different firehouses across the city.

"We weren't walking in on fires, but we were gearing up with (the firefighters) and walking straight up to the fires. Then they'd say, 'OK. Get out,'" he said, laughing. "It's one of the most stressful jobs in the civilian world. But they have huge hearts and they're funny. You've got to have a sense of humor to go forward."

Eigenberg says he's happiest working in television, as he's doing now, and spending time with his family.

"I've had an amazing career," he said. "I never pushed the envelope of wanting people to know me, or be on the covers of magazines. I just want to enjoy what I'm doing. I'm hoping ('Chicago Fire') sticks around. I would love to ride this as long as I could."

-- Jamie Sotonoff

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for showbiz people from the suburbs to feature in their column. If you know of someone who would make a great feature, email them at dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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