Bemidji High School Graduate To Guest Star On ‘Chicago Fire’



Next week, the BHS student who played Brother Laurence in “Romeo and Juliet” and Lieutenant Brannigan in “Guys and Dolls” will be a guest star on one of the most popular TV series.

Vaughn Manasia has a role on the Wednesday, Oct. 27 episode of NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” which airs at 8:00 PM. He is not allowed to speak about the episode before it airs. But he revealed it was more than a part.

“I’m in a decent amount of a scene,” he said in an interview from his Chicago home, “and I have a decent amount of lines. For some co-stars, that’s a line. or two which is always an honor because you’re there as a pro, but they gave me a good chunk of lines.

Daniel grew up in Nymore, one block from his elementary school, old Lincoln. His father Jean and his uncle Lowell owned the Sveden House restaurant at the Markham Hotel. Her father died in 2015, but her mother, Edith, still lives in Bemidji.


This photo of Daniel Vaughn Manasia was taken behind the scenes of an independent film he was in.

This photo of Daniel Vaughn Manasia was taken behind the scenes of an independent film he was in.

Thinking about your future

After graduating from BHS in 1982, Daniel attended North Central University in Minneapolis, majoring in psychology. He performed in a few plays in the Twin Cities, but did not consider acting as a viable career path. He moved to Chicago, completed his degree in psychology, and then reflected on his future career.

“I was looking to either get my masters or my doctorate because with the psyche that’s kind of what you do,” Vaughn Manasia said. “I sat down and looked at how many student loans I was going to have by the time I was done, and someone suggested, because I love dogs, that I consider dog grooming. “

He said that at the time, the salary for the upper range of a dog groomer was close to the middle range of a master’s degree in psychiatry, without any student loans.

“So I spent 25 years as a certified master groomer,” said Vaughn Manasia. “I loved him to death. Early in my career I did a lot of competitive grooming, where we went into a ring against other groomers. I won some pretty ribbons. But it was too much. I owned my own business and the time it took to compete and run a business was too long. Something had to give. So I only competed for about five years.


Behind the scenes of an advertisement shot by Daniel Vaughn Manasi for a Build your Kingdom app.  Contributed

Behind the scenes of an advertisement shot by Daniel Vaughn Manasi for a Build your Kingdom app. Contributed

Although he still grooms dogs part-time, Daniel started thinking about a career change about seven years ago. With a strong, deep voice, he had long been encouraged to consider voiceover work. So he decided to take a course to find out more about it.

“I thought I might as well just take a course and see what it is about and if it’s even a viable possibility,” he said. “They loved my voice in class, but said I had to learn how to use it. So I took a acting class, and that led to another acting class, which led to another acting class. Something happened during one of the scenes we were doing, and I knew then that was going to be one of my sources of income.

It also brought him back to his experiences at Bemidji High School.

“I always remembered the feeling, especially with Romeo and Juliet, of being on stage,” he said. “Whatever happened in that scene, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. Once I figured that out, I had a lot of years to catch up. I was 53 years old. So I took three and four courses at a time while working full time.

To act

He had a few small roles in one-act plays. In 2019, he landed a lead role in a full-length play called “Dex and Abby”.

“Very appropriate, because after 25 years as a professional groomer I have played a geriatric dog,” Daniel said. “It was almost like a shoo-in because I know a lot about dog manners. The dogs were able to talk. It was very physical work. The first two weeks of rehearsal I lost 15 pounds because even a geriatric dog moves a lot.

Unfortunately, the room was closed after a three-week race in 2020 due to the coronavirus.


After more than two decades as a certified dog groomer, Daniel Vaughn Manasia (upstairs left) was fit to star as one of the talking dogs in the Chicago play "Dex and Abby" which was cut short by the pandemic in 2020 (Contributed / Ray Manasia)

After more than two decades as a certified dog groomer, Daniel Vaughn Manasia (ground left) was fit to star as one of the talking dogs in the Chicago play “Dex and Abby” which was interrupted by pandemic in 2020 (Contributed / Ray Manasia)

“We were going to bring it back,” he said, “but when we realized that everything was going to be shut down for at least a year, they decided not to. In my early forties, because I already felt like I was starting late in life and couldn’t afford to waste a year, there was a point where I decided I was just going to hang up. But it only lasted three days.

He started taking classes and doing productions on Zoom, working with directors and teachers across the country. Then he started auditioning for film and television in April 2021, eventually landing the role of “Chicago Fire”.

The episode, titled “Dead Zone”, was filmed in Chicago, near where Daniel and her husband Ray Manasia live. On the October 27 broadcast, a major security breach in the city’s computer networks forces senior executives at Firehouse 51 to take matters into their own hands.

“It was a great experience,” said Daniel. “Everyone has been doing it together for so long that it’s a well-oiled machine.”

He hopes that this experience will be a springboard for his acting career.


Daniel Vaughn Manasia performed in two plays as a student at Bemidji High School, but did not return to the trade until he was in his fifties.  Contributed

Daniel Vaughn Manasia performed in two plays as a student at Bemidji High School, but did not return to the trade until he was in his fifties. Contributed

“It’s a huge stepping stone because once it airs I can actually take my scene out and use it as part of my music video and marketing,” he said. “It also means the casting directors have seen enough of me, someone has proven I’m reliable to play.”

Meanwhile, Daniel reconnected on social media with some of his friends from Bemidji.

“Everyone says they saw this coming even when I was in high school,” he said. “I would have liked to see some of it too. But I don’t know if I would change anything. I don’t know if I could have done it at 18. I feel like I found a new passion at 53, and it’s great.


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