Growing up in Chicago made Jessica Camacho tough enough for ‘Taken’

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Jessica Camacho on the TV series “Taken.” | NBC

Doing a joint phone interview with “Taken” co-stars Jennifer Beals and Jessica Camacho, a mention of Chicago broughta big “Yeah!” from the two local natives.

“I was just there over the holidays,” gushed Camacho, who has joined the cast of the TV series, based on the hit film franchise — now in its second season (airing at 8 p.m. Fridays, WMAQ-Channel 5).

Camacho loved catching a performance of “Hamilton” here but stressed the holidays for her family “is all about annual traditions. We always go to ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Goodman, and we have to have dinner beforehand at Petterino’s right next door. Of course, a lot of people do that, so you have to make your reservation in like July!”

Listening to all this, Beals joked, “Jessica, I think you would make a great tour guide to Chicago!”

Season two just began for “Taken,” a Friday night NBC drama all about international espionage, drug lords and the world of spying. New to the cast, Camacho plays an agent named Santana.

“I love playing fierce human beings, and Santana is fierce. I like characters with a strong moral compass, who are willing to push themselves to get the work done. … I think growing up in Chicago frankly is part of my inspiration for that,” said Camacho, a former “Sleepy Hollow” regular. “I have known a lot of people who were committed deeply to their careers, family and life experiences. Nobody in Chicago is half-baked about things. It’s all or nothing. I have a lot of respect for people like that — powerful and determined.”

Jennifer Beals in “Taken” | NBC-TV

Jennifer Beals in “Taken” | NBC-TV

Because of the massive recent attention to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, both actresses wanted to address the effect on the entertainment industry. In Beals’ words, “there definitely is a shift that is palpable on sets — at least on our set. There is this whole new feeling that focuses on what’s OK to say or joke about. Is that funny? Or, is that crossing the line?

“Yes, it can create some awkward moments, but that’s fine. We have to learn to learn to fit in the discomfort. Women for too long have had to be carekeepers of others’ emotional well-being.”

As Camacho added, “I had been so used to laughing something off just to make it not as uncomfortable as possible. I’ve come to realize, if I’m uncomfortable, that’s not appropriate.”


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