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Eamonn Walker’s Journey: From Gritty ‘Oz’ to Heroic ‘Chicago Fire’

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Chief Wallace Boden is a bona fide Chicago Fire fan favorite thanks to Eamonn Walker delivering a dynamite performance in each of the show’s 12 action-packed seasons.

Walker has been charming audiences long before his days at Firehouse 51, starring in an impressive roster of television series, films, and stage plays since his rise to fame in the 1990s. If Boden wasn’t a testament to Walker’s charisma on camera, his sprawling portfolio of credits cements his status as a tour-de-force of talent.

Read on to see Walker’s incredible career, from Oz to Chicago Fire.

Eamonn Walker’s Early Career in Theatre

Eamonn Walker during Curtain Call for Julius Caesar on Broadway at The Belasco Theater in New York City, New York, United States.

Born in West London in 1962, Walker trained as a dancer and joining London’s Explosive Dance Theatre Company. However, an injury shifted Walker’s career path, prompting him to pivot to another passion, acting. According to IMDb, Walker was inspired to act after witnessing Sidney Poitier’s performance in the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night.

Walker’s acting debut was in the ensemble of a 1983 production of Labelled with Love, which was based on the music of the band SqueezeFrom that point, Walker expanded his auditions to include television and film roles, but he always stayed true to his stage-loving roots.

In 2007, Walker flexed his Shakespearean prowess as the first Black actor to take on the titular role of Othello at either the original or the reconstructed Globe Theatre. (It was also the first production of Othello at the reconstructed theatre, according to The Guardian.) He’d previously starred in the 2001 television movie adaptation in the U.K.

In 2005, Walker took his love for the Bard to New York to play Marc Antony in Belasco Theatre’s production of Julius Ceasar, taking a bow alongside Denzel Washington. (Washington played Marcus Brutus, according to Playbill.)

Eamonn Walker’s TV Roles

Eamonn Walker appears as Andre Baptiste Sr. in Lord of War.

Walker made his television break in 1985 with a guest appearance as Edwin Shore in the U.K. series Dempsey and Makepeace and continued to steadily gather television credits throughout the 80s, next appearing in the British sitcom In Sickness and in Health as Winston from Seasons 1-3. He then made guest appearances on: the British kids series Dramarama (1986); British detective series Bulman (1987); and the Roald Dahl series Tales of the Unexpected (1988). Walker then played P.C. Haynes in Seasons 4 and 5 of the British detective series The Bill.

Walker continued to tread a steady television career throughout the 90s, landing guest roles in Bergerac (1991), Love Hurts (1992), One Foot in the Grave (1993), The Detectives (1995). He next appeared in both seasons of the British prison drama, The Governor (1995-1996), as Snoopy Oswald.

Then in 1997, Walker starred in the U.S. series that would skyrocket him to international fame.

Eamonn Walker in Oz

Eamonn Walker appears as Kareem Said in 'Oz'.

From 1997 to 2003, Walker starred in Oz as Kareem Saïd, a charismatic Muslim leader and prisoner at a level 4 maximum-security state prison. Saïd was a Black nationalist convicted of arson who was killed at the beginning of Season 6. (He played opposite Law & Order: Organized Crime‘s Christopher Meloni, who portrayed Chris Keller on the series starting in Season 2.)

Walker’s Saïd was a beloved character with a powerful voice, and the actor took home a 1997 CableACE Award for Actor in a Dramatic Series for his performance.

 

After achieving widespread acclaim on Oz, Walker continued to make primetime waves, guest starring in many U.S. television series. Some of Walker’s notable television guest roles include his appearance in the NBC television movie Homicide: The Movie in 2000 (based on the TV show Homicide: Life on the Streets), an appearance in a 2006 episode of ER as Dr. Stephen Dakarai, his role as Luther Graves in Justice from 2006 to 2007, and his performance as Frederick Douglass in the 2013 historical drama Copper. 

Eamonn Walker as Chief Wallace Boden in Chicago Fire

Chief Wallace Boden smiles in his office on Chicago Fire Episode 1001

Walker’s career recap would be remiss with a shout-out to his larger-than-life role as Chief Boden in Chicago FireSpearheading the debut season of Dick Wolf’s Chicago-based franchise, Walker has appeared in all 12 seasons as Firehouse 51’s fearless commander.

 

He has also made several guest appearances on Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med, as many of Truck 81’s emergencies cause him to cross paths with other first responders in the Windy City.

Eamonn Walker’s Film Roles: Unbreakable and Lord of War

Eamonn Walker appears as Howlin' Wolf in Cadillac Records.

Walker made his big screen debut in 1991 as Carlton in Young Soul Rebels, a historical drama centered around the youth cultural movements in late 1970s Britain. In 1994, Walker took on the role of Peters in the British action crime film Shopping. 

One of Walker’s first big American film roles came in 2000 when he played Dr. Mathison — the doctor who diagnosed the condition osteogenesis imperfecta in Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Elijah Price, as a child — in Unbreakable. 

Since then, he has starred in a diverse portfolio of films, including Tears of the Sun (2003) and 2005’s Duma as Ripkuna. Walker further impressed audiences with his role as Andre Baptiste Senior in the 2005 crime drama Lord of War, starring alongside Nicholas Cage, Jared Leto, and Ethan Hawke.

In 2008, Walker took on the role of blues musician Howlin’ Wolf in the film Cadillac Records, a performance that earned him a Black Reel Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

 

Walker  has since appeared in notable films such as The Messenger (2009), Blood and Bone (2009), The Company Men (2010), Legacy (2010), and the 2011 film A Lonely Place to Die.

“I look for good scripts. I don’t look for roles,” Walker told Black Film in 2005. “The script touches my mind or my gut. Primarily, I read and wait for the payoff … It doesn’t have to be good, and it doesn’t have to be bad; I don’t have to be a good person or an evil person; I just need a good script that I can relate to. It’s that simple.”

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