You may know him from CW’s superhero hit Arrow, where he played fan favorite Tommy Merlyn, or a Broadway run as Billy Crocker in Anything Goes. But these days, Colin Donnell has viewers gnawing their nails during his dramatic scenes as Dr. Connor Rhodes at a fictional hospital anchoring NBC’s night of Chicago TV dramas.
For much of the year, Colin lives in the city’s West Loop neighborhood while filming the show. It’s tough being apart from wife Patti Murin (who stars as Anna in Broadway’s blockbuster Frozen) and pups Petey and Milo. But his adopted neighborhood feels like home, and after four seasons on the hit show, he’s got a long list of local favorites.
IL: Welcome back to Chicago!
CD: I love coming back. There’s something about that car ride or the train ride in from O’Hare, and seeing the city skyline. I instantly feel comfortable. I’m excited to walk into my apartment.
IL: What do you love about living in the West Loop?
CD: It’s a great neighborhood, close to the stages and so many places to eat. I’m pretty sure there are six or seven Michelin-starred restaurants right around us. I think one of my favorite activities in this city is eating.
IL: What’s your favorite thing to do on a weekend?
CD: All the neighborhood festivals—food, music, it’s just a blast. I’ve done Lollapalooza and some of the bigger festivals like Pitchfork, but it’s these neighborhood ones like Wicker Park Fest that are just so fun to walk around. One of the coolest things Chicago does is take advantage of the summertime.
IL: What are some spots where you take in Chicago’s famed music scene?
CD: Thalia Hall, in Pilsen. There’s the Old Town School of Folk Music. City Winery in the West Loop has some great acts that come through.
There’s so much history, too, with Kingston Mines for blues and the Green Mill for jazz. It doesn’t get much more historic in terms of the music that came from those venues. Those places developed a specific sound that became Chicago blues and Chicago jazz. It’s really cool the places still exist; you get a history lesson just by going there.
IL: Where do you go when Patti visits?
CD: We have a couple of friends who recently opened up an amazing Pilates studio and coffee shop in Roscoe Village called Pilates + Coffee, which is two doors down from this bookstore called RoscoeBooks. One of my and Patti’s favorite things is having some coffee, taking a class, and then coming home with three or four books.
IL: How about for a date?
CD: Maude’s, which is a little French bistro in the Loop. It’s just a nice, cozy bar. It’s great to get a cocktail and some oysters and just hang out.
IL: So when Patti’s not in town, what do you do?
CD: A friend of mine and I sometimes take early-morning bike rides on the lake. That lakeshore path is so beautiful. We usually ride south, and the view from there of the city and Lake Michigan … sometimes, if the weather is nice enough, we drop the bikes, jump in the lake, sit around and talk and dry off, and then ride home.
IL: How about your go-to clothing shop?
CD: Stock Mfg., in West Town. They do such great menswear—T-shirts, flannels, jackets, sort of English vests and stuff. It’s just three guys who are local to Chicago, grew up here and started this clothing company.
IL: Your show is going strong. Does the Chicago Med cast ever hang out outside of work?
CD: You know, I’m friends with a bunch of these guys, and we love going to Green Street Smoked Meats. [Enter this hidden West Loop barbecue joint down a brick alley. Just follow the music and the delicious smoky scent.]
IL: Which parts of Chicago do you like to show off for visitors?
CD: I love the architecture tour on the river. There’s no other city in the United States where you can see the city from the inside out like that. Chicago is such an architectural destination. You start to realize that every single movement in the architecture world, from the turn of the 20th century on, is represented along the river in Chicago. [Explore architecture tours among other Illinois Boat Tours and Cruises.]
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