'Top Gun: Maverick' Star Monica Barbaro Played Major 'One Chicago' Character Before Breakout Role as Phoenix

Actress Monica Barbaro is one of several stars from Top Gun: Maverick to break out in a big way since the movie premiered, but she was already beloved by the One Chicago fandom. Barbaro played attorney Anna Valdez on Chicago Justice, with a few cameo appearances on Chicago P.D. as well. Here's a look back at how that role helped her reach superstardom.

Today, it's easy to say that Barbaro is best-known for playing Lieutenant Natasha "Phoenix" Trace in Top Gun: Maverick, but before that she was a staple in Dick Wolf's Chicago franchise. Barbaro grew up in a suburb of San Francisco, California, and studied dancing throughout college before pivoting to acting. She had a handful of roles on TV and in two smaller movies. She had one recurring role on Lifetime's UnREAL before finding her first regular job in the Chicago franchise.

Chicago Justice – Season 1
(Photo: Parrish Lewis/NBC/Getty Images)

Barbaro was introduced in a four-episode arc on Chicago P.D. before taking a central role in Chicago Justice Season 1 the following year. Her character is an assistant state's attorney with a passion for pursuing justice. She is not necessarily insistent on following every rule to the letter, but more to achieving the result she believes to be right.

"She is feisty. She will absolutely speak her mind. She wants to impress Jefferies and Stone but she's not afraid to speak her mind," Barbaro said of her character in a 2017 interview with Fan Sided. "She's really passionate about justice in the same way Stone is and yet she has different opinions. I think that's my favorite thing about her, is that she's willing to stick up for herself. Especially these days with things that are happening politically, I think it's an important time to speak your mind and I appreciate she does that."

Sadly for fans, Chicago Justice only lasted one season. The series was canceled to ensure that other shows in the franchise weren't spread too thin, executives later hinted. However, fans often hope that characters like Valdez will be able to return in one of the other ongoing shows in the franchise.

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As for Barbaro, she has plenty of other work lined up — especially after the success of Top Gun: Maverick. The actress has upcoming roles on the TV shows Utap and Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas and in the movie I'm Charlie Walker. It seems safe to say that fans will be seeing much more of her in the years to come.