Monica Barbaro talks going from Chicago Justice to The Good Cop

Monica Barbaro (left) and Josh Groban star in Netflix's The Good Cop. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Monica Barbaro (left) and Josh Groban star in Netflix's The Good Cop. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix. /

Monica Barbaro connected with One Chicago Center to discuss life after Chicago Justice and her current role on the Netflix series The Good Cop.

One of the best things to come out of Chicago Justice was the discovery of Monica Barbaro. Her portrayal of Assistant State’s Attorney Anna Valdez was one of the best such performances in the history of Dick Wolf‘s franchises.

Monica has been one of the busiest Chicago Justice actors after the show’s cancellation, and now co-stars opposite Josh Groban in the Netflix comedy-drama The Good Cop. She’s also been cast in the highly anticipated sequel Top Gun: Maverick.

One Chicago Center recently reconnected with Monica Barbaro to talk about how her career has expanded since Chicago Justice and her new role as fiesty police officer Cora Vasquez in The Good Cop.

Find out what she had to tell us below, and be sure to stream the entire first season of The Good Cop on Netflix.

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One Chicago Center: You’ve been very busy since Chicago Justice wasn’t renewed. Do you think playing Anna Valdez got people to take more notice of your talent?

Monica Barbaro: Justice was such a great opportunity. Anybody that works on a Dick Wolf production is, I think, someone worth respecting and I was lucky enough to be somebody that was put in that camp.

We were all sad to see Justice go, but we all knew we had put our best foot forward and made something really great. So I think of course it had to have influenced the way the industry saw all of us after that—because even though it was cancelled, in a lot of ways our work was a success. We produced something really nice.

OCC: So when you were deciding what your next role would be, what made Cora Vasquez on The Good Cop stand out to you?

MB: I love the character. She’s sharp-witted, determined, she has this party girl background [and] she’s fun. I enjoyed reading her, but I have to credit [creator] Andy Breckman for that, because he creates fun characters and his writing is hilarious.

Reading the pilot I just laughed, chuckling to myself; that’s always a really great sign. Then when I spoke the words myself, they just sort of flowed naturally. I understood his writing really well immediately. I knew that it would be a good fit, and I’m lucky they thought so too.

OCC: Both Cora Vasquez and Anna Valdez are strong women who hold their own with their more experienced partners. Do you see any similarities between the two?

MB: If they were put on the same show, they would get along. They’re both determined about their work. They really care about what they do. They both have this way of bending the rules—Cora more than Anna for sure. I think they’d make a great team.

OCC: The Good Cop has a comedic element that wasn’t on Chicago Justice. How has it been to show TV fans that Monica Barbaro can do comedy?

MB: I was lucky to have done [the ABC sitcom] Splitting Up Together between Justice and The Good Cop. That was a real departure from anything I had done to date on television. That was really goofy and fun. I got to work the comedy angle, but also have a lot of fun and get really playful with it. It loosened me up for Good Cop in a way.

With any comedy it’s really so much about the writing, which again, Andy is just a genius and just so funny. We’re lucky to have that. And as far as playing the comedy, with The Good Cop a lot of that is really gone for in a way that we don’t play it to comedy.

There’s a lot of really dry humor about it. I think my experience with drama helped with that, because the writing takes care of us comedically. Of course there are moments to be had that we come up with on our own, but if you’ve got good writing, then the comedy blossoms out of that.

OCC: What was the most rewarding thing about making the show?

MB: I think it comes from the top. The wonderful people who worked with us at Netflix, and Andy and [executive producer] Randy [Zisk] were all such giving, incredible people that I think that just had a really wonderful effect on the cast and crew. I know I’m not the only one that speaks so fondly of working on this set. This is one of the best sets I’ve ever been on.

[Josh Groban] and I had a lot of fun as well. He has such a goofy sense of humor. There’s never a crazy amount of downtime on a television set, but when we did get it, we certainly laughed a lot. Isiah [Whitlock Jr.] and Bill [Kottkamp] are both hilarious and great. Tony [Danza] taught us how to tap dance. We had more fun than we should have been allowed to have.

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OCC: Going from Chicago Justice, to all the TV projects you’ve done since and now this Top Gun sequel coming up, how would you say Monica Barbaro is different now than you were before?

MB: I’ve learned so much so fast. For the past two years, I feel like every single day I’ve learned something crucial about the industry from all angles. How to be better at what I do from a craft standpoint, from the administrative standpoint, what is it that people do when it comes to press. There’s a million things to learn and I’ve been really lucky to have the progression that I’ve had.

I’m grateful for every step because I’ve gotten to learn about every facet of the industry. On Chicago Justice, that year was like a masterclass in acting. [And also] to see how people behave on the sidelines. Philip Winchester is a really good example of how to be on set. He’s a really great guy, he cares about the production. Getting to sit back and watch people work has been one of the biggest ways I’ve learned.

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Monica Barbaro stars in The Good Cop, which is now streaming on Netflix. For the latest Chicago Justice related news, follow the Chicago Justice category at One Chicago Center.