From her roots on the New York stage to her newest role on Chicago Med, Mekia Cox has always known that acting held her heart. Although her career path may have strayed from the Broadway productions she always intended to stick to, she has flourished on the TV screen and continues to show audiences exactly why that dream was able to come true. In addition to her role on Chicago Med, Cox continues to run her own stage production company, 42 Seven Productions, as well as produce, host, and perform at Broadway at the W.
In her latest TV role, Cox plays Dr. Robin Charles, the adult daughter of Dr. Daniel Charles (Oliver Platt), who has followed her father into the medical profession. Robin Charles is an epidemiologist who is brought in to assess a difficult case, and it will further complicate her already strained relationship with her father. We had the chance to get to know the amazing and down to earth actress behind the character a little bit better.
Cliché: With your history on Broadway and with musical theater, what caused you to make the switch to screen?
Mekia Cox: I always assumed after college I’d go straight to NY and pursue Broadway, but when I graduated, I spent two years touring the country in Fame and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. At the end of the second tour, I happened to be on the west coast, so I decided to go in for a few auditions in L.A. I ended up booking them and, from there, the rest is history. I did have a couple times where I tried to leave L.A. for NY, but something always ended up pulling me back. Because of that, I never really had a chance to return to New York and get back to my musical theatre roots like I had originally planned.
When did you know you wanted to be an actress? Did you ever doubt whether or not you could do it?
I’ve been fortunate to know what I’ve wanted to do from a very young age. I started dancing at 3 and knew immediately that performing would be an important part of my life. I’ve also had the privilege of never doubting it. Believe me, there are definitely things in my life that I doubt about myself, but for some reason, acting is the one thing that I’ve always felt certain of. It has always been my dream and I’ve been determined to do it for so long that I literally can’t do anything else. [Laughs]
NBC’s Chicago shows have become an empire of sorts with Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and now Chicago Justice. What is it like being a part of Dick Wolf’s empire?
It’s pretty awesome. Not only have I been folded into such a colossal franchise, but I happen to be working with some of the nicest people in the business. This is a very special group and I’m honored that they allowed me to be a part of it.
There are definitely things in my life that I doubt about myself, but for some reason, acting is the one thing that I’ve always felt certain of.
Can you tell us a little about your role on Chicago Med?
My character, Robin Charles, is an epidemiologist, which basically means she studies the patterns, causes, and effects of disease. You can pretty much think of her as a detective or investigator of disease. She also happens to be the eldest daughter of Dr. Daniel Charles as well as the love interest to Dr. Conner Rhodes, which provides for some interesting tension among the three.
You’ve made a large number of guest appearances throughout your career. Is there one that stands out to you?
I think I might have to say Mob City. It wasn’t a huge role, but it was the only period piece I’ve done and, as an actress, it’s one of those scripts you live for. It just felt like you were transferred into this whole other world and time period as soon as you walked on set. That’s something I never really experienced before. I also got to work with Frank Darabont, who’s an amazing director and someone whose work I admire. I really truly enjoyed that one.
Are there any other actors who have had an influence on you and your career? Who was your favorite to work with?
That’s always a hard question for me because I can never choose. Working with someone like Oliver Platt has been amazing. I always say he’s one of those actors where, as soon as he comes on screen, you immediately know it’s gonna be a good scene. My other TV dad, Terry O’Quinn, was also a dream to work with. Both have such incredible presence on screen, but then off screen, they are the nicest, most down to earth people. It’s great when you get to work with folks like that. I learned a lot from both of them.
What are your favorite shows on the air right now?
Oh gosh, there are so many: West World, Homeland, Mr. Robot, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Atlanta, Billions. I still have to get fully caught up on a few, but they’re all SO amazing to me. From the script to the acting to the cinematography. They take the cake!
Is there anyone you’re dying to work with? Do you have a dream role?
There’s a ton of people I’d love to work with: Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald, Phylicia Rashad, Robert Downey Jr., Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Wright…the list goes on and on. These actors have mastered their craft and I’d just love to be on set with them so I could witness them in action and see what I could learn.
As for my dream role, I think in general I’m always interested in anything that challenges me—any character that takes a journey and is three-dimensional. Sometimes the most interesting characters are the ones that have a basic human story to tell. Those are the type of characters that I like and am drawn to.
Do you think you’ll ever want to return to the stage?
Oh, I always have that urge. It’s the reason I started my production company, 42 Seven Productions. The company spawned out of my urge to be back on the stage. Broadway at the W was our first show, which then became part of our Live In the Living Room series at the W and now has continued to grow from L.A. to New York to Chicago and now London! The stage is where I started. That’s home for me. And there’s nothing else like it.
What is the best advice you have for anyone pursuing acting?
If it’s your passion, you gotta just go for it. I know that sounds super cliché, no pun intended, but it’s the truth. [Laughs] If you go in with the mindset of, “Well I gotta have something to fall back on,” you’ll probably fall back on it. If it’s your dream, then you gotta go full steam ahead. And you have to love it in whatever form it comes. I always thought performing is what I’d do no matter what, even if that meant I spent my whole life doing regional theater in some small city no one ever heard of. If it made me happy, that’s what I’d do.
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Mekia Cox on ‘Chicago Med,’ Broadway, and More: Photographed by Benjo Arwas