Chicago PD’s Michael McGrady: Meet the man prosecuting Olinsky

Michael McGrady plays ASA James Osha on Chicago PD. Photo Credit: Shimon Karmel/Courtesy of E2W Collective
Michael McGrady plays ASA James Osha on Chicago PD. Photo Credit: Shimon Karmel/Courtesy of E2W Collective /

Michael McGrady has joined Chicago PD as James Osha, the man prosecuting Alvin Olinsky. Meet him and find out what he’s up to in Chicago PD season 5.

There’s a new prosecutor on Chicago PD, and he’s not on Voight’s side. Michael McGrady has arrived as Assistant State’s Attorney James Osha—whose current case is charging Alvin Olinsky with murder.

That’s bad news for Olinsky, but great news for Chicago PD fans, because Michael McGrady is a major plus for the series. He’s an experienced actor who knows his way around the world of crime and punishment from series like Ray Donovan and Southland, just to name a few.

One Chicago Center spoke to Michael about what Osha will do in the remainder of Chicago PD season 5, his past with Voight that was hinted at in his debut episode last week, and what it’s been like to step into a role unlike most of the ones he’s played in the past.

That difference in job description was a large part of what attracted him to the character.

“I kind of get stuck in this detective, cop, sheriff vibe. It’s always sort of been my wheelhouse,” Michael explained. “I’m a bigger guy, I have sort of an authoritative presence, so it’s a no-brainer.

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“It’s fine and it pays the bills, but I was really getting bored of playing those roles and I asked [my manager], I said I’d like to play some white-collar guys. I want to play a doctor, a hedge fund manager, an attorney. I played an attorney on How To Get Away With Murder and had some fun with that.

“When they brought me this role, it sounded really interesting,” he continued. “There’s a guy in Chicago who’s a chief prosecuting attorney—I don’t want to use any names, but he’s pretty high up in the order there and this role’s loosely based on him.

“He’s very formidable, very intelligent and he’s got a really high conviction rate. Very entertaining to watch in court; people drive for miles and miles around to watch him try cases. He’s also a guy that can rub shoulders with a beat cop.”

James Osha has clearly done that, as before he even appears on-screen, Chicago PD establishes that Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) already knows him. Voight has his phone number, sends someone to his house, and finally shows up in Osha’s office—claiming the other man owes him. So will we find out how much history the two have?

“There is a backstory no doubt,” Michael told us. “I will say as this thing develops and unfolds and they unpack this relationship between me and Voight, you’ll start seeing just how involved we’ve been with one another over the years. He’s helped me out tremendously in the past and I’ve done the same thing for him.

“I think we’re both cut from the same cloth. At least that’s the vibe I’m getting thus far from the things I’ve read….Sometimes you’ve got to break the rules to uphold the law and make sure justice is served. I think I may subscribe to the same philosophy as Voight on that, without being as physical as he is; more on an intellectual and legal level.”

Of course, the role also mandates that Michael is stepping right into the middle of the season-long war between Voight and Denny Woods (Mykelti Williamson). He had to quickly catch up on what had been happening with those two characters all season long.

“When I showed up on set the first day, I did the first take of that [scene] that aired last week,” he recalled, “and all of a sudden I get this barrage of information—from the director, from Jason, from Mykelti, the producers. Everybody gave me the whole backstory of what was going on.

“They keep filling in the blanks for me and it makes my job so much easier,” he continued, “because now I know why I’m saying what I’m saying and why I’m behaving the way I’m behaving towards certain individuals and stuff like that. It’s been really exciting. I’ve sat down and started watching the show from season 3 just to get caught up!”

The other challenge that’s come with playing an Assistant State’s Attorney is, as we’ve seen on Chicago Justice, that there’s a whole other world and language that comes with the legal part of law enforcement. That was a learning curve for Michael as well, although it wasn’t entirely alien to him.

“Ironically when I was going to college for Business at the University of Washington, I actually had aspirations of becoming an attorney,” he told us. “It’s a completely different language, of course, and there’s a formality to it. I think there’s a way that attorneys have to carry themselves in court, and even out of court, and when they’re dealing with law enforcement. It’s just like when you play a military character or a medical doctor; the vernacular is so specific.”

Though Osha’s case is playing into Woods’ agenda of taking down Voight through Olinsky, Michael explained that his character isn’t necessarily on Woods’ side here—and Chicago PD fans will see his perspective as an ASA, not just that he’s part of their ongoing battle.

“The approach for me from the get-go is regardless of backstory, we’re all as human beings looking out after our own interests at the end of the day. My character certainly is,” he explained. “He’s worked very hard to get where he is and regardless of how close he is to Denny Woods or Voight, I think it’s irrelevant. I think he’s doing his job. He’s got a job to do and it’s been placed in his hands and I think he’s a guy who’s going do whatever he has to do.

“I think as an attorney in general, especially a prosecutor, you have to take some degree of emotion out of it. You just have to. Sometimes you have to put people away that you think they could possibly be innocent; they’re just not presenting a good case,” Michael continued. “Maybe it’s a young kid that’s getting put away for murder and they made a bad mistake in the heat of the moment or a crime of passion, and now he’s going to end the day in jail because of me.

“I think you have to on some level put those emotional, personal feelings aside and just do your job,” he added, “and I think this is a guy that works so hard, he wants to protect that legacy and he’s willing to work both sides if he has to.”

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Even though his character is tasked with going after one of our series regulars, the addition of Michael McGrady to Chicago PD is a great thing. We’re getting another tenured actor who can hold his own with the likes of Jason Beghe and Mykelti Williamson, and his casting ensures that James Osha is going to be a fully fleshed-out human being who will leave his own impression.

He’s going to make this character one to watch, and make him someone we care about, no matter what he’s got to do. He’s the right man for a challenging job, and he’s excited to take it on.

“For me, I’m really happy to be back with NBC. I did Southland for them and I thought they did a really nice job with Southland,” he reflected. “I think the level of acting and professionalism in this Dick Wolf universe, it’s a pretty special thing to be a part of. He’s got a legacy and pedigree that really no one comes close to.”

Michael McGrady is going to bring something fresh and different to Chicago PD, so keep your eye on him and hang on for the ride.

Next: Chicago PD's Sophia Bush appears on ABC sitcom

You can catch Michael McGrady when Chicago PD season 5 returns starting next Wednesday, May 2 at 10 p.m. on NBC. For even more on Michael, check out our Ray Donovan interview at FanSided.