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Burning Bright

Actor Charlie Barnett heats up another season of NBC’s Chicago Fire.

Charlie Barnett makes portraying a first responder in the Windy City look easy.

Since Chicago Fire burst onto the small screen in 2012, Charlie Barnett has played Peter Mills, a young academy grad who joins ranks with the Chicago Fire Department’s finest. (He also appeared in the show’s Chicago P.D. spinoff that premiered earlier this year.) Barnett’s talent even scored him a supporting role alongside Will Smith in 2012’s Men in Black 3 and a guest appearance on NBC’s Law and Order: SVU.

But as far as Barnett has come, his acting beginnings at The Juilliard School is never far from his mind—nor is his desire to give back. In June, he served as the commencement speaker for the Chicago High School for the Arts. “Just knowing that it’s a liberal arts program and that it’s specific for kids who are diverse and interested in the arts just hit a personal chord for me,” explains the 26-year-old Sarasota, Fla., native.

Despite stints living in Florida, Los Angeles and New York City, Barnett has gained an affinity for Chicago—“a gem of talent and art,” says the actor of a city he also describes as “welcoming,” family-oriented and “built off work.” Plus, notes Barnett, who counts Clark Street Ale House, Girl and the Goat, and The Purple Pig among his favorite spots, “Chicagoans are more genuine and down to earth, more willing to live the [country] life and the city life.”

The third season of Chicago Fire is set to premiere late September, but not even Barnett knows what’s next for Peter Mills, with the conclusion of season two leaving the actor and the viewers with questions. “Our writers are really secretive, and they mess with us all the time,” he jokes. “It keeps you on your toes. I might get fired. Or die.” Regardless of the outcome, expect Barnett to continue to spark conversation.

Barnett’s Hots
The play The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza, the Bulls

Barnett’s Nots
Clubs, being consumed by entertainment