Jon Seda was runner-up in the New Jersey Golden Gloves competition in 1989 and planned on trying out for the 1992 Olympics. But his backup was acting. Fate intervened and a co-starring role in the 1992 boxing movie “Gladiator” led to more screen time, including opposite Jennifer Lopez in “Selena” and on HBO’s Emmy-winning “The Pacific.” Fame recently hit overtime with his starring role in the popular NBC show “Chicago P.D.,” which debuted in 2014 as a spinoff of “Chicago Fire” and has been picked up for a third season. On a blustery cold day in February, we chatted with the now Chicago-based actor about Chicago weather, stunts, celebrity and favorite inexpensive things to do in his adopted hometown.
What’s it like shooting in Chicago in the winter?
I’m from New York, and I grew up in New Jersey, and I spent a lot of time in Manhattan, so Chicago is not too far from that. There are so many different cultures here—it’s a mix of Californians, New Yorkers, all types of people, different things to do, all kinds of dining, a lot of places to go, even in the winter—it’s tough, but I think there’s so much to do. You just buckle down, put on an extra layer, long underwear, whatever you need to, and go out.
You never seem to be wearing enough clothing on in the show, though.
That’s the running joke—Sophia Bush [character Erin Lindsay] is always in awe of what I’m wearing. She’ll have on a big Canada Goose down jacket, and here I am in my little leather jacket, and she’ll look at me and go, “Aren’t you freezing?” I just figure, look, if this is what’s in my trailer for me to wear in the scene, this is what I’m going to wear to do my job, and I’ll worry about whether I can feel my toes later.
You started out as an amateur boxer. How much of your own stunts do you do?
I do probably 98 percent of my own stunts, including a lot of driving as well. Look, we have a great stunt coordinator in Tom Lowell…and great stunt guys and girls, but I kind of like doing as much as I can, within reason of course… In the episode when my son was kidnapped, there was a scene where I’d be jumping down an entire floor of stairs to catch up with the guy, and I wanted to do it myself, but I had to step aside for that.
You go to Molly’s on the show. Where do you like to go on off-show hours?
We work so hard and a lot of hours, I just really like to go home and be with my wife and kids—they go to sleep, I break out a glass of wine with my wife. But when my wife and I go out, we’ll come down to the Gold Coast or one of the places we like to go is Redhead Piano Bar; we sing along. Or House of Blues. And we like to eat at a place called Nana.
What are some of your favorite inexpensive things to do, places to eat?
When the weather’s nice, we like to go to Lincoln Park Zoo and just go for a walk around there. It’s just such a great zoo and it’s pretty cool to have a free zoo here.
Any cheap-Chicago places you’re hoping to try?
A lot of places I’ve been to and would like to go back to. I’d like to go back to the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry—it’s absolutely incredible. The whole tour of the coal mine is so cool, and the huge train setup—you could spend a whole day there. The Hancock, the Willis Tower, so many different things.
I understand you sometimes get to work with some of the real Chicago PD—what’s that like?
I know I speak for all of the actors in saying that we care deeply about representing the police officers technically as best we can. … I was with my daughter at the mall for dinner and I went to pay my bill and they said it was paid for and I looked over and it was two Chicago police officers so I went over and sat with them and took pictures. You’re not going to please everyone, but if you can have a high percentage of officers who appreciate what you’re doing, that’s pretty amazing.
It seems a lot of the “Fire” and “PD” cast and crew have taken the Chicago sports teams as their own—is that true for you?
I threw out the first pitch last year at the Cubs game—a beautiful curveball; even the catcher told me, it was probably one of the best first-pitched balls he’d seen, and it was such a cool experience, I shared it with my dad, and it was so cool—but my dad and I are diehard New York team fans—Mets, Jets, Nets and Devils. But if they’re not playing, then I’ll root for Chicago. My kids have adapted to the Chicago teams. They have Cubs hats and Bears jerseys. … It’s absolutely a great city for sports.
Can you give us any hints at what’s in store for Antonio?
I don’t know what else he could do—goodness gracious, someone get that man a drink! He really is a guy who's hard to break, though—he’ll bend and he’s been forced into some situations that are really tough, but he’s a representation of so many of our real officers, things we don’t see, things they go through and they don’t break. … There’s more undercover stuff for him to come up.
Are the crossovers with “Chicago Fire” fun to do?
I have such a big heart for “Chicago Fire,” because that’s where Antonio Dawson came to be. … Whenever we see each other, it’s so warm, it’s like coming home.
Do you miss the boxing?
Just the other day, we were shooting at a hotel, and when I was done with the scene, I was talking to someone and felt someone standing next to me. Standing next to me was Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini—one of my boxing heroes. I had just read his book, “The Good Son,” and I had been talking to my agents about maybe playing him in a film version. So, he’s a big fan of “Chicago P.D.” and he’s telling me I’m a big fan of yours and I’m saying, I’m a big fan of yours. … What’s even crazier, at the same time, my wife, unbeknownst to me, was at the mall, buying me boxing glove cufflinks.
My Perfect Day
I go for a jog along the lakeshore on the path, near Oak Street Beach
Get the family together. We have a routine where we go have brunch at Bongo Room—the Wicker Park/Bucktown one. I keep it simple, a veggie omelet. I gotta watch my girlish figure.
Visit the Field Museum or Lincoln Park Zoo.
Quartino’s for the thin pizza.