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The Transformation Of Joe Minoso From Childhood To Chicago Fire

NBC's list of Dick Wolf-produced Chicago-set shows includes the still-running "Chicago P.D." and "Chicago Med" as well as the quickly defunct "Chicago Justice," but the expansive universe celebrating first responders and public servants in the Windy City all began with "Chicago Fire" in 2012, a series that has aired more than 200 episodes over 10 seasons. One of the most recognizable and signature characters in the series from the beginning has been Joe Minoso as firefighter Joe Cruz.

Cruz has long been one of the funniest and most loyal characters of the series, often acting as a moral compass for others, even when he finds himself struggling with family and friends whose lives have taken different directions. When Minoso first stepped into the role of Cruz, it was long before Dick Wolf helped usher in a new connected universe for NBC with his other "Chicago" series. With those humble beginnings in mind, it's a good time to look at Minoso's transformation from childhood to one of the most beloved characters on the long-running "Chicago Fire."

Joe Minoso began in theater

Raised in Yonkers, New York, "Chicago Fire" star Joe Minoso decided to give acting a go after his first girlfriend took him backstage at a school play she was in (via NBC). He then worked his way from stagehand to auditioning for a school production of "Dracula." The aspiring actor went on to earn a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Adelphi University and a master's in fine arts from Northern Illinois University.

After college, he chose to stay in Chicago and pursue acting there while his then girlfriend finished her last year of school (via WhereTraveler). The soon-to-be "Chicago Fire" actor even joined Chicago's Teatro Vista, the largest Latino theater company in the Midwest. "The community here is really supportive and the theater scene is incredibly vibrant. It is an amazing place for a young actor to develop their acting muscles," he said of the city in 2017. While Minoso sharpened his talent in Chicago theater, he would go on to branch out into television and film appearances as he worked his way toward "Chicago Fire."

Before Dick Wolf, there was Superman for Joe Minoso

"Chicago Fire" star Joe Minoso has had roles in a handful of recognizable television shows and films, though none of them have been the biggest or most glamorous. In the years he spent building his résumé beyond theater, Minoso took on minor parts in "Prison Break"; Showtime's "Shameless"; Kelsey Grammer's brief Starz series, "Boss"; and finally, "Man of Steel," which was released a year after "Fire" premiered. Minoso has a brief role in one of the movie's chaotic city scenes as "Metropolis Officer."

One of the actor's more interesting roles before "Chicago Fire" is in "The Chicago Code," a Shawn Ryan-created series that attempted to get a police drama going in the Windy City before Dick Wolf set his sights on the place. Minoso appears in Episode 3 and Episode 7 of the 13-episode series in a small role as a task force officer. The series, which starred Jason Clarke, Jennifer Beals, Matt Lauria, Devin Kelley, Todd Williams, Billy Lush, and Delroy Lindo, was axed in 2011, the year before Minoso debuted in the Dick Wolf-produced "Chicago Fire." Had "Chicago Code" been the one to stick around and Minoso managed to impress producers enough to appear in more episodes, his career could look very different right now.

Chicago Fire is just one piece of Joe Minoso's acting success

It may have started with a "Dracula" audition in a school play, but Joe Minoso's acting journey has taken him to the point where he stands as one of the central figures in a massive Dick Wolf-produced franchise. On top of his long-running role on "Chicago Fire," Minoso has also been called upon to help carry the weight of other shows in the flock. The actor has also appeared as Joe Cruz in seven episodes of "Chicago Med" and eight episodes of "Chicago P.D."

While the "Chicago" franchise has kept him busy, Minoso has also managed to work beyond these shows, most notably appearing in a pair of episodes of the Epix series "Get Shorty" in 2019. The Elmore Leonard television adaptation marks Minoso's biggest work outside the "Chicago" franchise, though he shows no signs of freeing up his time from the franchise anytime soon. In 2020, NBC renewed the show for a 9th, 10th, and 11th season, meaning "Fire" still has at least one more season in its run (via Deadline). Considering how integral Cruz's character has been to the series from the beginning and how successful the show itself has been, it's a good bet both Minoso and "Chicago Fire" will be sticking around for some time.