EXCLUSIVE: Heather Headley on playing an unpopular boss on ‘Chicago Med’: ‘I love it!’

The award-winning performer is trying her hand at the small screen.

Heather Headley

Heather Headley is a bona fide a superstar with an incredible career as a singer and stage performer. The actress who has joined the cast of Chicago Med as a series regular has already nabbed a Tony and a Grammy, making us wonder if she will be the next talent to nab an EGOT. 

On this season of Chicago Med, she’s stunning in the role of Gwen Garrett, the ball-busting, newly-appointed COO of Chicago Medical Center whose focus is centered on running the business side of things while others are more concerned with the needs of doctors and patients. Her unapologetic approach to her job doesn’t make her the most popular person in the ER, but it does make her a force to be reckoned with.

We caught up with Heather Headley to find out how she’s liking her new gig and what we can expect from her when the show returns to NBC on Wednesday night along with the network’s other Chicago-based hits, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. 

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“I love it. I have to say that I’m really grateful to the writers that they weren’t scared of making her female or of making her a Black woman,” she told TheGrio and a couple of other reporters at the show’s press day in Chicago. 

Fans should get used to seeing her character butt heads with another big personality, the hospitals Chief of Services, Sharon Goodwin (played by S. Epatha Merkerson.)

“Having Black females come against each other in a smart and very intelligent way is great. They both want what’s best for the hospital, they just come at it a different way. My character is kind of a brainy, book-smart one of the operation. She’s more the heart and the blood of it. The soul of it, so she sees it from a different angle,” she explained. 

“It has been fun to be strong and not make her witchy with a capital B if you know what I mean. The first thing people think when they hear “boss” is you’re gonna be that person. They could have easily made her a man so I’m grateful I get to be her face and hopefully give that a better name. A lot of times people think people intros roles only care about the money and don’t understand that those roles are necessary as well.”

According to Heather Headley, playing a woman in charge takes a certain amount of skill and she’s up for the challenge.  

“I think there is still grace to it always. There is still femininity to it. There is a part of us as women who bring a nurturing side to what we do. It’s something maybe men don’t understand that we can bring,” she says. 

“You have to be unrelenting…Sometimes you’re the bad guy but in that case you have to be able to say ‘I’ll go down for the ship if it’s for the right cause.’ My character makes some mistakes but she’s going to learn and she will be alright.”

Unfortunately for us, it’s highly unlikely that Headley will have a chance to show off her singing chops on the series.  

“I need to break into song at some point but I have no idea how that will happen. I just have to make the audience like her. Maybe in the shower.”

While there won’t be any song and dance numbers on the high-intensity drama, Headley shopping fans will get to see the softer side of her character this season.

“I hope that they do because I do think women in this position need to be understood as people. As Heather, I get to go home to the most amazing loving man and he wraps his arms around me after tough days and he calms me down and I take the makeup off and put the sweats on and things don’t look as cute as they do on the show,” she says. 

“For a lady like Gwen, I want to know if she has a cat or a dog, lives in an apartment or a house? I think it would be important to show the audience what it takes to lift a woman like her.” 

Chicago Med returns to NBC on October 26.