NOC Interview: Torrey DeVitto on NBC’s ‘Chicago Med’

Torrey DeVitto stars as Dr. Natalie Manning, an emergency pediatrics specialist, in NBC’s Chicago Med. The series, from Emmy Award-winning executive producer Dick Wolf, is currently on season 6 and airs Wednesdays at 8 PM ET.

Elizabeth Sisson/NBC

Chicago Med takes viewers through the daily chaos of the city’s trauma center and into the lives of the brave doctors, nurses, and staff that keep it all running. They will confront Chicago’s most critical medical cases and challenging ethical dilemmas; inspired by ripped-from-the-headlines cases.

DeVitto can be recognized by her roles in Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, One Tree Hill, and much more. I had the pleasure of speaking with the actress all about Chicago Med, staying positive, her past roles, and fan conventions. Keep reading to find out what she had to say!

Elizabeth Sisson/NBC

You play Dr. Natalie Manning on NBC’s Chicago Med, what originally attracted you to the role and what has been your favorite thing about bringing her to life?
Torrey DeVitto: Oh my gosh, so much! You know before I got to Chicago Med, I had been, very fortunately, doing a lot of teen-driven shows like One Tree Hill, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, and as much as I’m so grateful for those shows because they got me where I am today and I love them, I was really ready to step into a very adult, more mature show, genre, and audience. And so I remember reading Med and I just loved the character so much because she really felt like she had a lot of compassion to her as a doctor and she just seemed like a really strong, incredible character. I don’t know; I went into this thing and I had been doing hospice care for about eight years at that point, and I went into the audition feeling like, “Wow, I really feel my hospice work wanting to merge with this role,” and everything just felt right. It was like one of those feelings where I was like, “I need this, I need this. This role is made for me.” And luckily, they thought it too and here we are today.

You’re filming this at a very unique time with everything going on, playing a frontline worker when we are still dealing with the pandemic in real life; what is that like for you?
You know what’s crazy? From the beginning of the show, it was just– not pressure in a negative way, but I did feel this enormous amount of pressure to really play this role, do justice for this role, and really accurately represent these everyday heroes. And now even more so, the commitment and the sacrifice that doctors, nurses, and caregivers are making to make sure we’re all healthy and take care of us is something that even more so I wanted to make sure I was representing. I do feel like our writers have done a really great job of making sure what’s happening right now in the world with COVID and even any topical things going on are in our show, but also I think so many people are having a lot of pandemic fatigue. So they’re not just like hitting you over the head with, so you’re like, “Wait a second, I’m living this every day. I don’t want to be watching it.” I feel like they’ve found this beautiful way of blending entertainment, drama, and what’s real all together, you know?

Elizabeth Sisson/NBC

Natalie has had some really impactful storylines, what have you personally learned from her character or storylines?
I’ve learned a lot from Natalie. I feel like, oddly enough, a lot in ways that only I would understand or maybe like family members would understand. There’s just so many times where there’s a lot of stuff that’s happened with Natalie’s character, where I’m like, “Wow, is art imitating life, or is life imitating art?” I just feel like we’ve really kind of started to move in tandem in a lot of ways. I learned a lot of independence from Natalie; she’s a single mother, she’s a hard worker, and you know her dating life hasn’t been so great; let’s just be honest. She’s just fiber with everything. She keeps moving and she does it for the love of being a doctor and taking care of people. And so I really learned a lot of independence and strength through playing her.

Anything you can tease in regards to what’s coming up for Natalie or the show itself?
Yes! Natalie finds herself, towards the end of the season, in quite of a sticky situation. We do see a lot more of her mom, and we will get some great Halstead and Manning moments, whether those are as love interests or whatever you see them together as. So that’s something to look forward to.

If you were a doctor, what specialty would you be most interested in pursuing?
I would want to work in psychiatry I think. Yeah, I find the human psyche and human mind to be so fascinating. I’ve actually been reading this book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor, and it’s so fascinating just learning about the brain; what is enabling you to act certain ways and if certain parts of your brain are shut off, then you literally lack the ability to function certain ways. And I find it to be fascinating because, in her book, she talks about how by losing a part of her brain, she had to like retrain herself and saying how this book is a way for when somebody else has a stroke, how to deal with them because that person can’t express that to you; and I’m like, “Oh, wow.” The most important part of being a caregiver is understanding what that patient needs in that moment and not just saying “yes.” It’s deeper than that. So anyway, I’m into the brain, and psychiatry, I think, is very fascinating.

Elizabeth Sisson/NBC

Throughout your career, you’ve brought very strong female characters to life and many of your projects (Chicago Med, PLL, OTH) put their females front and center, is that something you look for in a role or project, and why is it important to you?
I mean, you know, yes; obviously love playing strong female characters. I feel like it’s funny cause when you’re out there, a lot of people I don’t think realize that you don’t have the power to be that choosy, right? Like when you’re a struggling artist, you just do a bunch of auditions and you see what sticks. And for me, I feel like I’ve gotten to do some really interesting characters, fun characters, and strong characters. But I love finding those little nuances and how characters maintain strength amidst all those little flaws and quirks; I find that to be really fascinating.

You recently participated in the virtual Dream It Convention, what is your favorite part about doing conventions, and has a fan ever said something at a convention that stuck with you?
Yeah, what I love the most — like beyond meeting everybody, which is so much fun — I’ve been doing conventions like these for a little over 10 years, and it’s really cool to see the same people again. It’s a lot of the same people that I met like 10 years ago, and they’ll show up to the conventions and it’s just mindblowing to me. It’s like, “Oh, wow you watch the stuff that I do. That’s so cool,” and they’re watching me grow while I’m seeing them grow, and the conversations get deeper every time. That to me is really cool, like getting to know them over time; and yeah, fans say things a lot that really touches me. They’ll talk about a lot of their personal experiences with mental health because I feel like I’ve kind of set up my Instagram and all that stuff as like being a mental health advocate and trying to normalize speaking on mental health and all of that stuff. So I get a lot of conversations like that from fans that I meet, that always share their stories with me. I just love the realness that they bring; I think that’s what we’re here for to kind of share experiences.

Elizabeth Sisson/NBC

Out of all of your past roles, who do you think Natalie would be friends with?
No one. Melissa from Pretty Little Liars? No. Meredith Fell? No. Natalie would be like, “This is morally unethical, you cannot use vampire blood to save these patients; get out of my ED.” Gosh, this is a hard one, I don’t think any of them. I’m even thinking of like that movie Evidence I did; even in that, I play the psychopath. So I don’t know if she’d be friends with anyone.

I get to play a role that my grandmother loves now because I remember I was like the psycho nanny on One Tree Hill. And my grandma would be like, “Torrey, you should have warned me.” I’m like, “Grandma, it’s not that bad.” I was gonna say she doesn’t say that anymore now about Natalie, but she actually did say it when Natalie and Crockett had their little makeout scene. She was like, “Well, I wish I hadn’t told my Church group to watch that.” And I was like, “Grandma, I didn’t even take my shirt off!”

With everything going on in the world, how do you keep yourself positive?
Focus on the little things; like I focus on my animals, I focus on my family, I focus on nature with outside and I feel like this time in the world, the one positive that I really found is that moving at a slower pace is socially accepted and I love that. I’ve always loved taking days where I just sat there and read a book all day or watch your show all day. And normally like the rest of the world is moving at such a high pace that it makes you feel a little bit like, “ugh, I’m not doing something. Am I not being productive? I’m missing something,” because the whole world is kind of moving forward. So now people can take that time to themselves and not feel guilty; I love that. I recently lost one of my dogs like a month ago– no, not even a month ago, and I feel like that really taught me a lot during this time too, because I was like, “You know what? This is what matters,” like the love she showed me, the love I had for her. It’s like having that connection with her and spending that time with my animals and even saying goodbye to her and not having the stress of the world moving so quickly. Me being able to take take the time to breathe without like a meeting or this and that. It was just like, “Wow, this is why connection is important, life is important, taking care of the Earth is important.” That’s what’s real, the rest is just play, human stuff. Yeah, so just focusing on what’s real.