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The Transformation Of Marina Squerciati From Childhood To Chicago P.D.

During her nine seasons on "Chicago P.D.," Intelligence Unit officer Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati) has become a genuinely beloved character for fans of the hit police procedural. Debuting on the show in its premiere episode "Stepping Stone" in 2014, she's been a mainstay of the high-intensity, action-drama element of the "One Chicago" universe for over 170 installments and counting (via IMDb).

During that time spent taking down the baddest of the bad guys on the mean streets of Chi-town, Squerciati's character hasn't exactly had an easy go of it, either. From risking her life to save her partners, to a tempestuous romantic triangle, to eventually being kidnapped and grievously wounded when she's shot by a murderous thug, Officer Burgess has seriously earned her stripes on the show. And while the actor is by now one of the highest-profile personas in the series, she came to the franchise with a lengthy show-business history that many fans may not be familiar with.

That being the case, let's take a look at the extraordinary transformation of Marina Squerciati from childhood to network TV stardom on "Chicago P.D."

She acted off-Broadway and danced with Macaulay Culkin

Born in New York City, Marina Squerciati had an early interest in acting that led to her earning a B.A. in Theater from Northwestern University with additional dance education at the renowned School of American Ballet (via The Imagista). Finding work early in her career in New York's theatrical scene, she appeared on the stage in the off-Broadway shows "Beauty of the Father" and "Manipulation," and portrayed Judy Holliday in the off-Broadway production of "Just in Time" (via her resumé). When that show was selected for the internationally recognized Fringe Festival, Squerciati would win the coveted Agnes Moorehead Award for her performance.

While it was clearly Squerciati's acting that would form the basis for her career in future years, it was her talent as a dancer that resulted in her first on-screen appearance. Because in 1993 she was cast as a Mouse and Polichinelle in director Emile Ardolino's big screen adaptation of the perennial Christmas-themed classic, "The Nutcracker." And dancing alongside her as the eponymous Nutcracker himself? "Home Alone" star Macaulay Culkin (per IMDb).

She shared the screen with Meryl Streep and the son of a Beatle

Acting for the first time in a feature film in the 2009 feature "It's Complicated" in the small role of Melanie, Marina Squerciati found herself on screen with major Hollywood marquee names like Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin (per IMDb). Three years later, she would land the part of Dr. Sara Bella in the superhero movie "Alter Egos," where she shared the screen with Sean Lennon, son of Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

2009 was notable for Squerciati for another reason, as she made her first appearance in one of the many TV procedurals created by Dick Wolf, the mega-producer behind a long list of hit network staples including the "One Chicago" universe. Cast as Betsy Naylor in the "Revolution" episode of Wolf's long-running "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" franchise, Squerciati followed this role up with additional appearances in other TV series including the part of Cheryl Willens in "The Good Wife," as Anne Connel in "Damages," and Cameron Swanson in "Blue Bloods."

She was a recurring presence on Gossip Girl

Marina Squerciati's next feature film assignment saw her cast alongside Adam Driver as a waitress in director Noah Baumbach's feature "Frances Ha" in 2011 (via IMDb). That same year would mark a new high point in the young actor's career when she landed her first recurring role in a TV series.

Cast as publicist Alessandra Steele in the CW drama "Gossip Girl," Squerciati would cut her teeth as a regularly appearing TV actor in this long-running hit about New York teens attempting to live their lives under the constant glare of the blogger detailing their high-society exploits. In the show, Squerciati's character showed herself to be a capable, sometimes unconventional publicist, but one who was not above engaging in flirtatious behavior in the course of her duties.

Spending a total of eight episodes on the series, her character debuted in the "Jewel of Denial" episode, and she would go on to play Steele for the next two seasons, finishing up in the "Raiders of the Lost Art" installment in 2012.

She played a spy and visited all four One Chicago shows

In the wake of her attention-grabbing role as a regular on "Gossip Girl," Marina Squerciati would next find herself cast as a spy in the critically acclaimed Cold War espionage drama series "The Americans" airing on FX.

Then, in 2014, Squerciati would again find herself drawn into Dick Wolf's TV empire when she made her first appearance in one of Wolf's "One Chicago" slate of shows. And while she's now known primarily for her work on "Chicago P.D.," the fact is that Officer Kim Burgess made her first on-screen appearance in the 2014 "Chicago Fire" episode "Tonight's the Night." It wasn't until "Chicago P.D." was spun off from "Fire" in 2015 that Squerciati's officer Burgess would join the CPD team in the series' premiere and go on to become a fan-favorite partner to the show's other mainstay characters. Furthermore, in crossover events between the various "One Chicago" series, she would spend time on all four Chicago-verse shows, including the short-lived "Chicago Justice" (via IMDb).

So, from her early forays onto the off-Broadway stage in New York City, to small parts on TV and in films, to her stint on the teen hit "Gossip Girl," Marina Squerciati has undergone a major transformation from childhood to a fandom fave on "Chicago P.D."

She had to keep her father's identity a secret

In a 2017 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Marina Squerciati said, "I don't have any siblings." However, it turns out that's not exactly true. 

According to court papers obtained by the New York Post in 2018, Squerciati had multiple half-siblings whom she never really met, owing to the circumstances of her birth and rearing. The documents obtained by the New York Post allege that she was the result of a one-year relationship in the early 1980s between powerful New York financier and stock brother John R. Jakobson and TV and travel writer Marie Squerciati. Jakobson married another woman in 1983 and never told his wife about his daughter, whom he provided for financially. Jakobson quietly sent monthly $1,200 checks to the Squerciatis and paid for his daughter's private school and college tuition, promising to create a trust for her in his will, just like he'd done for the children he fathered in his marriages. All Squerciati had to do was keep the identity of her father secret.

However, when Jakobson died in 2017, he left Squerciati out, prompting the actor to file suit to be included in the dispersal of his estate. Citing broken promises and entitlement to a slice of her father's riches, Squerciati's papers noted her heartbreak over never getting to connect with her half-siblings, among them actor Maggie Wheeler, best known for her role as Janice on "Friends."

A health crisis nearly derailed her acting career

According to the "HypochondriActor" podcast (via CinemaBlend), Marina Squerciati studied at Northwestern University's prestigious drama school. The department has a special annual competition where acting students audition for one of eight slots to fly to New York and meet with multiple powerful talent agents. However, on the day of that potentially career-making tryout, Squerciati was stuck in a hospital bed, diagnosed with a high fever and pneumonia in both of her lungs. 

To determine if she also had meningitis, doctors ordered a spinal tap, an extremely painful and invasive procedure that can lead to paralyzation, spinal infection, or severe headaches. The latter is what befell Squerciati on her way out of the hospital on her way to the audition. "I go to leave and I sit up and I pass out from the pain," she said. Her mother, who had flown in to be with her daughter during her medical crisis, escorted her out of the hospital, slowly walking her along with Squerciati's head laying on its side on a tray — she'd have passed out if she'd been fully upright.

Squerciati went right to her theater, performed her prepared monologue, and then resumed resting her head on that tray. She nailed the audition and got to go on the beneficial New York trip.

She got married and had a child

According to Hello!, Marina Squerciati has been married to lawyer Eli Kay-Oliphant, her partner for two decades, since 2016. The couple met at Northwestern University when both were undergrads. She went into acting and he went into law. Kay-Oliphant is a partner at Chicago firm Sparacino PLLC and Squerciati briefly went into a similar field — she had a desk job as a real estate paralegal, according to the "Rachael Ray Show," to pay the bills until her acting career took off. Of course, it did after she nailed her "Chicago P.D." audition and got the role of Officer Kim Burgess, but she was still afraid to lose her backup gig. "I stayed there for another year," she said. "I had the job all throughout Season 1."

Meanwhile, as Squerciati found fame with a continuing role in a major network TV drama, her husband Kay-Oliphant helped argue a high-profile case. According to the Associated Press, he represented the family of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, whose death became the subject of rumors and conspiracies perpetuated by Fox News, which had to pay out an undisclosed settlement to Rich's family, per NPR.

Squerciati left "Chicago P.D." to go on maternity leave in 2017 (per TV Insider), and she and her husband welcomed a child later that year.