On “Chicago PD,” she plays the tough desk sergeant who eats rookies without salt. While TV fans are getting to know her, Chicago has claimed the Tony-nominated Amy Morton as its own since she became an ensemble member of Steppenwolf Theatre. With high-profile roles in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," “August: Osage County” and "Up in the Air," Morton directs “The Way West,” chronicling one family’s struggle to forge on through financial strife.
You’ve been an ensemble member of Steppenwolf since 1997. What were your expectations as a young actor, and how have they changed since then?
I always wanted to do really good theater. Steppenwolf was always a goal for any actor in the city. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else or with any other company.
Steppenwolf is known for the ensemble. What is the ultimate aim of ensemble acting, and how is that achieved on the individual actor level?
This is what every actor tries to do in a company; you try to give as much as you can to the other person on the stage. There’s a shorthand. We already know each other. We have the same kind of language. We are a family—for good or bad.
Tell us about your role in “The Way West.”
It’s a story about a family in California, a mom and two grown daughters. The mother is filing for bankruptcy. She’s a very strong-willed optimistic person who is obsessed with our move west. It compares where we are today and the goodwill of pushing against all odds even when it’s obvious that you should turn back. It’s a wonderful hybrid of music and a great story.
Second City’s CEO Andrew Alexander once said that actors like working in Chicago because audiences here are more sympathetic than those in New York or L.A. Have you found that to be true?
I think Chicago audiences are very adventurous. They are kind of willing to go with you on any ride as long as it’s good. Chicago is still a word-of-mouth town, which is great. If they like it, they tell their friends. It’s not like one critic can kill you.
You play an acerbic, no-filter desk sarge on “Chicago PD.” Is that reflective of your own personality?
Hopefully nobody’s that harsh. It’s sort of a get-down-to-work mentality. There’s definite Midwestern dislike for anybody getting uppity. Stardom doesn’t really fly here.
What’s it like to work on PD?
They’re a lovely group of people. There’s no star-like behavior or any of that crap.
What local theaters do you support?
I like Trap Door. It’s one of my favorites. And Theater Wit and stuff at the Goodman. I don’t see as much as I would like to because thankfully I’m working.
What are your favorite places to take out-of-towners?
I just discovered Wasabi on Milwaukee. It was the best ramen I’ve had in my life. I was blown away. The pork belly is insane.
The land of Lincoln (Square)
Wake up and grab some coffee at Beans & Bagels in Lincoln Square, then head toward Winnemac Park for a nice, long walk. A great park with lots of dogs and gorgeous, old willow trees.
Then lunch at Cafe Selmarie in Lincoln Square, followed by one of their delish pastries. Then a leisurely stroll to Hazel on Montrose—unusual and eclectic jewelry. Really fun to look at all their stuff.
Rest of the afternoon at the Art Institute—I LOVE it there. Ending with the Thorne Rooms because that was my favorite place on earth when I was a kid.
Dinner at Wasabi on Milwaukee: The most spectacular ramen I’ve ever had.
A dose of drama
A show at Trap Door Theatre in Bucktown. They do some of the best work in the city.
Then off to bed, my other favorite place on earth.