When the pandemic began a year ago, Nick LaMedica figured his acting career would be put on hold for a while. The Newark native has had a number of theater roles over the years, but theaters all shut down due to the virus. Many TV shows and movies suspended production as well.
However, thanks to persistence and a little bit of luck, LaMedica will make his network television debut Wednesday night with a guest appearance on the NBC drama “Chicago Fire.”
“I'm very excited to be on TV. I was not expecting a dream like this to come true now, in COVID,” LaMedica said. “I’m astoundingly fortunate. I mean, the acting industry, in any given regular year, faces a lot of cases where people who are professional actors can go a very long time without working in their chosen field. And then add COVID to that.”
“I was not expecting to do anything at all in the performance world for a long, long time, so this was like surprise after surprise,” he added.
LaMedica’s episode airs at 9 p.m. on NBC. “Chicago Fire,” which is in its ninth season, follows the firefighters and paramedics of a fictional firehouse in Chicago. Now a resident of New York, LaMedica is back in Newark for a few days to watch the episode with his parents and girlfriend.
He plays a paramedic who fills in at the firehouse while several of the regular characters are away at training.
“I was really fortunate to get to work with a lot of the cast, from the main stars to guest stars. I got to have a lot of interaction,” he said, noting that he’s limited in what he can say about the role until the episode airs.
His agent suggested him for the role, and LaMedica filmed an audition tape with the help of his girlfriend. He then got a call inviting him to Chicago to shoot the episode in mid February.
“I made a very long, snowy drive out to Chicago and spent a couple of weeks out there on set,” he said.
He and the other actors were tested for COVID-19 every day and had to follow other strict safety procedures.
“Honestly, I've felt more comfortable and safe on that set than I've probably felt in any environment that wasn't my house in a year,” he said. “They take it very seriously and have a fantastic system in place for monitoring everyone.”
LaMedica comes from a performing family – his father is “Jungle John,” who is well-known locally for his reptile and magic shows.
“There was sort of no avoiding it,” LaMedica said with a laugh.
Growing up in Newark, he considered several career paths, including engineering and training animals for film and TV, before deciding to pursue acting.
“Theatre is about our life, it's about our experiences,” LaMedica said. “Very little acting is about acting, so it's really about everything else. It's a nice way to keep a mind that's interested in lots of things busy.”
He attended The Charter School of Wilmington for three years and then transferred downstairs to Cab Calloway School of the Arts, where he graduated in 2006. After that, he studied acting and musical theater at Marymount Manhattan College.
After graduating college, he did regional theater before eventually getting cast in a national tour of “War Horse.” For three years, he acted and served as a puppeteer in the play, which toured the United States, Canada and Japan.
“War Horse was really, really incredible,” he said. “That was a show that I was really excited about artistically and philosophically. You don't often get to make money doing work that you're really, really proud of.”
Before the “Chicago Fire” role, almost all LaMedica’s experience was in theater, with some commercial work as well.
“I'd love to be a regular on a television show. I'd love to do a major studio film,” he said. “But up until this point, I’ve found an incredible amount of fulfillment in live theater, and that's something that is always going to be a huge love for me. I don't really think about it as a progression, like, you do this theater, and then you do this kind of theater, and then you do television and movies. It all really crosses back and forth.”