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The Transformation Of Yuriy Sardarov From Childhood To Chicago Fire

As "Chicago Fire" firefighter Brian Zvonecek, Yuriy Sardarov gave the long-running action-drama a welcome dose of comic relief with his easygoing, laid-back persona. A key member of the Firehouse 51 team since the show's pilot episode in 2012, Sardarov would go on to appear as a recurring character in the series for over 160 episodes. During this time, Yuriy Sardarov — who also goes by Yuri — established himself as a beloved fan favorite on the show, until his character perished after being caught in an explosion in the Season 8 episode "Sacred Ground." 

In his role as engineer on the firehouse's Truck 81, Sardarov's character was generally referred to as Otis by his fellow firefighters and other colleagues. This nickname arose from the fact that since any urban firehouse would contend with high-rise blazes, every big-city squad needed one member to always have the keys to a building's elevators. And since the elevators in the vast majority of buildings in Chicago were built by the Otis Worldwide Corporation elevator company, Brian became Otis. 

Clearly, Sardarov's Otis was a well-known face and name for fans of the show. But viewers may not be familiar with many of the changes the actor experienced as he grew from childhood to an eight-season starring run on "Chicago Fire." So, for those "Fire" fans of Brian "Otis" Zvonecek eager to know more, here's a quick overview.

He and his family came to the U.S. as political refugees

As detailed in an interview with The Chicago Tribune, Sardarov was born in Azerbaijan and came to America at the age of two. "We came here with nothing," he told the Tribune, recalling his family's escape from the political turmoil in his native country. "Being Armenian in Azerbaijan at the turn of the '90s was not a very welcome situation. We had to leave everything."

The actor went on in the interview to point out his family's long-time connection to the arts, music and entertainment, saying, "My parents were musicians. My grandfather was a musician, my grandmother was a singer. And they had to give that all up to come to America." Reflecting on his early days in the U.S., Sardarov told Daily North Shore that his family's move to the states was sponsored by the Russian Orthodox Church, and that they were told they could live in one of two cities, New York or St. Louis. "My parents chose St. Louis," Sardarov said, "Much to my chagrin, so I lived in Chesterfield, Missouri for a majority of my young life."

He caught the acting bug in high school

Sardarov's first experience as a performer on stage came during his teenage years. "I took an acting class in my freshman year of high school at Parkway West in St. Louis," he told Daily North Shore. "I kind of had an affinity for it. As soon as I got my first laugh I was like, "This is fun, this is cool...."

While still in high school, his family moved to suburban Chicago where Sardarov enrolled in Northbrook's Glenbrook North High School. After graduating, he then attended the University of Michigan. But mid-term at the university, he left school for a semester to take up a role in the TimeLine Theatre touring production of "The History Boys." After this show ended, however, he found himself back in school again, where he completed his studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Performance from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (via UMich.edu).

He starred in a direct-to-DVD thriller

While studying at the University of Michigan, Sardarov's "acting for camera" professor helped the young actor gain entry into productions taking place in the state's burgeoning film industry (per Daily North Shore). Cast in a number of smaller roles, Sardarov's first stints as a working actor included appearances in the short film "Dupe" in 2008, followed by playing the Counselor in another short film, "Student Housing: Zombie Edition." 2010 would see him portraying Isaac in the short "Lift Gate," and that same year he would land his first feature film part as he shared the screen with Robert Patrick, Carly Pope and Giancarlo Esposito in the role of the Bulgarian Man in the direct-to-DVD actioner "S.W.A.T.: Firefight" (via IMDb).

It was during this same period that Sardarov would have his first encounter with a pair of TV and film executives who would prove crucial to his later career as a network TV actor. As it turned out, Sardarov would be cast as Leo in the 2011 feature "The Double" by none other than the film's producer-director team of Michael Brandt and Derrick Haas, a pair of execs who three years later would cast Yuriy as Otis in "Chicago Fire".

He appeared in all three One Chicago series

Following his performance in the above-noted 2011 action-thriller "The Double," Yuriy Sardarov's film and television career truly began to hit its stride. Coming to the notice of casting directors in a major way, he would find himself on screen in 2012 in the major motion picture "Argo" with Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman. The next year he would take on leading man duties as Phillip in the TV series "Apex," where he would team up to battle a worldwide viral outbreak with Charlie Barnett, an actor who would himself join the "Chicago Fire" family when he was cast as firefighter Peter Mills.

Then, in 2012, Sardarov would again be tapped on the shoulder by "One Chicago" execs Michael Brandt and Derrick Haas as he was invited to audition for the part of Brian Zvonecek in "Chicago Fire" (per The Chicago Tribune). And while fans certainly came to know his character Otis primarily through his stint with the crew at Firehouse 51, the actor also made appearances on the two other "One Chicago" sister series: Sardarov traveled across town to make six guest appearances on "Chicago P. D." and also had one guest spot on "Chicago Med" (per IMDb). 

All in all, from arriving as a refugee in this country as a child, to whetting his taste for acting on the stage, to his eventual breakthrough roles in TV and film, Yuriy Sardarov has gone through some amazing transformations en route to starring in NBC's long-running "Chicago Fire."