CHICAGO — Nursing a sore throat and a depleted voice, Charlie Barnett leans against a door frame surveying the action before him.
A wardrobe assistant adjusts the line of the fleece hoodie he wears as he stands on the edge of what looks like a fire station squad room. He and his colleagues are awaiting word from the chief about the condition of a fellow firefighter.
After the update, the crew starts to banter. Voices are raised and taunting ensues. For a change, it’s not directed at the rookie firefighter Barnett plays on the NBC drama “Chicago Fire.”
Barnett’s character, Peter Mills, watches from the sidelines, a little wary of how things could shift but not wanting to miss a minute of what’s happening.
Ensemble of “Chicago Fire.” / PHOTO COURTESY NBC
Barnett himself is hardly staying on the sidelines. He is relishing every moment of his first primetime series and his time on the set of “Chicago Fire,” which may have attracted enough of an audience at 10 p.m. Wednesdays to earn a full-season pickup. On Dec. 5, with no “CSI” competition, the show had its highest ratings of the season.
The series is a breakthrough and the biggest boost yet to the 24-year-old actor’s career, which began at age 7 on stages in and around Sarasota.
Playing Peter Mills, the rookie candidate, in Station 51, could make him a star or at least a recognizable performer, which would likely lead to more work.
Barnett has found a home in Chicago with a lot of nearby friends from his days as a student in Booker High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Center.
But for now, he’s focused on the long hours on the set and locations around Chicago.
Behind the scenes
In what looks like a factory warehouse on the outside, designers have created Station 51, home to a fire unit led by actor Jesse Spencer and a rescue squad led by Taylor Kinney. Each team battles for prominence after the latest accident, explosion or fire.