By Mia Weber | Photos by Monica Wandrey for Classic Kids Photography | Hair by Fantashia Hauss – Paul Rehder Salon | Makeup by Jen Brown – jenbrownmakeup.com | Fashion styling by Kate Loscalzo x Distinct Artists.
Fans of the long-running NBC drama “Chicago PD” (part of the trifecta of programming that also includes “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med”) would almost certainly tell you, with pride and enthusiasm, that Officer Kim Burgess has grown exponentially tougher and endowed with evermore grit and wisdom with each passing season of Dick Wolf’s fast-paced police force saga.
It’s a fair assessment, and one that “Chicago PD” star Marina Squerciati, the actress and Chicago mama who has portrayed Kim Burgess for going-on seven seasons, would wholeheartedly agree with.
“Burgess is plucky, she has a lot of ambition,” Squerciati says. “I think seven years on the job as a Chicago cop has toughened her up. She started out kind of soft and now she has some more grit to her.”
In real life, Squerciati—whom TV aficionados will also recognize from notable arcs on “Gossip Girl” and “The Americans”—is experiencing her own version of an on-the-job learning curve. As a new mom—her daughter, who goes by the nickname Bean, is almost 2—Squerciati is embracing a new challenge each day. While it’s not always picture-perfect, motherhood is proving to be a facet of her life that she’s navigating and understanding more fully as she grows into it.
“I like the job of motherhood more and more as my daughter gets older. I feel like the Instagram model is like: ‘Blessed is every day! And today is the greatest day that God ever gave me with this child!’ And I just didn’t feel that way. I like my child more now that’s she’s more interactive, and I found the first year to be quite difficult,” Squerciati says, noting that she’s always conscious of portraying her motherhood journey in an authentic and honest way. “[Motherhood] is wonderful and great, but it’s also incredibly hard and boring sometimes. I want to make sure I’m true to that when
I’m interviewed because sometimes it’s more popular and more palatable to say: ‘Everything is awesome!’ But it’s not.”
As she discusses the nuances of her role as a parent, Squerciati is steadfast in her conviction that she doesn’t need to “love all parts of motherhood” in order to “still love being a mother.” Case in point: She struggles when her best laid plans of weekend fun with her little one go awry, but delights in the moments when she gets to enjoy the oh-so-special parent-child bond.
“On some days—like on a Saturday when you have an amazing plan for the day but they wake up in a bad mood and they don’t want to do anything and you’re stuck with a crabby baby all weekend—[motherhood] sucks! But that’s all part of it. Then there are wonderful days when all that my daughter wants to do is have fun and hug…there are ups and downs.”
The “ups” for Squerciati are all about encouraging her daughter’s budding personality, which is equal parts curious and cute. “She’s very loving and very sweet and incredibly willful,” Squerciati says of her toddler. “My mom says that the world tends to break women’s spirits sometimes, so I try not to break her spirit when she’s being willful…I always try to build her will and her confidence. I think that’s really good, even when it’s frustrating.”
Squerciati’s mother raised her as a single mom in New York City, and, to judge by the pearls of her mother’s wisdom (like the sage sentiment above) that she quotes during our interview, Squerciati has made a happy practice of looking to her mom as an example on many aspects on new parenthood. One prime example that’s close to Squerciati’s heart involves raising a bilingual child.
“[Growing up,] my nanny only spoke Spanish to me so I’m bilingual. So, it’s really important to me that my daughter speaks Spanish fluently and speaks it just as well as she speaks English, so my nannies only speak Spanish to her,” she explains. “I think the gift of language is a pretty amazing gift if you can give it to your kid.”
While the language education process is going well so far, it’s not without it’s comical moments: “It’s funny—sometimes my daughter mixes up Spanish and English. Like ‘orange’ is “oran-ja” which is a mix of ‘orange’ and ‘naranja,’” Squerciati explains with a warm laugh. “Sometimes only I can understand her.”
In addition to growing up with a healthy command of Spanish, Squerciati also discovered her passion for performing from a young age. She pursued dance at first, notably at the School of American Ballet, but soon found that she had a calling to be more vocal than ballet performances allowed.
“I worked at SAB, so I did dance at Lincoln Center in the ‘Nutcracker’ and was a Polichinelle and a mouse and a solider, and I did ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ and things like that,” she recalls. “I realized that I really loved performing but I also really loved talking. They didn’t really like me in ballet class because I enjoy the gab. That’s kind of how I found my way into acting.”
Now 35, Squerciati has been steadily ticking off new achievements as a working actress since 2006. A veteran of both the stage and screen—on top of her TV and film roles, she has a number of Broadway and off-Broadway credits to her name—her favorite aspect about her current role on “Chicago PD” has been the opportunity to make meaningful connections with a cast and crew that she’s been through six seasons worth of work with.
“I’m really lucky because I really get along with everybody. They say if you love your work, you never work a day in your life—I don’t know if that’s true because I’m definitely working, and it’s really a hard job, but we have a lot of joy when we’re working together and it’s fun, so it’s easy to be around one another,” she says of her “Chicago” team. “And we’re all really collaborative and that makes it fun—I trust my actors to give me notes and you have to sort of build up that trust over time… We all have a rapport and really trust each other.”
Season seven of “Chicago PD” is slated to premiere on September 25 (Squerciati will be live-Tweeting, so be sure to follow her @marinasqu) and viewers can brace themselves for plenty of juicy drama. Of course, there’s not much that Squerciati can divulge about what awaits Officer Burgess, but she assures me that it’s going to be a wild season.
“I just got the first episode, and Jon Seda’s character is not coming back so we’re sort of dealing with that…the reason he’s left our unit has sort of been changing and has been a moving target, so I don’t know, [what will happen with that]” she explains, clearly very excited herself to see where the show will go. “[I can say that] Burgess will have a big change in episode six—a sort of life-altering change. I don’t know how it will alter her life, but it certainly will!”
Plus, as any “Chicago” fan (or #ChiHard, if you will) knows, one of the defining aspects of the franchise is the fact that there is ample crossover between “Chicago PD” and its sister shows “Chicago Med” and “Chicago Fire.” Fans will be thrilled to know, according to Squerciati, there is also plenty of IRL crossover, given that many cast members from all three shows are close friends off set.
“[Recently] I had Nick Gehlfuss from “Med” and Colin [Donnell] from “Med” over at my house and we had, like, a bacchanal, so we cross over in real life as well,” she dishes of her real-life friendships with fellow #OneChicago actors.
As a working mother, Squerciati’s genuinely positive relationships with colleagues help when it comes to tackling the age-old question of striking a balance between work and family. The equation is certainly different for every parent, but for Squerciati, the key components to staying sane come down to saying no to guilt and saying yes to being present.
“For me, I never feel guilty when I’m working because I feel like I’m providing for my family, I’m working to pay for my daughter’s education when she’s older, that kind of thing. But I do feel guilty when I go to the gym or get a massage—those extras, when I’m not with her, are tough,” Squerciati says. “But I also don’t want to be scared to say that I don’t love all parts of motherhood, but I still love being a mother. It’s important to me to be able to say honestly that, no, I don’t feel guilty when I’m working.”
She also notes that keeping work at work and family time top of mind at home are huge priorities for her. “I try to stay present in each thing—I’m present at work when I’m at work and I’m present with my daughter when I’m with her. I’m not checking my baby monitor when I’m at work—which, by the way, not sponsored, is a Nanit, and it’s the only good one on the market…it is the Porsche of baby monitors—[and] when I’m with my daughter, I’m not taking a peek at my scripts…I’m trying to be present with both to balance things out.”
Also in the mix as she strives for balance is making time for passion projects, family time out and about in Chicagoland, creative hobbies at home (“I’ve been water-coloring—I’m terrible, but I do it and I make cards and thank-you notes—so if you receive a thank-you note from me and it’s a terrible water-color, you should not email me and ask ‘where is this terrible water-color from?’”), and her fitness game (which includes post-baby Pilates classes at Club Pilates and sessions with her castmates at Performance Training Systems). When it comes to professional ventures outside of the “Chicago” universe, Squerciati is an avid writer with several projects in play in the comedy realm.
“I wrote a comedy with my writing partner Patrick Webb [editor’s note: Webb and Squerciati co-created the web-series “Special Skills” together in 2017] and we’re in the process of selling that. There’s another ‘Chicago’ veteran—his name is Dave Pasquesi [who is also known for the improv show ‘TJ and Dave’ and for playing Selina Meyer’s ex-husband Andrew on ‘Veep’]—and he, myself, and Patrick are writing a dark comedy together and we should be done with that [soon],” she says. “I don’t have time to act on other things because we have such a long schedule, but writing is how I get my artistic jujus out during the season.”
And as for savoring her Chicago summer before the long shooting schedule for “Chicago PD” amps up again? Squerciati is all about local activities with her daughter and quality family time in the Windy City.
“The benefit of city living [in Chicago] is the access to all these incredible, free things at all moments. Like after work I can take my daughter to Pritzker Pavilion for a jazz fest…or, my friend works at the Peggy Norbaert Nature Museum, and they’re having a having a summer nature fest,” she notes. “There’s always something awesome going on and that’s what I love about it.”
Last, but certainly not least, on her blended list of work, parenting, self-care, and creative fulfillment priorities? Making sure to take time to appreciate, and record, the joyful moments in her daughter’s development.
“My mom wasn’t a scrap-booker but she would write down just little things that I would say that were very interesting and cute and that only kids could think of—so, I’ve been trying to write down things that my daughter says and does, because you think that you’ll remember it all and you won’t,” Squerciati explains. “If she doesn’t like something right now, she’ll say ‘no like it’—it doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, but I want to remember it later on. I’ve been writing, not like diary entries, but little things that I want to remember…just little things that will mean something only to us.”
To catch Marina Squerciati on NBC’s “Chicago PD,” Tune in for season 7 on 9/25 & visit nbc.com!