‘Chicago Fire’ to Cape Cod: Monica Raymund’s new TV character ‘couldn’t be more opposite’

While the actress is loving her lead role on STARZ’s ‘Hightown,’ she has fond memories of the time she spent in Chicago.

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After leaving “Chicago Fire,” where she played paramedic-turned-firefighter Gabriela Dawson for six seasons, Monica Raymund traded the firehouse for an oceanside view in the TV series “Hightown.”


Actress Monica Raymund may have left Chicago, but the city hasn’t left her.

She spent six years living in the city while filming “Chicago Fire,” NBC’s hit TV series, and her memories from that time include frequenting Viaggio, a West Loop Italian restaurant, to order baked clams and being the grand marshal for the 47th annual Chicago Pride Parade.

“Yeah, when I was in Chicago, I definitely felt like a Chicagoan,” said Raymund. “I was in Lincoln Park, so I had my spots I would go to — my regular diners, restaurants. The theater scene was so, so awesome in Chicago. I made a lot of friends, a lot of local friends there and, yeah, I think that town is so special.”

‘Chicago Fire’ star Monica Raymund, the Grand Marshal for the 47th annual Chicago Pride Parade, blows a kiss as the parade snakes through the North Side, Sunday, June 26, 2016. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

In 2016, Monica Raymund was the grand marshal for the 47th annual Chicago Pride Parade.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia /Sun-Times

Two years after leaving “Chicago Fire,” where she played paramedic-turned-firefighter Gabriela Dawson for six seasons, Raymund has traded the firehouse for an oceanside view in the STARZ series “Hightown.” The show premieres Sunday, and the first episode is available for free sampling now on many on-demand platforms.

Raymund plays the lead role as Jackie Quiñones, a hard-partying, womanizing Fishery Service Agent who struggles with sobriety. She makes a life-altering discovery when she finds a dead body that washed up at a Cape Cod beach, causing her to play a part in a murder investigation.

“You know Gabby Dawson. She’s a first responder; she feels like her calling in life is helping others,” Raymund said.

“And then you have Jackie Quiñones as who I play in ‘Hightown,’ and she couldn’t be more opposite. She’s kind of interested in only feeling good and doing what she needs to do for herself. Both women are super passionate and stubborn, but they have their own reasons for why.”

Quiñones lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts — a coastal resort town known for its history as an LGBT vacation destination. It’s also a town engulfed by an opioid epidemic.

“It’s difficult to play a flawed character, but it’s more fulfilling,” said Raymund. “And the reason it’s difficult is that there are more layers to that character. But ultimately, as an actor, you want a flawed character so you can challenge yourself and really dig into who that character is. ... Gabby Dawson would probably bring [Quiñones] to rehab. Probably check in on her every week. That’s how passionate Gabby is about saving people.”

And are there differences in filming in Chicago as opposed to Provincetown?

“Well, Chicago, we had to film in whatever weather, no matter what the weather,” said Raymund. “But what’s wonderful about filming in a place like Chicago is that the city itself is so iconic that the city was a character in our show. And filming in Massachusetts, well we filmed mostly in Long Island [New York] and then a lot of our exteriors were in Provincetown.

“ ‘P-Town’ is a really famous LGBTQ capital, and it’s also set in Cape Cod which is extremely well-known and beautiful. So, yeah, they’re both iconic places but very different in their geography and their climate.”

During her hiatus from “Chicago Fire,” she immersed herself into Chicago’s theater scene by starring in Lookingglass Theatre Company’s “Thaddeus and Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure.”

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Raymund, a 2008 Juilliard alumnus, says she wouldn’t hesitate to come back to the city for work and play.

“Of course, I would in a heartbeat, I would work at the Goodman or Steppenwolf any day,” said Raymund. “I lived right behind Steppenwolf while I was there, so I went and saw almost everything. I saw Carrie Coon when she was in ‘Three Sisters’ at Steppenwolf right before she started filming ‘The Leftovers,’ I think.”

Jesse Spencer and Monica Raymund in Chicago Fire. ORG XMIT: Season: 3

Actress Monica Raymund (right, with co-star Jesse Spencer) was a cast member on “Chicago Fire” for six seasons.


As for her current project, she has hopes viewers can hold “Hightown” in a similar regard as other well-known STARZ TV series.

“I just hope people can lose themselves in the story,” said Raymund. “I hope that people enjoy the ride because there’s not really a lot of time to catch your breath. I know for a fact that if you watch STARZ, you’ve seen the shows like ‘Power,’ like ‘Vida.’ If you’re a fan of shows like this, its gonna be just as exciting because this is the same network behind it. So I think if you’re watching any those shows, you’ll love ‘Hightown.’ ”

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