ATM: How does Chicago Fire manipulate the typical stereotype for masculinity? When the male characters are confronted with sensitive topics, how does this show the softness of their masculinity?
JM: I have never heard a question like this. It is very nuanced. First, if you have ever spent any amount of time with firefighters, then you learn quickly that they keep their feelings very hidden. They keep them stored away. This is not a good thing. We try to promote on the show that you should open up and talk to someone. It could be your best friend, or a Chaplin like in our show. We find that vital for men to speak to their truths, especially when it comes to their emotions. You will find this even with myself as Otis, that we speak our truths in terms of our feelings. I like that we are not like macho men.
ATM: Give an observation of your character when his emotions are high.
JM: Woah. In season one, my emotions were high because I purposely left a man to die in a fire. This was because he was threatening my brother’s life. I had a religious ramification for this as a character. I had to let go of this because my character held it in after episode and episode. Generally, my character finds an opportunity with his emotions. In this past season, my girlfriend suffers an accident. This was another opportunity where I have to show how this affects me, but I also have to show that I am holding on. It is my responsibility to take care of her and her parents. It is these juxtapositions that are the truth for men and for men working in this industry as a firefighter.
ATM: Express the growth of your character throughout the season with his identity.
JM: We have done so many episodes for a network television show. We are down to about 159 episodes now. From season to season, you never really know the development of the characters. In season one, I would have never known they would have me leave a man to die in order to save my brother’s life. In season three, I am a Zumba instructor. In season five, I have joined this squad of firefighters. The trajectory is the growth of his confidence. In the beginning, he was just this guy driving the truck.
He was like the low man on the totem pole. He was not upset with this, he liked it. Throughout a couple of relationships and dealing with his brother, he saw some growth in how to be his own man. He is taking some steps to be more proactive with who he wants to be in his life. He is now on top of his game and in a relationship. It would be interesting to see where he goes from there. I am not sure if he is Lieutenant or Captain material.
ATM: What conversation would your character in season three have with your character in the current season?
JM: In reference to place, “Chillout a little brother. You are getting a little bit ahead of yourself. You are too eager. Get off your ass and keep moving.”
ATM: What internal things do your character struggle with?
JM: All the same things that human beings struggle with. This could be how they look sometimes or how they are being perceived by other human beings. He has always had a hard time with the ladies in terms of holding down a relationship. There is another character who knows how to love the ladies and he had a lot. Cruz seems so eager to please that it drive people away. This is one of his struggles as a human. It is also celebrated in his character. He wears his heart on his sleeves. This is something that is pure and honest about him. He does not care expressing how he feels to his closest friends.
ATM: How does your character respond while in the presence of an authoritative figure?
JM: He is very much by the book guy when he is in the company of his superiors. He does not like being reprimanded. He likes to do the right thing by his leaders. He is yes sir. It is just been my pleasure. This has been a fascinating series of questions. I have to say; I have never had an interview like this.