That Extra Something: A Light Post Conversation

Gene Cacciatore, 41, is a Melrose Park resident, and has served as a Melrose Park police officer for 20 years. He has a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. His engaging personality and genuine friendliness are just some of the characteristics that make Gene such a likable guy. If you live in Melrose Park, you might see Gene from time to time doing his part to serve and protect. But there's another place you can catch Gene, if you look close enough -- the background in two of NBC's newest and most popular television shows, Chicago Fire and Chicago PD. We recenlty sat down with Gene for our first Light Post conversation.

Light Post: How's it going? Thanks for doing this.

Gene Cacciatore: I'm good, problem, let's do it.

LP: First off, many ladies would like to Taylor Kinney as “dreamy” in real life as he is on screen?

GC: [Laughs] Is he as dreamy? You know, I’ve had the chance to meet quite a few members of the cast, but I’ve never met him personally. He seems a little more private, but I’ve seen him sit around and talk with the regular firemen, and they seem to enjoy his company. But I’ve never had the chance to talk with him.

LP: So how did you get involved in being an extra?

GC: In 2011, there was a TV show called The Chicago Code, which no longer airs, it was only one season. My friend, John Folino, who was a homicide detective at the time, and is now a sergeant with the Chicago Police, became friends with the creator, Shawn Ryan, and he decided to do the show in Chicago, and he contacted John who then contacted me and asked if I wanted to be an extra, and I said sure. So I did that for a while, and even had a brief speaking line that didn’t make it passed editing. And then that show got cancelled and he told me about Chicago Fire coming up. So I went ahead and applied for that, but he had no involvement in that. They didn’t call me at all the first season, and then one day out of the clear blue I get a call for Chicago Fire. The casting agent said hey I like your look, I’d like to use you a bunch of times if thats alright, and I said sure. So I started up again as an extra, and then from there the spinoff for Chicago PD was created, and I eventually also made a transition to that show.

LP: So you don't have a degree from the University of Extras or anything like that?

GC: No, no...I just jumped right in. I guess my credentials as a police officer were enough for them.

LP: What’s a typical day like for you when shooting?

GC: It varies a lot. Most of the time its a very early start in the morning - 5:30, 6:00am on average. And I’ve been there as long as 12-14 hours. Sometimes you might start at nine in the morning and you’re out of there by 11:00 or 12:00. But most of the time you’re there pretty early, and you’re there a long time. There’s a lot of work that goes into those sets.

LP: Chicago Fire and PD, at times, carry over actors from each show. Does the experience of working on one show differ at all from the other?

GC: Its not necessarily the cast - its more the crew, the people behind the scenes - the directors, assistant directors, the production assistants, and everything. Thats where you really see the variations between the two. You have a lot of officers say they like working Chicago Fire better or PD better. But for me, I really find them both equally the same.

LP: Is it ever strange watching episodes knowing exactly what it was like shooting a particular scene?

GC: What’s strange is that its hard to pay attention to a show because I’m constantly looking in the background. Not so much for myself, but for other people to see if I recognize them from something before and to see what the other extras might be doing.

LP: As a real police officer, do you ever get consulted in regards to certain scenes?

GC: They have a tech advisor on set, Brian Luce, who is a Chicago Police officer. I have had some actors, though, ask me questions regarding a certain situation, but I’m not there to step on anyone’s toes, so I just tell them that's a question for the tech advisor, not me.

LP: Do you ever get to talk with the actors and actresses between takes?

GC: Yes, yes. Sophia Bush is a little more on the private side. Jason Beghe, who plays Sergeant Voight, is a very nice guy. Jon Seda, who plays Antonio Dawson...super super nice guy. Jesse Lee Soffer, he’s another one. From Chicago Fire, Joe Minoso and Christian Stolte, who plays Mouch, they’re a couple good guys as well. One of the guest stars for Chicago Fire, Kenny Johnson, he’s been on The Shield, he’s a nice guy too, I was pretty impressed with him.

LP: Do you know in advance if you’re going to be on a particular episode?

GC: I do know what episode I’ll be on, there’s no secret about that. But I work so many of them I don’t keep track, its too hard.

LP: What does your family think of you occasionally appearing on primetime TV?

GC: [Laughs] You know, at first it was like ‘Oh yeah that’s cool that’s cool.’ But then afterwards, its become, “Eh, ok.” At least that’s how I feel about it, unless its something that is really prominent, not just the back of my head. But when you get a nice close up shot when you’re next to the main actors, its pretty cool.

LP: Is there a favoite moment you've had on set, off camera?

GC: You know, when we’re not actually in front of the camera, there’s a lot of down time, and it can get a little boring. But getting to sit down with some of the other Chicago Police officers and talking to them, and all of them for the most part have been really friendly. But pretty much just talking with them...they have a lot of the same issues and same train of thought that we do in the suburbs, so we have a lot of common ground and they’re easy to get along with, and I’ve made some friendships out of it too. So that’s the time I like.

LP: Have you gotten called yet for the upcoming season?

GC: Yes, I’ve already started working on both shows so far. But whenever they call me I have to turn them down more than I can take the jobs, and I feel bad when I miss the chance to be on set.

LP: It seems you really enjoy the time you spend doing this.

GC: I do, I really do. I enjoy it very much. Being around the entertainment business is very exciting. There’s always a good buzz in the air. People are there for very long hours so they’re always trying to make the best of it. And its always exciting when you get to interact with the cast on film.

LP: Got any inside scoops?

GC: No, I’m not really privy to all of that, I just...well, actually, I do know something, but I can’t give it away.

LP: Nothing?

GC: Well, I'll just say something does happen, and I believe it might be in the first episode of Chicago Fire.

LP: OK, some fun questions - if you could arrest one of the actors, who would you throw the cuffs on?

GC: Well, again, I don’t dislike anybody [laughing], so I probably I wouldn’t throw the cuffs on any of them. But I probably would throw the cuffs on the one Craft services guy who shooed me away from the coffee table, saying it was for cast and crew only when it was about 20 degrees outside and I was standing out there freezing for like 10 hours. He wouldn’t let me have coffee...bastard.

LP: If you were able to have a speaking line, what would you say?

GC: Oh that’s easy. “These pretzels are making me thirsty.”

LP: If you were able to be an extra on another show, what show would it be?

GC: Oh, you know what...there’s two main shows, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.

LP: What would your line be for The Walking Dead?

GC: "This arm is making me thirsty."

LP: And for Game of Thrones?

GC: Same thing.

Season Three of Chicago Fire premieres September 23rd and the second season of Chicago PD premieres September 24th on NBC.

#chicagofire #chicagopd #melrosepark #lightpost