LOS ANGELES — Think back on standout modern TV dramas and "Homicide: Life on the Street," ''Oz," ''The Pacific" and "Treme" easily come to mind.
Jon Seda was part of them all, a testament to the actor and the career he's built. Credit the appealing warmth he brings to roles, his confident physicality and the strict work ethic he traces back to his brief but influential boxing days that included competing for Golden Gloves amateur honours .
"When I get a script, that's my ring," Seda said. "It's up to me to train, to prepare for the challenge in that script and make it believable. I take everything I learned from boxing and use it to prepare."
The result is one busy man, nearly monopolized in recent seasons as a favourite son for "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf's newest divide-and-conquer franchise.
Seda's lawman, Antonio Dawson, was introduced on "Chicago Fire," promoted to "Chicago P.D." and now is part of newcomer "Chicago Justice," airing 9 p.m. EST Sundays on NBC. Dawson even popped up on an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," that brand's last standing iteration.
"He is the consummate trouper," Wolf said of Seda, calling him a top-notch actor who's a favourite with his cast mates.
Seda said he was surprised to get the offer to take Dawson to a new show and assignment. In "Chicago P.D.," his character worked in the police department's elite intelligence unit. In the spin-off, he's been asked by prosecutor Peter Stone (Philip Winchester) to head the state attorney's investigative unit.
The actor, whose big-screen films include "Carlito's Way" and "Bullet to the Head," is happy to be sticking with a law enforcement character who's one of the good guys.
"I respect the people that do these jobs in real life," he said, and the opportunity to "show these real heroes on TV. ... I care about every job I do, but in particular I feel a bigger sense of responsibility playing the role."
He and the series, which is shot in Chicago, have received appreciation in return.
"I was out having dinner with my daughter, I go to pay for the bill and the waitress said, 'It's been taken care of,' and points at two police officers," Seda recalled, still marveling at their kindness. "I went over to thank them, and they took pictures and said, 'Thank you for the work you do.'"
Seda says he leaves it to his boss, Wolf, to handle reaction to the producer's longstanding ripped-from-the-headlines approach, seen most recently in a "Chicago Fire" episode that crossed over to the "Chicago Justice" debut (which aired last Wednesday and gets a special repeat showing 10 p.m. EST Saturday). Centered on a fatal building fire, the story line drew criticism for echoes of a tragic Oakland, California, blaze at a warehouse used for residences.
The "Chicago" franchise has given Seda more than a steady gig. His wife, Lisa, and their children lived in Pennsylvania when he was bouncing between there, "Treme" in New Orleans (on which he played an exploitive developer) and "Chicago Fire." When he was cast in "Chicago P.D.," the couple decided to set down roots in Chicago.
"We're a close family and I don't like being away. And the girls are 13 and 15. We wanted to give them a sense of stability," said Seda, who also has a 22-year-old son.
While TV dramas are demanding for all involved, he's determined to focus on a project inspired by his relationship with his onetime boxing trainer, Dominick Bufano, who's in the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. The film, which Seda hopes to direct as well as write, is intended as a homage to the late Bufano.
"I never got to say goodbye to him," Seda said.
Combining outside projects with "Chicago Justice" is something he hopes to do for many years to come.
"These types of shows that can have longevity, they really don't come along that often. When it does you really want to hold onto it, really enjoy it and take it for however long the ride is," he said.
Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.
Lynn Elber, The Associated Press