Waukegan's Jon Michael Hill uses 'Elementary' break to return to Steppenwolf

 
 
Posted5/27/2016 6:00 AM
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  • Waukegan native Jon Michael Hill stars alongside Jessie Fisher in Steppenwolf Theatre's Chicago-area premiere of Nick Payne's "Constellations."

    Waukegan native Jon Michael Hill stars alongside Jessie Fisher in Steppenwolf Theatre's Chicago-area premiere of Nick Payne's "Constellations." Courtesy of Joel Moorman

  • Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member and "Elementary" co-star Jon Michael Hill stars with Jessie Fisher in the Chicago-area premiere of Nick Payne's romantic dramedy "Constellations," directed by Jonathan Berry.

    Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member and "Elementary" co-star Jon Michael Hill stars with Jessie Fisher in the Chicago-area premiere of Nick Payne's romantic dramedy "Constellations," directed by Jonathan Berry. Courtesy of Joel Moorman

  • Waukegan's Jon Michael Hill, right, stars as Detective Marcus Bell on CBS' "Elementary," about the crime-solving exploits of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), left, and a female Watson (Lucy Liu) in New York.

    Waukegan's Jon Michael Hill, right, stars as Detective Marcus Bell on CBS' "Elementary," about the crime-solving exploits of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), left, and a female Watson (Lucy Liu) in New York.

Jon Michael Hill is one busy guy.

On hiatus from the CBS drama "Elementary," in which he plays detective Marcus Bell, the Waukegan native is back at Steppenwolf Theatre where he made his professional debut nearly a decade ago.

But this is no vacation for the actor. He returned to Chicago to co-star opposite Jessie Fisher ("Once") in Steppenwolf's regional premiere of "Constellations," a 2012 two-hander by British playwright Nick Payne about a chance meeting between a man and woman and the myriad relationship possibilities that follow. The show, currently in previews, opens June 1.

"It's about string theory and the multiverse, in which all possibilities exist out there in the universe in parallel worlds," said the 30-year-old Hill.

The idea that a slight shift in circumstances, that one seemingly minor choice could vastly alter one's life, fascinated the actor, who plays bee keeper Roland opposite Fisher's theoretical physicist Marianne in director Jonathan Berry's production.

"I look back at the things I've done and none of them felt like big either-or choices," Hill said.

Hill was a college senior when he first stepped onto Steppenwolf's stage nine years and 11 months ago in Bruce Norris' "The Unmentionables." He joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in 2007, a year after he graduated from the University of Illinois.

He subsequently appeared in five productions there, including Tracy Letts' "Superior Donuts." He received a 2010 Tony Award nomination for the show's Broadway transfer.

That same year, he co-starred in the short-lived ABC drama "Detroit 1-8-7." Since 2012, Hill has co-starred in CBS' "Elementary," starring Jonny Lee Miller as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Watson.

At Steppenwolf for the first time since 2013's "Head of Passes," Hill relishes the challenges presented by returning to his roots.

"I'm on cloud nine right now," said Hill. "One of my favorite things about doing theater is the rehearsal process, where the craft comes into play."

Hill's artistic pursuits extend beyond acting. In addition to the play, he's been rehearsing with his Detroit-based band, The Wolves. The group, whose music combines rock, blues, hip-hop and pop, will headline a couple of shows next month at Steppenwolf's new 1700 Theatre. The Hellish Family Band, featuring Fisher and her partner, Erik Hellman, also performs.

Before "Elementary" resumes production in July, Hill hopes to complete a "sizzle reel" for a sitcom pilot he wrote. Longer term, he'd like to play Citizen Barlow in August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean" and star in William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," an idea he's been tossing around with fellow Steppenwolf Ensemble member Tina Landau, who directed Hill in "Head of Passes" and "Superior Donuts."

Although Hill enjoys both television and the stage, he says theater feels like home.

"The feedback of the audience, sharing the experience of people who go on a journey with you is something invaluable," he said.

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