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Slow Burn

DC native Chris Meloni adds another layer to his eclectic career this month in Underground.

LOCAL LAW
Former Law & Order star and DC native Chris Meloni's new series is Underground on WGN America.

One would likely have to go all the way back to Ben Murch Elementary School in Northwest DC to discover the last time Chris Meloni was embarrassed. "I was in third grade, and my classmate's mom was in local theater," Meloni explains. The woman arrived, performed briefly, and Meloni was struck by the transformative force of her voice. "It was overwhelming. I remember how her voice projected. I was actually embarrassed by its power."

Meloni, who grew up in the area and attended St. Stephen's and St. Agnes High School, where he quarterbacked the football team to an undefeated season his senior year, says DC has always remained a cultural magnet for him. "Ever since I was a kid, I've had a strong sense of DC, not just its centrality, but its streets and alleys. I have a deep and abiding love for the city." Most of his family still resides in the area.

If Meloni's career seems like a slow burn of rare long-term success—his extensive bio includes starring roles in Law & Order and NYPD Blue on TV and Man of Steel and 42 on film—the credit, says the actor, goes to a "kick-ass agent who I've known longer than my wife." That history goes back to more than 25 years. This month, Meloni stars in Underground, a series that captures the plight of a group of slaves who band together in 1857 to escape their institutional bonds. Meloni says many of us learned about the Underground Railroad in school, but few understand the nuances and consequences of a planned escape. "The script is beautifully written," says Meloni. "The producers set out not just to teach history, but to tell a challenging and engaging story." Series begins March 9, 10PM, WGN America

MELONI'S HOTS
A good workout, the band Tool, the political process, water skiing, family time

MELONI'S NOTS
Answering questions about my likes and dislikes, the political process, unnecessary confusion, driving and texting, overpriced restaurants with mediocre food