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The Transformation Of David Eigenberg From Childhood To Chicago Fire

There's a lot going on in the "One Chicago" franchise at any given time. Because the shows tend to focus on first responders by their very design, there are always disasters of varying levels to deal with — and whenever the characters have a moment of down time, you can bet that there's ample personal drama to keep things interesting. Combine this with the fact that the shows have massive casts that often go through significant changes, and on paper, the shows can seem pretty turbulent. However, the "Chicago" shows do have a solid core and a beating heart: The city of Chicago itself. Well, that, and Christopher Herrmann (David Eigenberg).

Herrmann is one of the longest-serving characters in the franchise's oldest show, "Chicago Fire," and serves on two of its most iconic vehicles. Apart from his role from a franchise standpoint, Herrmann is also the show's rock in-universe, both as a firefighter and the co-owner of one of the characters' favorite off-duty haunts, Molly's. The character doesn't shy away from his role as a mentor, either. As Herrmann himself puts it, "It's my job as an old firefighter to teach the young firefighters how to become old ones."

All in all, we're talking about a pretty interesting character. But did you know that the actor behind the role has a long and storied history that rivals that of his iconic character? Let's take a look at the life of David Eigenberg, from childhood to "Chicago Fire."

Eigenberg grew in Chicago suburbs and served in the military

 David Eigenberg grew up in the Naperville suburb of Chicago (per the Chicago Tribune), so he has a lifelong understanding of the Windy City mindset ... even though, according to The Day, he was actually born in New York. 

Eigenberg wasn't a particularly mellow child. "I was just an angry young kid," he described his younger days. "I think I was a little bit on fire. As you come into life as a young person, it's frustrating and you don't understand it. And I think as you come into adulthood, the contradictions of people's behavior and the hypocrisy of people's behavior is hard to understand, and irony hasn't been learned yet, so you can't file it anywhere."

As such, it's not exactly a surprise that before Eigenberg fully embarked on his ongoing acting journey, he explored other avenues of life. Fans might be surprised to find out that the "Chicago Fire" star is a former marine, and has worked with the United Service Organization numerous times. In fact, his USO work introduced him to his real-life partner, who was in homeland security duty when he visited her army base. "I met her; it just hit me. That had never happened to me before. It just hit me at the core," Eigenberg later described the moment he laid eyes on her. The pair went on to marry, and have two children. 

He straightened up his act and started getting noticed as an actor

In an interview with Cosmopolitan (via YouTube), David Eigenberg revealed he originally got into acting by ... not really wanting to act. Instead, he wanted to emulate his hero. "I wanted to be Steve McQueen," he said. "It wasn't really acting, it was just wanting to do that stuff." 

However, before he was truly able to excel at acting, he realized he had to take care of other things. As Eigenberg told The Day, his youth and early adulthood were pockmarked with heavy alcohol use, and after his friend stopped drinking, he followed the example. 

"And I said, 'Maybe I should just go to one of those meetings and see,' because I didn't think I was an alcoholic," Eigenberg describes the decision. "And then I found out that I was. The catalyst for me was a moment of realizing that my anguish in life that was being quelled with another substance was kind of a joke. And as much as I thought I was growing toward being a gifted and talented actor, I was thinking that if I ended my life early through the abuse of substance that it wasn't going to be a sad ritual at my graveside."

The decision certainly had a positive impact on his career. Over the 1990s and into the 2000s, Eigenberg appeared in more and more TV roles. In 1998, he landed a main role as undercover specialist Nick Delvecchio in "Soldier of Fortune, Inc." Season 2. As luck would have it, a major breakthrough was just around the corner.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He hit it big as Steve Brady in Sex and the City

A handful of actors are lucky enough to land not one, but two iconic roles. David Eigenberg is such an actor, and in a hypothetical universe where the "One Chicago" franchise doesn't exist, he would almost certainly be best known for his role as Steve Brady in "Sex and the City." Steve is a fun and nice guy who strikes up a strange relationship with Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and ultimately becomes one of the most memorable romantic interests in the entire show, regardless of how you feel about his characterization in later installments of the franchise. 

Steve has a noticeably minor and arguably unfortunate role in HBO Max's "And Just Like That," and viewers have had a hard time relating to this meek version of the character (via Vanity Fair). However, it turns out that this incarnation of Steve is actually closer to Eigenberg himself, because both the character and the actor are dealing with considerable hearing loss. As writer Elisa Zuritsky said, the actor's condition directly inspired Steve's arc in the show.  "When [showrunner Michael Patrick King] reconnected with David Eigenberg about the show, the very first thing that David said was, 'I got hearing aids.' It was literally what he led with," Zuritsky revealed. "That actually wound up being Steve's tone about his aging."

He had a tough time between Sex and the City and Chicago Fire

David Eigenberg has been playing Christopher Herrmann in various "One Chicago" properties since 2012, and shows no signs of stopping. He's obviously been massively important to "Chicago Fire," but don't take Eigenberg's considerable success as an actor to mean that he's had an easy journey. In fact as much of a "Chicago Fire" institution Herrmann is, the show has been a saving grace for the actor. In fact, according to The Chicago Tribune, Eigenberg was actually very close to quitting acting altogether before he was cast in "Chicago Fire." His B-plan, apparently, was to become a carpenter. 

In an interview with The Day, Eigenberg described his long, hard road from a little-known bit part actor to the guy in charge of the iconic Engine 51.

 "I had a very long, long time coming to 'Sex and the City,'" he said. "I had 15 years of really grinding it out with day-jobs to get to decent employment, which I always wanted to get. 'Chicago Fire' was the same — things were a little bit rough between 'Sex and the City' and 'Chicago Fire.' But — it sounds pretentious — but I'm not adverse to going through hard times. They come. And my wife and I, we've rolled through them. Hearts break and things happen and not so much about acting work, life rolls on us, and we have to learn to adapt and learn from that."