Jon Michael Hill goes from stage to streets

Tony-nommed actor adjusts to life in 'Detroit 1-8-7'

New Faces for Fall:
Sharon Horgan | Jon Michael Hill | Billy Gardell | Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe | Andrew Lincoln | Holt McCallany | Michael Pitt | Maggie Q | Ruth Wilson | James Wolk
Fall TV Preview 2010

Jon Michael Hill isn’t a homicide detective like Damon Washington, the character he plays on ABC’s “Detroit 1-8-7,” but they have something in common: Washington’s an experienced cop new to the homicide squad; Hill’s a Tony-nominated actor new to series TV.

The Waukegan, Ill., native started acting in second grade. In high school, a summer acting program at Northwestern U changed his life.

“Some professors told me I could make a career out of it if I put my mind to it,” Hill says. “So I auditioned for the University of Illinois and went there.”

The summer before his senior year of college, Hill landed a role at Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater. During the school’s winter break, they called him in for a reading.

“I was just going to read this play, see everybody and be on my way,” Hill says. “But they said they were bringing in new members and wanted me to be one of them.”

In 2008, Steppenwolf cast him in Tracy Letts’ “Superior Donuts,” which moved to Broadway in 2009, nabbing Hill the Tony nom and capturing the attention of ABC casting directors.

Hill loves working in Detroit, but he admits that going from theater — where actors live with a script for months at a time — to shooting one constantly evolving script per week was challenging.

“Surprisingly, I feel pretty well-adjusted to it,” Hill says. “I think the cast has a lot to do with it, but so does the crew. The pace is pretty intense, but I’m having a great time.”