You probably think actress Tracy Spiridakos, who plays the driven robbery/homicide detective Hailey Upton on the hit NBC series “Chicago P.D.” is a workaholic like her TV character.
On the series, whose latest season ends on May 22, Upton has, after all, had to prove that she deserved her promotion to detective, since her successful undercover assignment remains a secret.
But Spiridakos said she and Upton are quite different individuals. The actress revealed during a recent chat that she’s a tomboy who loves to make people laugh, and who is so environmentally conscious she brings her own 64-ounce water bottle and Getty coffee tumbler to the series’ Chicago set.
“I try to eliminate my environmental footprint and show that it’s doable with a little bit of effort,” said the Canadian-born actress who now makes Chicago her home. “I try to make an effort as much as I can.”
Spiridakos, the daughter of Greek restaurant owners in Winnipeg, Manitoba, said she first became aware of how plastics pollute waterways when she went scuba diving with a friend off of an Indonesia island nine years ago.
“As we were swimming along, I saw plastic pieces wrapped up in bits of coral,” she said. “The fish were eating them. We were looking at such a beautiful scene, and yet you could see what humans had done to it. Seeing it firsthand had a big impact.”
Spiridakos frees herself from stress by playing video games — a passion that started when she and her two older brothers were young children.
“I really unwind when I’m playing video games,” she said. “I like to sit down, have a glass of wine and become part of another realm, another story.”
Part of the fun part of the stories involves sci-fi.
Spiridakos keeps in touch with her brothers by playing “Destiny,” a shared-world shooter game in which players take on roles as Guardian, protectors of Earth’s last safe city. Their mission: To revive a celestial being called the Traveler, while trekking to other planets to destroy alien threats before humanity gets wiped out.
“It feels like we’re hanging out,” she said of playing remote video games with her brothers, who live and work in Winnipeg. One is a diesel mechanic, and the other helps run the family’s Greek restaurant.
Her love of the “Destiny” game has led Spiridakos to delve into sci-fi — what she calls “things that are not on earth” and to explore their meaning.
She has recently added to her passion by reading about science, including “Astrophysics for People In A Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson. The best-selling book helps readers consider their role in the cosmos, and explains concepts such as black holes, quantum mechanics and the search for life in the universe.
“It’s fun, getting to learn a little about everything Tyson talks about in the book,” she said.
Astrophysics, the environment and sci-fi video games are a far cry from Spiridakos’ previous jobs working as a restaurant server, bartender and bank teller.
She started attending acting auditions in her early career, and after some initial doubts, she gained some traction and hired an agent.
“I always was involved in musical theater at school,” she said. “I loved — and still love — to make people laugh. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling.”
Her first television role, in 2007, was a small part on “Supernatural.” Spiridakos also appeared in the TV movie “Goblin,” and had a recurring role on “Being Human” as werewolf Brynn McLea.
Spiridakos now lives in Chicago — where the TV show films 10 months out of the year. Her favorite eating spots are Girl and the Goat and The Purple Pig.
“I end up eating a lot in the West Loop,” she said. “And I do a ‘thin slice pizza Friday.’”
Sandra Guy is a local freelance writer.