As passionate about the environment as she is about her adopted hometown of the Windy City, Chicago P.D. star Sophia Bush raises her voice to build a better world.
Pasadena native Sophia Bush first wove herself into America’s pop culture lexicon in the early aughts as Brooke Davis on cult TV drama One Tree Hill, going on to play the ever-popular cheerleader-turned-fashion designer for nearly a decade. Now, Bush is garnering acclaim as Detective Erin Lindsay on NBC breakout hit Chicago P.D., which was recently renewed for a third season. The analytical, no-nonsense character is not unlike Bush, a vocal advocate of causes ranging from the environment to education. In a spirited conversation with friend and Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, Bush opened up about the changing face of TV storytelling, her favorite Chicago foodie haunts, and how she’s working every day to manifest a brighter future.
Mariska Hargitay: Honey, how are you?
Sophia Bush: I just got home and I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
MH: “Home” home, like LA home?
MH: Good for you!
SB: It’s three degrees in Chicago, and it’s 80 degrees [at] home—
MH: Oh God, insanity. So, sweet Sophia, let’s start at the beginning: Tell me when you first knew that you wanted to become an actor.
SB: It was honestly an accident. My junior high and high school had a series of arts requirements, and I put off my theater requirement until the last semester. I knew it would interfere with all my extracurricular activities. The second semester of my eighth-grade year, they said, “You have to take a theater class,” and I protested because I was on the volleyball team, and they said, “It doesn’t matter. You could have done this last semester, but you waited and now you have to do it.” We did a production of Our Town—
SB: Something just clicked, and I realized that my passion for English and my love of literature could be put into action. It rocked my world and I just thought, I get this.
MH: I have a similar story. I was an athlete. I met somebody and he was like, “You should go on auditions,” and I was like, “Nope, I’ve got a volleyball game; I’ve got a cross-country game.” It wasn’t until I did a play that I went, Hey, wait a minute. I like this. Doing sports as a young girl really teaches us how to strive for something. In so many ways, too, it makes you a better actor.
SB: Absolutely, because you have some understanding of the need to persevere. I get this question all the time about our schedules—people say, “What happens when you’re sick?”
MH: And you say, “Nobody cares.” [Laughs]
SB: If you’re sick, you come to work with a bucket and you deal with it.
MH: Speaking of work, tell me what you think it is about Chicago P.D. that the audiences connect to.
SB: First of all, we’re so lucky to be part of this larger wheelhouse that you’ve influenced and that Dick [Wolf] has been growing for so many years. Television has grown as an industry. When I was a little kid, there were only a handful of channels, and now there’s a thousand to choose from. That has widened avenues that we have for storytelling, because we’re not looking at shows the way we used to. I grew up watching reruns of Dragnet on Nick at Nite. There was a crime and then they solved it, and that was that. Now we’ve been given permission on the show to allow our heroes to be flawed. Are they bending the rules to service the law? Are they breaking the law? Do we root for them? Are we afraid of them? Nobody’s always playing perfect.
MH: What’s your favorite thing about playing Detective Lindsay?
SB: She’s not one of those bleeding hearts that sees the world and wants to fix it. She wants to fix the world because she was taken advantage of as a child, because she was recruited to work in a gang environment, because she was a drug addict, because she’s been at the lowest point and seen what one person who cares about you can do for you, and now she wants to give that to other people.
MH: And what initially drew you to it?
SB: I’d been on location doing [One Tree Hill] for nine years, and then I worked a season on a show in LA and was so excited to be home. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do next, but I always wanted to work for Dick, and I always wanted to work with you. I get this call, and my agent said, “Dick Wolf is doing this show, and they really want to see you for the lead female, and it shoots in Chicago,” and I’m like, “No way. Chicago’s so cold, it’s so far away, I don’t know anybody there…. I’m not going.”
MH: [Laughs] But Dick Wolf has a pretty good record.
SB: I know. And they were like, “But Sophia, it’s literally two of the three criteria for a job you’ve ever wanted. You could just read it.” And I said, “All right.” I was protesting, but not much, because in the back of my head I was so excited.
MH: Of course.
SB: And I read it, and I just got her. I thought she was interesting, and different, and I just thought it was so cool.
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MH: There’s nothing better than that, right?
SB: No, and you know what that feeling is like: When you read a script and from the first moment it gets its hooks in you? I just went, “Uh-oh.” [Laughs] I knew I was in trouble.
MH: You’ve said that Law & Order: SVU, which you starred in, obviously, in the crossovers, is your favorite show. What was that experience like? I want you to be honest. [Laughs]
SB: I have to take our dear readers back, because for so long, I talked about how all I would do on a day off in North Carolina was binge-watch SVU marathons, and how Mariska Hargitay was just the coolest woman on TV. I was this shameless gusher. I was doing this as an actor on a show, so these words were being printed—it wasn’t, like, on my private Tumblr page—and they were out there for all to see. Then, six or seven years ago, I was walking down the street in Soho, and I looked up, and it was like all the lights on Broadway started shining in my face—it became a weird sort of Wes Anderson film—and there you were, greeting all the beautiful fans in Soho, and I just blacked out. I know that I went up to you and that I probably babbled. I think you knew my brain was short-circuiting, and you touched my arm and said, “It’s so nice to meet you. I think your show is just great. Want to take a walk with me?” And I was like, “Sure.” What? And we just talked for 20 minutes, and it’s weird because now we text, we email, we chat, we send each other stupid pictures and things that real humans do, but I remember that day not understanding how to compute just how genuinely lovely you were.
MH: That’s so gracious, but it’s been such a pleasure getting to know you, working with you, and having you teach me how to tweet and Instagram. And your photos are amazing. This is a fun fact about Sophia Bush: She is such a great photographer. You wouldn’t even know she’s an actor, and she’s like, “Okay, stand over here.”
SB: Taking photos together now, it’s like, “Wow, I basically accosted this woman on the street in Soho, and now we’re working together—”
MH: And now you’re telling me where to stand for photos. [Laughs]
SB: It’s such a trip. It’s almost like I manifested it in all those embarrassing fangirl interviews over the years. It happened.
MH: Be careful what you wish for—we can manifest those things, so if that’s what you want, you did good, girl. [Laughs] So how is Chicago? You had some trepidation about moving there. What’s it like for you now?
SB: It’s been so lovely. There are elements in Chicago of so many of my favorite cities: There’s this big lake culture in the summer that reminds me of Austin; there’s amazing neighborhoods full of street art, little craft stores, and artisanal coffee, and it reminds me of all my favorite funky neighborhoods in LA; and there’s this incredible music scene and art scene that is really reminiscent of New York. If I can’t be home, it’s one of the best places that I’ve ever been.
MH: When I was there we had so much fun, and I couldn’t believe how many great restaurants were there. You were so sweet going, “Go here. Go there.” Tell me some of your favorite places and favorite dishes.
SB: There’s a really amazing place downtown called The Purple Pig, and I just had this the other day for the first time: They do a pork that tastes like it’s bourbon-glazed. It’s insanely delicious. There’s a great Asian-fusion restaurant that just opened called Momotaro that’s phenomenal. Au Cheval has the best burger I’ve ever had. There’s a great shop in Wicker Park called Antique Taco that is off-the-chain delicious.
MH: What’s the place that I went that I loved? Big Star?
SB: Yeah, Big Star is also fantastic.
MH: Well, I’m coming back in a couple weeks, so I’m hoping that we can have short days and grab some dinner.
SB: Me, too—I’m hoping that we can actually go gallivanting. It’s so different. In the summertime, you just want to be outside. One of my favorite things to do is [visit] the Randolph Street Market, and it reminds me of the Rose Bowl or the Long Beach Flea Market—amazing antique jewelry, vintage furniture, incredible food…
MH: I’d call you a half-Chicagoan, because I found that there is this bizarre and lovely and surprising feeling of intimacy and family with everyone [in the city]. But let’s talk about support: The environment is something that means a lot to you—I know you’ve done beach cleanups, marathons to benefit The Nature Conservancy, and all that. Tell me about conservation and why it’s so dear to you.
SB: I honestly think it’s a no-brainer, and some of that comes from growing up in Southern California—spending all my time as a kid exploring beaches and the sea and the mountains, and just realizing that we’re such a small part of this giant planet in this enormous ecosystem, yet we wreak the most havoc on it. No matter what we might argue about amongst ourselves or what we might fight wars about around the world, if there’s no world left to host us, none of it’s going to matter. If we kill the planet, that’s it. When the president of the United States is saying that climate change poses a greater threat to American citizens than terrorism, people are finally opening their eyes and realizing that the world doesn’t exist for us to trample and use. It’s all supposed to be more symbiotic, and I really hope that citizens will start to demand that change both from the companies where they spend their money and the governments they elect to represent them.
MH: What are a couple of things you’d suggest to readers who want to protect the environment?
SB: It’s important to realize that every dollar you spend casts a vote. When you have to spend money, look at where it’s going. There’s actually a company that a friend of mine helped start called Conscious Commerce, where you can look up all kinds of conscious beauty products, gift items, fashion items. Of course it’s great to say, “Hey, try the fuel-efficient car.” I switched over to a clean diesel [car] a couple of years ago, and it’s made a great impact on my life and saved me a ton of money in the process. I don’t use plastic bags anymore; I take my own bags to the grocery store. I try to drink bottled water that I bring from home in a glass bottle instead of buying plastic bottles, but if I have to use plastic, I make sure I’m recycling. Buying my groceries at the farmers market on the weekend instead of buying produce that’s shipped [and] using pesticides. There’s big options and small, and in the minutiae of our everyday we have the chance to create change.
MH: It’s been beautiful to see how you’ve used your social media to get the message out there, and it says on your social media that you call yourself a “storyteller” and an “activist,” and “I believe a pencil can change the world.” How do you want to change the world?
SB: The notion of a pencil changing the world to me comes from all of my work with Pencils of Promise and really seeing that we have the capability to change the world by educating its children. I’d like to see us investing in education, in the environment; I’d like to see us treating one another like we’re all in this together. I just try to remind myself that I have the power to change my world and to change a little bit of the world around me, but if every one of us really embraces that and says, “I should start with myself, then I can have a ripple effect in my universe,” that’s it. If every person in the world commits to making one substantial change, the whole world’s a different place.
Source: Michigan Avenue