‘Chicago Fire’ Actor Tony Ferraris Was Originally Hired as an Extra

Chicago Fire provides a fairly accurate description of life as a firefighter, but many don’t realize exactly how accurate it really is. In fact, there’s one character who really adds depth to the show.

Tony Ferraris was originally hired as an extra, but he was made a regular part of Chicago Fire for one important reason. 

What is ‘Chicago Fire’ all about?

Anthony Ferraris as Tony, Edwin Hodge as Rick Newhouse
Anthony Ferraris as Tony, Edwin Hodge as Rick Newhouse | Elizabeth Morris/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

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NBC’s action-drama series, Chicago Fire follows the firefighters and paramedics of Firehouse 51 in Chicago as they deal with the many emergencies on the job, risking their lives to protect the civilians of Chicago.  

Sometimes the characters take that risk too far, and lives are lost. As the show opens in season one, the firehouse is dealing with the recent death of veteran Firefighter Andrew Darden, which causes grief, guilt, and fractured loyalties between characters. 

But despite tensions, the firefighters and paramedics of Firehouse 51 treat each other more like family than co-workers. They work together and protect each other while performing their dangerous, yet very important, job. 

Chicago Fire has been on the air for eight seasons, with season nine expected to premiere this fall. 

Who is Tony Ferraris?

Ferraris is a real life firefighter from Chicago who plays himself in the show. Chicago Fire fans know him as Tony, the lovable Squad 3, rescue-truck driver. His character is actually really close to the person he is in real life. Ferraris wanted to be a firefighter since the time he was a boy because he enjoyed helping people, and he enjoyed the thrill of going into a dangerous situation.

Luckily, he scored well on the entrance test and was able to join the squad right away. 

But how did a regular Chicago firefighter find his way onto a drama TV series?

How did Tony Ferraris join ‘Chicago Fire’?

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Before Chicago Fire, Ferraris had never done any acting, nor had he ever considered being an actor. In fact, his role on the show came to him entirely by chance. 

In an interview for Wolf Entertainment, Ferraris explained how he ended up on the show after being dragged to the audition by a friend. “A friend of mine received an email from the firefighter’s union saying the show was looking for extras,” he said.

When his friend asked if he’d come along, Ferraris agreed. The show liked him, so he got a role as an extra, but he never imagined it would turn into the recurring role that he has now. 

“On the first day of filming, the crew realized nobody on the cast was able to drive squad [drive a squad engine],” Ferraris explained. “Steve Chikerotis, the show’s technical advisor, who I’d known for years, asked me if I would drive. I said ‘sure,’ and that’s pretty much how it all went down. I started out as an extra, and then Derek Haas (our Chicago Fire showrunner) approached me around episode five or six and asked me to read for him, and then they started writing me in.”

Ferraris was extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time, but he also had exactly the skills they were looking for. Adding Ferraris as a regular member of the cast adds an incredible sense of reality to the show that they probably would get with an actor. 

The show’s producers realize this, and that’s why the crew just wants him to be himself on set. “They all say, ‘That’s why they hired you,’ because I’m a born and raised Chicago guy,” Ferraris said. “They tell me to just be myself, say things how I normally would, use mt mannerism and all that.”

But even with the freedom to completely be himself on-set, Ferraris still finds acting difficult sometimes. “It’s still hard,” he said. “It’s easier now, but in the beginning it was very awkward for me.”