An Acceptable Loss: Jeff Hephner talks his role in Joe Chappelle’s thriller

Jeff Hephner plays political operative Adrian in An Acceptable Loss, directed and written by Chicago Fire's Joe Chappelle. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colleen Griffen Chappelle.
Jeff Hephner plays political operative Adrian in An Acceptable Loss, directed and written by Chicago Fire's Joe Chappelle. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colleen Griffen Chappelle. /

Jeff Hephner goes to the dark side in An Acceptable Loss, the new movie from Chicago Fire’s Joe Chappelle, and told One Chicago Center all about it.

Jeff Hephner is showing off his sinister side—for a very good reason. He stars in An Acceptable Loss, the thriller hitting movie theaters and on demand today through IFC films, and the project is close to home for the One Chicago fandom.

Former Chicago Fire executive producer Joe Chappelle wrote and directed the movie, with his wife Colleen Griffen Chappelle producing. The film also includes David Eigenberg and Alex Weisman but neither are going to the same lengths as Adrian, Jeff’s character who’s a political operative with a killer agenda.

An Acceptable Loss tells the story of Libby Lamm (played by Tika Sumpter), a former national security advisor whose decision to speak out about a controversial decision puts her at odds with her former ally Rachel Burke (the legendary Jamie Lee Curtis). It also puts a target on Libby’s back, and guess who happens to be very good at hitting targets?

Jeff connected with One Chicago Center to talk about the making of An Acceptable Loss and why it was important to him. Learn more about him and the movie below, then see the film this weekend either on VOD or in a theater near you.

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One Chicago Center: What was it about An Acceptable Loss that made you connect with Adrian? Because anyone who just knows you from Chicago Fire or Chicago Med will be surprised by this role.

Jeff Hephner: Upon reading it, I was just kind of taken aback with the script itself. When you see things happen—especially in our government and in public policy—you make these assumptions about who it is that’s driving this forward. How does this get from bad to worse? And immediately when I read the character and where he fit into the scope of the story, that’s the guy I’m always thinking about.

That’s the guy when I read the newspaper, when something happened and it went opposite of how I thought it should, that’s one of the types of people that’s driving this forward.

A lot of people justify things for the sake of the machine, which is the U.S. government, [that] this is how this thing moves forward. And it’s fun to play those kinds of parts, as scary as they can be. It’s fun to just imagine being the one who is a part of that. I just thought of the machine and the machine being the U.S. government.

You’re no stranger to political roles. You’ve played them in Boss, Queen of the South, and King & Maxwell, too. What was it like to step back into that realm?

Jeff Hephner: I play what I like to call “the dick in a suit” a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to play it a lot, and I’ve passed on it multiple times as well, because I don’t constantly want to do that.

But when I read the script [for An Acceptable Loss], you get to the end and it literally knocks the wind out of you. I audibly exhaled. I want to get back in that suit, I want to be the dick in a suit for that story, because I think it’s something that my imagination could add to the story, even as great as I thought it was on the page.

You’re playing so against who you are in An Acceptable Loss. Is it interesting for you to play these characters who are nowhere near the real Jeff Hephner? Because your natural charisma also keeps characters like Adrian from getting too dark.

Jeff Hephner: I think part of it is our imagination. This is really something I’ve focused on lately. When you think of your alter ego, it’s that other side of you that you think people don’t know, or it’s that side you’re curious about. A lot of people wake up out of bed and they’re grumpy and mad and they see the negative, and I’m kind of like why? I think it’s just happened that it’s something i’ve always been curious about.

We all have our moments, our streaks in us. I have my little streak of potential bad guys and I like to play the parts and then get away from it. Let it be in the imaginary world, let me go back to my place in Michigan with my three kids and that life.

You’re one of three Chicago Fire actors who appear in An Acceptable Loss. Did you get to work with David or Alex in the movie, or slip in any Chicago Fire references?

Jeff Hephner: I was tempted a couple different times. (laughs) I saw Alex; we worked the same days [but] we don’t cross paths directly in the film. I missed the day David was there. David has a moment, he really steals it, and of course I was not there that day. That broke my heart because I would have loved to wind him up.

Having Joe there, it feels like you’re back in the family. I liked that Joe surrounded himself with actors that he trusted. When you write a script, you want people that you can trust. You know their work, but you also know their work ethic and also know they’re going to be great on set. David is always great on set and Alex, he’s a talented young man and he’s really good in this movie.

Was it different being directed by Joe Chappelle in An Acceptable Loss compared to Chicago Fire? This being not only a film, but something that he wrote and created.

Jeff Hephner: It was, because I know how much it meant to him. Not that Chicago Fire and my working with him didn’t, this was just deeply personal and I felt really flattered that he would trust me with the material. I wanted to bring all my tools and give him everything he needed, because I’m not just rooting for him and Colleen, but for the movie and the city of Chicago and their film community.

It’s a little quieter on a film. On a big giant TV show like Chicago Fire, it moves really fast. This movie was small and quiet so you could have these deeper conversations. And then you had a giant movie star in Jamie Lee Curtis there and that takes on a different kind of temperature as well. This person who’s at the top of their game, and you want to rise to that. You want to go toe to toe with that, and you want to do it for yourself and the other actor. And I wanted to do it for Joe because I really respect him and his work.

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So without giving too much away, what should we expect from Jeff Hephner in An Acceptable Loss? How much of you will audiences get to enjoy?

Jeff Hephner: It goes back to the idea of the machine. There’s something that is going to move this whole thing along. It being a thriller, there has to be someone getting chased and someone doing the chasing, and I’m definitely doing the chasing…I’m the one in pursuit and there’s definitely someone being chased for nefarious reasons.

Next. Meet Chicago Fire's new star Annie Ilonzeh. dark

An Acceptable Loss is playing in select movie theaters and available on demand now. For the latest Chicago Fire related news, follow the Chicago Fire category at One Chicago Center.