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Real Life Firefighter Turned Alderman Fuels 'Chicago Fire' Storyline

By Heather Cherone | March 31, 2016 6:01am | Updated on April 1, 2016 10:52am
 Actor Jesse Spencer (r.) met with Ald. Anthony Napolitano (l.) to research his role as Matthew Casey, a firefighter turned alderman.
Actor Jesse Spencer (r.) met with Ald. Anthony Napolitano (l.) to research his role as Matthew Casey, a firefighter turned alderman.
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DNAinfo; Flickr Creative Commons (r.)

EDISON PARK — Fans of the television show "Chicago Fire" who live on the Far Northwest Side may have experienced a distinct sense of dejà vu Tuesday night.

Matthew Casey — the dreamy but serious firefighter in Truck Company 81 out of Firehouse 51 — won his long-shot bid for the City Council, despite facing blistering attacks from an incumbent alderman willing to launch personal attacks and resort to dirty tracks in order to keep his job.

That is almost precisely what happened a year ago — give or take a little dramatic license — when an unknown Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) defeated Ald. Mary O'Connor, who had the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city's Democratic establishment.

In fact, Jesse Spencer, the Australian actor who plays Casey, recently met with Napolitano to research his role. Spencer name-checked Napolitano — who was a Chicago Police officer for five years before joining the Fire Department — in an interview that aired on E! Entertainment Television.

WATCH: Jesse Spencer credits Ald. Napolitano with helping him research his role.

Napolitano — who considers himself a political independent — is the only member of the Council who was endorsed by the Chicago Republican Party. In his 11 months in office, he has taken on the mayor on a number of different fronts, including the budget, a Norwood Park medical marijuana dispensary and the jet noise caused by O'Hare Airport.

"That's exactly what I'm doing on the show," Spencer said in the interview, crediting Napolitano with educating him on Chicago politics and how City Hall works.

"We've all heard about Chicago politics," Spencer said. "It is pretty hard core."

While Napolitano said he didn't have a lot of time to watch television, he said his wife, Jamie, is a big fan of "Chicago Fire," which often films around town along with its sister show, "Chicago P.D."

"I was dying laughing when I saw the interview and Jesse said my name," the alderman told DNAinfo Chicago.

Napolitano said Spencer asked "in-depth" questions about Chicago politics and how City Hall works.

"I told him how I see it," Napolitano said, adding that the session seemed like it was eye-opening for Spencer. "I could tell he was putting it all together."

Like most Chicagoans, Napolitano said he was often frustrated by stereotypical depictions of Chicago politicians, typically portrayed as corrupt and disingenuous.

"It was a great conversation about Chicago's horrible stigma," Napolitano said of his talk with Spencer. "I told him that the old ways aren't gone, but they are slowly fading out. A new generation is coming in and things are changing. I don't want to see the eye roll when people mention Chicago politics anymore."

But Napolitano said there was something even more impressive than Spencer's grasp of his new role as a firefighter-turned-politician in the interview Spencer gave reporters from E!

"I was surprised he pronounced my name right," Napolitano said, laughing. "He stuck it. I've known people for 10 years who can't say it right."

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