You may know her as Gabriela Dawson in the hit NBC series Chicago Fire, but Monica Raymund has big plans outside of the fictional Ambulance 61. Raymund is currently working on her first feature film as a producer, entitled Submarine Kid, due out sometime in 2015. We talk to Raymund about the importance of women in the arts and what the future has in store for her.
Playboy.com: I hear that you’re producing your first film, Submarine Kid.
Raymund: I’m executive producing the film that two of my best friends wrote. I have a production company called Sterling Features that I founded with three other women two years ago. Right now, we’re in the process of building our cachet and our portfolio because our dream is basically to become the next big studio, run by some females this time! [laughs] The film is written by Eric Bilitch and Finn Wittrock, who is also starring in it—they’re like my Matt Damon and Ben Affleck—and I’m one of the exec producers.
Playboy.com: We all need a Matt and Ben in our lives.
Raymund: Yeah, and I’m their Minnie Driver! [laughs]
Playboy.com: I too am all about women getting into the limelight and being behind the camera more; I think that’s very cool and a very important thing.
Raymund: It’s something I’m very passionate about. There are not enough women who are celebrated and championed in this industry as producers and entrepreneurs. There are a lot of us who are ambitious out there and I really want to be a part of the movement that brings women to the forefront of creative producing.
Playboy.com: You said that you have had this production company for two years. In your opinion, are there any obstacles that you’ve come across because you’re a woman since you’re in a field where there are not a lot of women being represented?
Raymund: Absolutely, I mean every day. I see it as an actor, I see it as a producer, as an artist, as a director... What I think is most difficult and challenging is my age. I’m 27 years old and when I first got into the world of producing I was 24 or 25. There’s definitely that stigma because I am young. The only way to overcome this kind of adversity is to maintain my ambition and to stay tenacious. I find that the more curious I am, the more questions I ask and the more I find myself around those who know way more than I do about this business. When I’m around those people my questions and actions are better received and I gain more respect. I’m extremely aware that I don’t know a lot about how this works, but I’m also very hungry and easily bored, so I basically just pick everyone’s brain and I think that people respect that; people respect a curious student in the art of producing. That’s how I try to build my new business.
Playboy.com: There’s no shame in asking questions. I’m 27 myself and I find that even being a younger female writer, it’s almost as if there is a stigma to asking questions. But I have no shame in it, no matter how many people talk down to me because of my age.
Raymund: It’s funny because there’s an entire feminist resurgence and revolution happening in our country, a real awakening of our feminist culture happening, everything from pop culture and politics to women in business. I’m not interested in male bashing by any means, I’m interested in raising the bar of equality between men and women and we’re letting it be known that we have ideas that are worth listening to as well. We may have to be a little more vocal about it to break that stigma, but I think we’ve earned our spot.
Playboy.com: So what drew you to your friends’ script for Submarine Kid?
Raymund: Eric and Finn started writing this several years ago. I graduated from Juilliard in 2008 and about a year or two after that I moved to L.A. and became a part of our theater company, The Mechanicals Theater Group. Since I had gone to Juilliard with Finn, that’s really where I met Eric. We hit it off immediately and eventually they brought me the script. They loved the idea of having me attached to the project in some creative way and while I had never produced anything before, they knew that it was something I was trying to break into. So of course I jumped onto this opportunity and shopped it around. During that time I fell out of a working relationship with a previous producer and finally we shot the film with Deborah Del Prete of Coronet Films, who is our head producer. She championed the idea of merging young artists and producers and really has become a mentor to us. We couldn’t do it without her—she’s kind of been our mom throughout this whole process and is always open to explaining how something works or why specific contracts are happening, why certain budgetary questions have come up. We’re learning about the game from a very seasoned producer who has been doing this for 25 years.
Playboy.com: What an incredible experience this must be! Do you enjoy being behind the camera more?
Raymund: Absolutely. I love acting, it’s my bread and butter right now and I’m extremely lucky and grateful for that as it is my first passion. But when I did my first series, Lie to Me on Fox, that was the first realization that I had interests in creating projects and being behind the camera. As an actor you really don’t have much control. We’re extremely dispensable. Sure, it could be a lucrative career if you land the right TV or film gig, but you really don’t have the final say over the final product and how to represent it. I have a theater production company called Sisu Theatrical Productions, and producing theater really made me realize that I want to do the same with TV, film and digital content. When I started Sterling Features that became my goal. I was getting so much artistic and creative fulfillment behind the camera that I may not always get in front of the camera. It’s not always consistent—sometimes the jobs are great and sometimes they’re not so great. I’m an artist first and it was really important for me to fulfill that need to feel as if I was a part of something greater than I am.
Playboy.com: Is this something you’re doing between shooting Chicago Fire or is this your number one right now?
Raymund: Chicago Fire is my number one. I have to be present and realize that is my career and it is really important to me! With the help of my parents, who told me not to take on too much, not like I haven’t already put enough on my plate, I’m trying now to work on how to balance producing and filming simultaneously. So I do a lot of work from home. I’ll go in to the set to shoot a 13-, 14-hour day and then I’ll go home and work for a couple hours on a movie, a deal or a play. I’m figuring out that balance right now—I’ll call you when I reach the ultimate juggling act! But at the moment I do it simultaneously as I wrap on season two and then on Thursday I’m heading out to L.A. to be on set for Submarine Kid, which we’ll finish filming and then I’ll go into post-production in May.
Playboy.com:You said you do some theater as well. I saw a video of you on YouTube and girl, you’ve got chops! Do you do music often?
Raymund: I started off as a musician, actually; the whole arts thing started with piano. I was a pianist starting at age four and I was a music student all the way through high school and then at The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and that was the lead in to taking voice classes and I wanted to take musical theater. When the time came to apply for colleges I applied for regular liberal arts private schools but I also auditioned for a few conservatories. I didn’t know if I wanted to do musical theater or straight acting at the time, but when I got into Juilliard my parents were like, “Well, you’ve got to go there! You don’t say no to Juilliard!”
Playboy.com: You have a Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. crossover coming out next week. Not a lot of shows are doing the crossover anymore! That must’ve been fun to shoot.
Raymund: Right before you called me I just tweeted about it! It’s about a two-hour special for one show, which is like a film almost in two parts. It’s really revolutionary. There’s been a few crossovers in the past 15 years, like Private Practice, but Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. are really breaking ground and that’s all thanks to Dick Wolf and NBC. They are paving the way for a newer platform for network television, which as a producer I think is brilliant because primetime TV is definitely seeing a surge with cable and digital distributions like Netflix and Hulu and Amazon. They’re trying to be innovative to stay topical.
Playboy.com: What a fun way to go about it. It must’ve been fun to shoot as well. Intertwining those two storylines people are following so fanatically.
Raymund: It was so cool because we get to work with such an amazing cast but when I go to the Chicago P.D. set there was a whole slew of amazing actors that I get to collaborate with. What’s fun about it is that I get to play the same character on another set yet it’s in the same world. Of course Chicago has been incredible to us and has been so supportive of the crossovers and I just think that it’s awesome for fans and audiences to be able to invest themselves in two different shows that take place in the same universe.