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Q&A: Talking the Chicago Way

Northwestern dialect coach tutors actors in new Fox cop show

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February 9, 2011 | by Brendan Cosgrove

LISTEN: Linda Gates talks about her work on "The Chicago Code"

Chicago Code

Dialect coach Linda Gates tutors Jason Clarke on the new Fox police series "The Chicago Code."

If Jason Clarke, the Australian actor playing Chicago cop Jarek Wysocki, can convince TV audiences that he’s from the Windy City, Northwestern University faculty member Linda Gates has done her job.

Gates, head of voice in Northwestern’s theatre department, is Clarke’s dialect coach for “Chicago Code,” a new Fox TV cop show.

In this audio Q&A, Gates talks about, among other things, the definition of a Chicago dialect.

"A dialect is really an amalgam of all the different ethnic groups that have come through and settled in a place," Gates said. "In Chicago, a lot of it is Polish, Irish and German tempered by location itself. It's all sort of mixed up."

Gates is no stranger to helping make actors sound authentic on stage and screen. She recently coached Placido Domingo in the Metropolitan Opera production of “The First Emperor” and, in Chicago, does vocal coaching for Steppenwolf, Goodman, Northlight, Lookingglass and other theatre groups.

Although her primary job was working with Clarke, Gates also helped other actors in “Chicago Code,” including Jennifer Beals and Matt Lauria, master the Windy City dialect that the first Mayor Daley made famous.