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Why Chief O'Neal From Chicago PD Looks So Familiar

Across 10 seasons of "Chicago P.D.," the series has continued producer Dick Wolf's procedural franchise with a focus on Chicago to complement his long-running "Law & Order" franchise. Some shows that take on a procedural, one-criminal-case-per-episode format may start to drag as time goes on, but "Chicago P.D." shows no signs of viewer fatigue with each season presenting compelling storylines with just as many likable characters as there are villains. The day-in-the-life details of Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) and his team of intelligence and patrol officers of the 21st District remain appointment viewing within Wolf's multi-show "One Chicago" franchise, whose shows all received a three-season renewal back in 2020 (via The Hollywood Reporter).

With the premiere of Season 10 set for September 21, 2022, there is one new character on the show that has actually appeared on the series before. If Chief Patrick O'Neal looks familiar, you may have noticed he first appeared on "Chicago P.D." in the Season 2 episode "Prison Ball" as the same character. The actor playing him may also have you feeling some deja vu, and there is a good chance you may have seen him in one or more of these shows.

Michael Gaston appeared in numerous TV shows in the late-1990s and early-2000s

Chief O'Neal is played by actor Michael Gaston, a longtime veteran who's played supporting characters in both film and television since the 1990s. The actor's very first acting credit was in acclaimed director Ang Lee's "The Wedding Banquet" in 1993 where he played a justice of the peace. He also frequently popped up in one-episode guest starring roles in various shows such as "Law & Order," "Homicide: Life on the Street," and "JAG" (per IMDb). But perhaps his most recognizable TV spot was in the first episode of HBO's "The Sopranos" in 1999. Gaston played terrified gambler Alex Mahaffey, who owes Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) money and is unsurprisingly roughed up when he is unable to pay.

He also went on to star in six episodes of Dick Wolf's short-lived legal drama "Deadline," which was canceled within its first two months of airing. His next prominent role on television was a two-episode part on "Prison Break." The actor appeared on so many shows in the early to mid-2000s that it becomes hard to single out exactly what he didn't appear in. But all this work paid off in 2006.

Gaston played the owner of the Jericho salt mines in Jericho

"Jericho" aired for two seasons on CBS from 2006-2008. Since its untimely cancellation, it has become one of many series over the years that were axed long before its time. Many have been wondering about the real reasons "Jericho" why was canceled, and much of this is to do with the show's post-apocalyptic setting resulting from a nuclear attack on the United States. In the immediate years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, it is easy to see why this likely came to pass. In the show, Michael Gaston played Gray Anderson, who owns the popular salt mines in the town of Jericho and eventually wins a mayoral election before failing to lead the town adequately.

Gaston's ability to create a character that was at first unlikable and then, by the ending of the series, more sympathetic, was a testament to his versatility in his acting choices. When asked how he is similar to his character in a 2007 interview (per TV @ Its Finest), he said, "I'm a passionate man who has been known to speak before thinking." For all of Gray Anderson's faults in the show, it's the multi-dimensional ambiguity the actor brought to the role that had viewers despising and ultimately liking him in equal amounts.

The actor starred as CBI Director Gale Bertram on The Mentalist

Michael Gaston's next prominent performance was in the 3rd-6th Seasons of "The Mentalist" as CBI Director Gale Bertram. The character was similar in tone to Gray Anderson but much more sinister by the end of the character's storyline. For several episodes, Bertram is presented to viewers in an ambiguous way to suggest he may be corrupt, but this is consistently revealed not to be the case. The character is finally revealed to be part of the criminal enterprise known as the Blake Association and is killed on orders given by the elusive Red John to throw off an investigation.

Gaston seemed to enjoy his time on the series, and in a 2011 interview with MediaMikes, he commented, "I get to work with one of my long-time friends Robin Tunney [Teresa Lisbon]. There are some actors on that show that I have known for a long time and getting to work with them is great. When I work on that show I have [to] travel, so for it to be a pleasant place to work makes things a lot easier."

Michael Gaston was the mysterious dog hunter Dean in The Leftovers

Few series from the 2010s were as compelling, provocative, and mysterious as HBO's "The Leftovers." Across three seasons, the show explored the mysterious and unexplained vanishing of 2% of the world's population with no clues as to why the phenomenon happened. The ending of "The Leftovers" was equally puzzling but helped to tie together its complex themes of what it means to be human, the constant struggle between compassion and evil, and making sense of life's tragedies in the best ways that human beings can. Michael Gaston made 12 memorable appearances in the program, playing a character named Dean, who hunts down stray dogs in the town of Mapleton but also seems to appear as a hallucination to Kevin (Justin Theroux) when he sleepwalks.

The meaning of Dean's character has long divided fans. In a show filled with symbolism, he could mean many different things within Kevin's wider personality. Redditor u/bobloblawlawblog999 pointed out, "Kevin had a loose grip on sanity. I always thought Dean was a hallucination or an outright alternate personality. The dogs were part of his psychosis." In a show that boldly dealt with loss and its effects on a person, Dean could be interpreted in many ways thanks to his strange actions.

He played Arthur 'Butch' Schafer on the AppleTV+ limited series Five Days at Memorial

One of Michael Gaston's most recent characters can be seen on AppleTV+'s "Five Days at Memorial," a miniseries based on Seri Fink's book of the same name. The series chronicles the emergency services of the medical team at a New Orleans hospital following the catastrophic events of Hurricane Katrina in late August and September of 2005. The actor stars as Arthur "Butch" Schafer, an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Louisiana who co-leads an investigation into the hospital's Dr. Anna Pou (Vera Farmiga) to determine if she administered drugs to help suffering patients end their lives in the midst of the tragedy.

He imbues his character with concern for the alleged victims laced with pain as he is also mourning the death of his own daughter while navigating one of the worst events the New Orleans area has ever witnessed. Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com praised Gaston's performance as "excellent" while also highlighting his "reliable" commitment to always providing viewers with compelling characters. This is sure to continue as he fleshes out Chief O'Neal in greater detail as the 10th season of "Chicago P.D." gets underway.