There’s no denying it; Detective Erin Lindsay is one tough cookie. You might even call the brassy cop – brought to life each week on NBC’s hit drama Chicago P.D. by actress Sophia Bush – a badass. But there’s much more to this primetime powerhouse than simply a gun and an attitude…and Bush wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love playing a woman who is such a badass,” she reveals, “but the thing that I love about Erin, and that I love when I examine Dick Wolf shows on a larger scale, is that he doesn’t ask his female characters to be any one thing. That’s why women relate to [Law & Order: SVU’s] Olivia Benson and are now relating to Erin Lindsay: because rather than being treated as a sidekick or an accessory, as women so often are in scripts, they are real complex human beings.”
The actress has given quite a lot of thought to this. As an LA native who’s spent practically all of her adult life working in a town that is notoriously dismissive of its leading ladies – even as it worships them for their otherworldly talent and glamour – she’s familiar with the debate. More importantly, as an artist who’s constantly striving to do work that goes beyond skin-deep, she understands the hunger.
“The reason women get frustrated by a lack of quality roles is that we want to play people who are as real, and as damaged, and as interesting as we are, as our friends are, [and] as our families are. So I think, more than anything, having a role like this one allows you to feel like you’ve made a really good decision. When you spend every waking moment – ten months out of the year – on set, you wanna make sure you’re doing something that is inspiring and invigorating, and something that you believe in.”
Fortunately for Bush, she harbors a deep-seeded affection for those who dedicate their lives to serving and protecting. “I’ve always enjoyed watching television that revolves around the sphere of public service,” she admits. “And I think so many people do because as human beings, we very inherently want to know that someone’s looking out for us. Everyone is a little afraid of the unknown, and I think we all rest a little easier at night knowing there are so many human beings in the world who have literally devoted their lives to making us safe.”
Insight like this is common from the thoughtful actress…and it’s just one of the reasons she has endeared herself to so many people in this town, from powerplayer Wolf to her idol-turned-friend-turned-costar, Emmy-winner Mariska Hargitay. “I met Mariska many years ago in New York,” she recalls. “I stormed up to her on the sidewalk in SoHo and I think I was babbling. Like, I’m so sorry, I’m sure everyone does this to you, and not that it’s the same, but I’m an actor and it happens to me…I mean, I know it happens to you more, but I just want you to know that as an actor, I so look up to you. I basically just told her that she was my hero and that I’d probably seen every episode of SVU like seven times.”
“She was so cute though,” Bush continues. “She goes, You are just the sweetest, and I know you. Do you want to take a walk with me? And I was like, First of all, what are you saying to me? Second of all, did you just invite me to take a walk? Am I hallucinating?!”
Since then, the actress – already known for her dedication to charitable institutions as varied as The Children’s Defense Fund and The Race to Erase MS – has collaborated with the SVU star on Hargitay’s No More Campaign to end domestic violence and sexual assault. And in case you’ve been living under a rock, they even shared the screen last November when SVU and P.D. teamed up for a hugely successful crossover event.
“Last season, I was on Chicago Fire on Tuesday night, SVU on Wednesday night, and then our show on Wednesday night as well, and Dick said to me, You know, I think you’re the only person who’s ever played the same character on three different shows in a 24-hour time span. And I was like, Wait, does that mean I get a record?”
She’s still waiting for her plaque, but fans need not worry; there’s more where that came from, even if it is quite a feat to pull off. “The logistics of these crossovers are crazy. It’s obviously much easier for us to be working between Fire and P.D. because we’re both in Chicago, but the great thing is [that] we have really committed groups of actors and crews, and we’re all very willing to fly and not get any sleep and sort of ping-pong between sets.” Viewers can expect another big two-part event that starts on Fire and continues on P.D. early this month, but as Bush teases, “We do also have a plan for another three-show crossover at some point during the spring. We’ve gotten such a kick out of the fan response – everyone really really loves sort of big event television – so we want to keep doing it.”
And speaking of fan-favorites, viewers can expect a lot more fireworks – and drama – from the ongoing relationship between Lindsay and her partner, Detective Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer). Bush is hesitant to reveal too much of what’s to come, but naturally, she has an opinion on the matter.
“I think it’s a very interesting thing when rather than meeting out at a bar or a coffee shop and then going on a date with someone, you slowly fall in love with – and eventually realize you’ve fallen in love with – your best friend,” Bush says cryptically. “There’s very clearly love and trust and rapport and chemistry between these people, but it’s never stood in the way of them being able to do their jobs. And so now, we’ll just have to see if that continues to be true. Can they keep work and home separate? What happens when Lloyd finds out?”
It’s these exact questions that have made the drama such an undeniable hit for NBC, and not to mention garnered Bush some of the most die-hard fans in primetime. But when you spend ten years on a beloved teen soap, you know a thing or two about dedicated followers. “The whole One Tree Hillexperience is still really surreal,” she admits. “There are people who are tweeting me about how they’re starting that show over again for the fourth time, and I’m sitting there reading the tweet thinking, Oh my God, that’s one hundred and eighty seven hours of television! How do you have time for this? But I have shows that I’ve watched over and over again; I’m halfway through The Wire for the second time, and I’ve probably seen every episode of Sex and the City at least four times, so I understand what it means to love something and to have a nostalgia about it, particularly because of how it was important to you at a certain time in your life.”
It might sound too good to be true…another actress spouting PR-approved rhetoric…but to meet Sophia Bush is to meet someone who’s incapable of thinking only of her own perspective. Like all of the best artists, she thrives on seeing both sides of the situation, employing an empathy towards others that informs not only her work, but also her philanthropic efforts, and most importantly, the way in which she views the world. “I think compassion and empathy are deeply human traits. I think as the world gets bigger, at times we’ve seen those traits be dulled by over-stimuli, stress, and a lack of community connection. But who we are as people – what we were designed for – is to take care of our own and to take care of our communities, and that feels like the truest truth that I know. And it’s only been reinforced by my job.”
Photography YONI GOLDBERG
Styling KAREN RAPHAEL
Hair CRAIG GANGI
Nails PILAR LAFARGUE
Production Bello media Group
Words by BRAD LIBERTI