Chicago Fire’s David Eigenberg talks his new film Killing Eleanor

CHICAGO FIRE -- "A Chicago Welcome" Episode 813 -- Pictured: David Eigenberg as Christopher Herrmann -- (Photo by: Adrian Burrows/NBC)
CHICAGO FIRE -- "A Chicago Welcome" Episode 813 -- Pictured: David Eigenberg as Christopher Herrmann -- (Photo by: Adrian Burrows/NBC) /

David Eigenberg discusses his role in Killing Eleanor.

David Eigenberg is a scene-stealer on Chicago Fire, but his latest film Killing Eleanor sees him playing a very different character from Christopher Herrmann.

The independent movie centers around Natalie (played by writer-producer Annika Marks), who’s shocked when Eleanor (Jenny O’Hara) asks her for help ending her life. David’s character Henry has his own connection to Eleanor, and he’s nothing like the opinionated and energetic Herrmann.

Learn more about David’s role in Killing Eleanor in our interview, and stay tuned for more info on when and where you’ll be able to watch the film in the future.

More from David Eigenberg

One Chicago Center: When you got the script for Killing Eleanor, what was it that made you want to get involved?

David Eigenberg: Many, many reasons. From the fact that there were people in recovery trying to get clean [and] getting sober myself, and then also the script was just amazing. I just really liked it, and [it was] about coming to the end, and how do you want to get to it?

There was this smaller character, the son of Jenny O’Hara’s [character], and it was like oh wow, this guy is kind of a timely character, because he has a problem with compassion. I was intrigued by him and I thought it was really relevant in this time of certain elements of our social consciousness in America that lacks this kind of ability to see another person’s point of view, and to judge them, and judge them harshly.

And I was really excited by Jenny O’Hara, who I’ve known for a long time, and Annika, who I didn’t know very well but we were all members of this really small theater in New York City. I know Jenny’s work [and] I would aspire to her kind of career. I don’t know if I’m going to last as long as she has, but you’re that face that everybody knows. You’ve been on a thousand things, and you’ve been wonderful in all of them. Jenny’s always a joy to watch. She’s a joyful person to be around. To see her get the shot at a really beautiful part was intriguing to me, and I wanted to be a part of it, so it was a nice fit.

OCC: Whether it’s Herrmann stealing a scene on Chicago Fire, or your brief but poignant scene in An Acceptable Loss, you’re a master at doing a lot with a little screen time. How do you pull it off?

DE: When I started out my career in acting school, I started out as a chorus boy. Here in Chicago, in a musical, and was very happy with it. And then I got to school, and I got to do bigger things and I enjoyed doing those also. But I think I just respond to characters that I can find something from.

I was in the original cast of Six Degrees of Separation, and I went in for one of those supporting, younger roles [that] John Cameron Mitchell actually ended up playing. I read for it, and I wasn’t very good, because it wasn’t right. And then at the end of the audition, I said can I read for this other character? And they were kind of taken aback, because you’re not supposed to do that. They went, who? And I went, the hustler. He was only on stage for maybe two minutes, and all he did was tell everybody to go f–k themselves, literally.

I knew that part, and I got to do it. If I identify with something, I don’t care what the size of it is. If I can identify with a character, whether it be good, bad, or a different character, I like it…I bring my best, and hopefully it sticks.

OCC: Your Killing Eleanor character is so different from Herrmann. Was it nice to step away from him to play this role, given that Herrmann is so lovably high-strung?

DE: Yeah, it is…You get in and get out. I can figure that out more easily. And it’s nice to get away from the stuff that I’ve been doing. As much as I love doing what I’ve been doing, my focus is on my real family. When I come into hiatus [I’m] making sure I spend time with them, because we can get kind of butchered during the season, depending on what the episode load is for us as the actors. I’m not hesitant to say no to stuff. Not because I’m a snob by any stretch, but my time now is important to me.

This was kind of a no-brainer, because it’s an amazing piece and it’s a great social commentary, and it deals with conflict, and it deals with heartbreak. And an amazing story is not about ordinary people, and ordinary days; it’s about extraordinary people, in extraordinary circumstances. And that’s where we learn something. I’m certainly not a great character [in Killing Eleanor], but I learn from these characters, because of their choices, or their failure to make choices, anyway.

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OCC: How do you describe this character?

DE: I play a very right-wing, religious fundamentalist. I didn’t find this character to be a terribly compassionate human being [in] the way that he treats the people around him.

OCC: You’re on both one of the most-watched shows on TV and doing great independent films like Killing Eleanor. What does that mean to you, being able to do both?

DE: I hope that this independent film does well, because the past few years, independent film hasn’t done so well. The movie market is so overwhelmed by superhero movies, which my kids love, that the independent has kind of been pushed to the rear. And I think this is a genuine effort at a great story. Independent films sometimes have a tendency, in the past 20 years, to be about someone’s own personal journey. And they think it’s so important, and it’s just not.

I hope this gets some distribution within the the forums that are showing material, as we’re all spending a lot of time at home, because I think it’s a real wonderful, sit-down, provocative, thought-provoking story. And not because of myself; I think it’s wonderful people really throwing stuff out there. It wasn’t a precious production…Like Chicago Fire, we’re not precious about what we do. We love what we do, and put our heart and soul into it, but we’re not precious. At the end of the day, we’re banging it out as best we can.

Killing Eleanor was the same kind of feeling. They had deep substance in their script, but they weren’t precious about it…I love projects like that. This was definitely a let’s go in and go straight at this kind of thing.

Next. Adriyan Rae tells why she joined Chicago Fire. dark

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