Sophia Bush talks joining the force on ‘Chicago P.D.,’ her global charity work and her own brushes with the law.
In the realm of TV crime dramas, it seems like every show is created in accordance with a strict set of laws: Choose a city, give your head detective a wild idiosyncrasy, then watch the drama unfold as they fight clearly contrived crimes. The last step is to pick clever name — if it’s a pun, even better.
But when Sophia Bush came across the script of “Chicago P.D.,” she knew she had her hands on something different. “It’s a new kind of show,” says Bush, who recalls the entire cast leaning back in awe after they viewed the first three episodes. “[‘Chicago P.D.’] isn’t wrapped up in a bow every week. It’s not pretty.”
In the “Chicago Fire” spinoff, which premieres Jan. 8 on WMAQ-Channel 5, Bush plays Detective Erin Lindsay, an undercover intelligence officer who lives by a firm set of moral laws. The series centers on Sgt. Hank Voight (played by Jason Beghe), who goes from dirty cop to head of the undercover intelligence unit. Bush’s Detective Lindsay shares Voight’s by-any-means-necessary views on crime fighting.
“The show’s whole existence is based around the notion of, ‘How do we take care of people? How do we protect people? And what lengths will we go to do that?’ ” explains Bush. Her character’s unorthodox approach often clashes with Chicago’s legal system, creating the show’s tense drama. “What I enjoy about playing Erin is that she’s not above saying ‘I don’t care if I’m not supposed to do that. I will stop this person, I will stop this from happening,’ ” says Bush. “For her, right and wrong is a very case-by-case evaluation. For her, the greater good is the point of everything.”
The same could be said for Bush, 31. Though she rose to fame as wild-child Brooke Davis on the teen drama “One Tree Hill,” the nearly decade-long role wasn’t particularly reflective of Bush. Off camera, she’s an activist who supports a wide range of charitable causes, such as Pencils of Promise (promoting global education) and Invisible Children (which fights human rights atrocities). And when Bush supports a cause, she dives in headfirst, sometimes literally: The actress has gone as far as skydiving to raise money for women’s rights group I Am That Girl. “I believe in what’s right in the center of my bones,” she says. “It matters to me more than anything.”
When Bush talks, it’s sort of like a brush fire: A small spark gets her on the subject of charity work and before long, she’s fully ablaze and articulating her views on solving global issues. For example: A simple question about her past roles gets her talking about her study of social history, which she seamlessly segues into her thoughts on combating gang violence and promoting education. “It comes with great responsibility to have a megaphone.” she says. “Life is very short. We should have conversations that matter. Conversations that service us and that service the world around us.”
That burning passion is part of what drew Bush to “Chicago P.D.” — playing the role of Detective Lindsay allows her to pursue social justice on screen. “I’m a fighter. I will fight to the death for people who matter to me and defend the people who deserve it. To be doing that at work all day feels very appropriate,” she says. On the show, that no-holds-barred approach leads Bush’s character into a lot of difficult, morally ambiguous situations. But in real life, Bush’s fearless nature is anything but a hindrance — she’s warm, approachable and unguarded. “At the end of the day, I’m an open book,” she says.
To that end, she’s willing to publicly admit her own mistakes — even when it comes to her love life. “I’ve dated a couple of the wrong guys, but I’ve also had great love in my life,” says Bush, who had a five-month marriage to “One Tree Hill” costar Chad Michael Murray in 2005. “I think every woman on Earth has dated the wrong guy at some point.”
Luckily, the actress has come a long way since then. At this point in her life, both professionally and personally, Bush knows exactly who she is and what she wants. “If I were looking at myself objectively, [I’d say] I’m a strong person and that can translate into a strong personality,” she says. “I’ll give all the space in the world to fairness, but I don’t have any room for intolerance. Similarly to Erin, I have a ferocious understanding of right and wrong and I don’t tolerate the wrong.” For Bush, that means continuing to live on the right side of history, being proactive about social change and using her fame as a platform to inspire goodness. “I have a lot of passion for society and how we should be treating each other,” she says. She pauses, then shrugs. “I’m a sucker for heroism.”
Sophia’s crime sprees
She might play a cop on TV, but sometimes even the lovely Miss Bush finds herself on the wrong side of the law. Here are a few of her violations:
Fists of Fury: “I had a guy in a bar in North Carolina just walk up behind me and just grope me. I turned around and smacked him in the face. He was so shocked. On what planet do you think it’s appropriate to grab a woman so aggressively? I don’t think so, bro.”
Pounding grape: “Who didn’t drink before they were 21? I’m Italian, I grew up having wine with my parents,” she says, then laughs, ”[At least] I’m not a shoplifter, although I have an admitted shopping problem.”
Walk the walk: “I jaywalk all the time — my mom is a New Yorker for god’s sake. But I don’t think I’ve broken the law. I’ve marched on Washington and I’m certainly not afraid to jump into the fray, but I don’t think any of that has forced me to break the law … yet.”