Article published in on May 1, 2006

“Rescue Me, Jack McGee!”

By Stephen Alexander (co-authored by Dino M. Zaffina)

Jack McGee is no stranger to rescuing people.  He was once a New York City firefighter in the Bronx from 1977 to 1987, before becoming an actor full-time.

Born in the Bronx, into an Irish Catholic family, McGee attended a Catholic grammar school and high school. After graduating from high school, he went to college in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he spent one year performing in college and community theatre before returning to New York and joining the Fire Department.

Even though McGee served his community for ten years, he never stopped pursuing his dream of making acting his profession. The fire department provided Jack with a flexible schedule; working one 24-hour shift and having two days off before returning for another 24-hour shift. On his days off Jack went on auditions.

Jack McGee landed his first feature film called Five Corners in 1986 starring Jodie Foster, Tim Robbins, and Johnny Turturro. One thing led to another and he was off and running. McGee decided that his life needed to take a different direction; he knew there was something else going on that he needed to take a look at, so he resigned from the fire department and moved to Los Angeles. He said, “I enjoyed the fire department and I will always be grateful to it.”

Interestingly, after over 100 acting credits playing various roles, Jack is back as a firefighter. He played a firefighter in Backdraft in 1991, and now is Captain Jerry Reilly on FX’s Rescue Me.

Rescue Me is going into its 3rd season and Captain Reilly is faced with yet another stressful year. McGee describes his character’s storyline, “Jerry Reilly is a guy that has worked his way up through the ranks. He has been a fella that studied, but he also has fought fires. There are a lot of guys that go in and who study their way right up the ladder and they do not have a lot of practical experience; that is not Jerry Reilly.”

McGee continues, “Reilly takes care of his boys and he is good to them, but he is not without his fair share of flaws. He likes the ponies. He’s not good at it, but he likes them nonetheless. He has dealt with the relationship with his son and is still right in the middle of trying to take care of his wife who has the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. He turns to this other woman who is helping him cope with the stuff that is going on with his wife. When you just think that he might get a little rest, things get even worse. They raise the rent on the place where his wife is and he has to get a second job.”

The good thing that Jack loves about his role as Chief Jerry Reilly is the opportunity to return to the fire department,but also the wonderful storyline of his relationship with his wife and son.

Jack is always singing around the set of Rescue Me.He has a real passion for singing. He says that it is a lot of fun. Many people do not know that Jack used to singbackground harmony for the ’60s and ’70s group “The Young Rascals” (later becoming “The Rascals”). They had ten top hits including, Good Lovin’, I’ve Been Lonely Too Long, Groovin’, and How Can I Be Sure, to name a few. Besides singing background for the group, Jack moved their equipment and chased groupies away.

He still enjoys singing at charity events and hopes that the show might write in some singing for Jerry Reilly; maybe he will jump up at a Karaoke bar.

Jack travels a lot for work. He resides in Southern California, but films Rescue Me in New York. They shoot the interiors in studios in Long Island City and the exteriors are generally shot up in Harlem in the lower eastside.

When asked why he has been cast as a cop many times, McGee replied, “You can be an Irish cop from New York or an Irish firefighter from New York. I have done a few Westerns, and I would like to do more. I would love to do a role as a guy with a Southern drawl. But, in this business you take what you can get when you get it, then all of a sudden someone will say let’s take a chance with him. Before you know it you are branching out into other areas. I am a guy who just wants to work. I want to do some good work on the set and have fun.”

Rescue Me premieres on May 30, 2006.  Click Jack McGee’s name for more information on his acting credits.


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