Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Fans were cheated episodes, but certainly not intensity, last season on NBC’s “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med.”
The pandemic delayed and posed ongoing challenges to filming a traditional 20-episode season, shorting both shows four stories. That didn’t deter the writers from telling compelling tales – and leaving fans wanting (so) much more following jaw-dropping finales.
“Chicago Med” wrapped with Dr. Will Halstead (Nick Gehlfuss) fired following an admission clinical trial medicines were taken and inappropriately used to treat the mother of Dr. Natalie Manning (Torrey DeVitto). Will didn’t think twice about taking the blame for his former flame – but at the end of the episode, she confessed to hospital boss Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson).
At the same time, Dr. Ethan Choi (Brain Tee) was recovering after a bullet was removed from his chest following an altercation in the parking lot. A man with a mental illness pulled a pistol on Dr. Dean Archer (Steven Weber). Choi jumped in to grab the gun, but was critically wounded in the process.
Torrey DeVitto as Natalie Manning and Nick Gehlfuss as Dr. Will Halstead on NBC’s “Chicago Med.” (NBC photo by Elizabeth Sisson)
Over on the other side of town, “Chicago P.D.” officer Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati) was clinging to life after taking two gunshots in her abdomen. The new mom and her squad were out looking for the men who killed the son of Superintendent Samantha Miller (Nicole Ari Parker) when Burgess was abducted.
Finding the shooter, Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) was poised to pull a pound of flesh when he was stopped by Det. Hailey Upton (Tracy Spiridakos). She convinced him to take the perpetrator into custody when the villain got a hold of Voight’s gun. Upton, who had moments earlier pleaded for the bad guy’s life, was forced to end said life in protecting Voight.
Seeking to spare Upton – who joined him off-book at the criminal’s hideout – Voight took the dead body to the silos area, where he burned and buried the evidence.
Upton, who had just jammed up Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) two episodes earlier, suggested the two get married – hoping her beau’s “goodness” would rub off on her.
Suffice to say, “Chicago” fans have been clamoring to find out the fate of their favorite TV first-responders.
BTS recently chatted with several of the series’ stars. An edited Q&A follows.
Season premieres are set for Wednesday on NBC.
Nick Gehlfuss as Dr. Will Halstead on “Chicago Med.” (NBC photo by George Burns Jr.)
•BTS: I just went back and watched the season finales again and obviously they were just out of this world. From the time you guys film that, to the time it airs, what's it like sitting on that – knowing that you've got that under wraps? And then what's it like when you start getting fan reactions to those episodes?
Jesse Lee Soffer: That's a great question actually. It's exciting. Doing the finale, when you know you hit on some things – that some storylines are coming to an end, or we're driving to a fever pitch – it's exciting to think, like, “Oh my god, how? What is the response going to be after people see this episode?” So that's always fun. You get a little giddy, I guess.
And then and then coming back for season nine, there's still all of the fallout from the last episode of our season is going to play out for a while; and I'm really anxious to see how the fans respond. We're in uncharted territory, for us, for sure.
Nick Gehlfuss: They really are the most exciting parts of the season – and then the beginning of the next – because there's stuff that can happen that you don't necessarily do throughout the other storytelling moments of the season. I feel for the audience every time we leave them with something that they're like, “Are you kidding me? We now have to wait the entire summer for this, to get this answer?” And so, in a way it's cruel, but you know we as audience members – myself included – love when that happens. So, they've been extremely patient.
And, of course, being able to share these premieres with them and finally start telling the stories – which, at this, entertainment is really important for a bit of escapism with everything we’re going through. So, yeah, they're in for some treats. And, of course, we’ve got a bunch of brand-new faces to introduce and a whole slew of relationships to create.
•BTS: The characters that you play, the women that you loved or love still, they tend to get you in a little bit of trouble. We especially saw that toward the end of the last season. Do you guys ever think that maybe we’d be better off these characters were just single for a little while?
Jesse Lee Soffer: Sure, but there would be less drama! I don't know; it wouldn't be as entertaining.
I'm sure that it goes both ways and we've created just as much drama (laughs). It's TV. It’s primetime. There's always going to be some crazy thing happening, and I think that's the way it should be.
Tracy Spiridakos as Det. Hailey Upton on “Chicago P.D.” (NBC photo by Lori Allen)
•BTS: Tracy, a lot of actors have joined the original cast in recent years, and they’ve left shortly thereafter. You've not only stuck around, but you've become absolutely essential, essential, to this show. There are so many good Upton stories – you were the one that got to go to “FBI,” of course; and what you did in the season finale, I think, was just a masterclass.
What was your expectation coming into the series? Was it this? Has it been a pleasant surprise? Is this a reward for your hard work and talents?
Tracy Spiridakos: Well, first of all, thank you very much; that's very, very nice to hear. Thank you.
I think, when I first joined, I had three episodes with the potential to stay. And so, when I first came on, I remember thinking, “OK, whatever. I'm just going to treat it like I only have the three episodes; I'll enjoy my time here and that's it.” And I remember when we wrapped season four, going into season five, I had become so attached to everybody that it was then that I got nervous. I wasn't really nervous at the end of season four, because I was like, “Ah, whatever; it's just going to be what it is.” And then, coming into season five, I got so, so attached to everybody that I was working with, that I genuinely was really nervous my first few episodes back. The way that it worked out, they were like, “Well, we're only going to keep you for the first 13, and we'll see how it feels. So, I was then still nervous (laughs). So, pretty much a lot of season five, I was like, “Ahhh.”
But I feel really fortunate. We all met, and it was like we all knew each other – at least that's how I felt. They allowed me to feel comfortable and confident that I that I could play, and I really owe that to the cast, and to our producers, and everybody that made me feel so welcomed and so loved.
Jason Beghe as Sgt. Hank Voight on NBC’s “Chicago P.D.” (NBC photo by Lori Allen)
•BTS: Jason, Voight has had to deal with a great many things over the years, not the least of which, of course, was the death of his son and the death of Olinsky. Watching the season finale, we're again wondering how does Voight bounce back – and how many more times can he bounce back from these types of situations?
Jason Beghe: I think that Voight has a lot of bounce in him (laughs). That's one of the things that makes him Voight is that he's not afflicted, even though he is self-reflective. He does not beat himself up like the rest of us do. He tries to take things at face value. And he kind of lives in the moment, and therefore he's not really afflicted with anxiety or regret. And that's an interesting quality. You know, he's a human being. He misses his son, he misses his wife, he misses Al; but he kind of folds it into this moment, now, and tries to confront it.
I guess that he's stronger than I am, in that sense, and stronger than most. And I think that that's one of the qualities that he's been able to develop that makes him powerful. You know, he's a strong, and sometimes intimidating, kind of a person. But all that stuff, the intimidation, is because that stuff is all in this moment of right now. And so, sometimes people can kind of suffer the wrath. He’s carrying around a lot of things, but they're all kind of right now. He doesn't put things off on the shelf, in a way. …
We'll see; you know, the writers are always ultimately the boss.
•BTS: Tracy, on any given day, you can see Jason on a half-a-dozen different programs. I really think he's an actor's actor. What do you like about working with Jason – and what do you make of the almost father-daughter-type relationship that we're starting to see with Voight and Upton?
Tracy Spiridakos: I love Jason – not just because he's here. Jason, from the get-go, has always been one of the people who has really helped me find my voice in speaking up about, you know, if I'm reading something and I have an idea or whatever, he's a really big champion in “What is that idea? What do you have to say? Come on.” And help me kind of feel confident to say whatever my idea is – good or bad.
So, I feel really fortunate that we have this really easy dynamic, and both, I think, love each other very much. I’m truly fortunate in that, whenever we get to play, we both have fun. We go to work and we're like, “Whoo, we have a scene!” And, you know, that finale, it was late; we were in that room for a while; and we always have a good time together working.
The father-daughter dynamic, yeah, it's really interesting to see where that goes and how that continues. The thing that I kind of thought of in the finale and in the beginning of season nine is I think there's a moment where Hailey looked – you know, you look up to your parents – you really look up to them – and there's a moment where your parent becomes a person. I think Hailey has had that moment with Voight, where he's gone from (her leader) and now he's a person. She cares for him and respects him, but their relationship has changed in a certain way.
•BTS: And Jason, as I said, Tracy has become such a key part of “Chicago P.D.” Similar question: What do you like about working about her, and what is your take on the Voight-Upton relationship?
Jason Beghe: I love working with Tracy, because she's such a good actress.
I try to take a scene and understand it; learn the lines; and then when you have somebody like Tracy, you can kind of throw it away after you've done all the work, and then kind of paint the picture to find out what it looks like. So, there's lots of things that can happen.
We get to play off of each other. And in this take, I end up doing this – just like it's a tennis match; you don’t know – you don't plan it – but you put a little topspin and hit it to the left. That's gonna adjust what she does. So, it's always alive and different, and that's just exciting and fun. I mean, it's the reason we get into acting, I think. That's that side of it.
And in terms of the father-daughter thing, I just feel as though Voight loves and cares about Upton. You know, he's older and more experienced, and he feels responsible for her – which is all kind of fatherly, also, characteristics. But she's also somebody that he works with. And I think, if you want to continue with that metaphor, he's gonna put forth his viewpoint strongly. But he's not unwilling to be wrong. Which I think is probably a good parenting characteristic, as well.
I don't think Voight thinks of her as his daughter, but there are things that he thinks of toward her that are certainly similar to what a father might feel for a daughter. He certainly would be heartbroken – like a father would be heartbroken – if he lost her.
Jason Beghe as Sgt. Hank Voight and Tracy Spiridakos as Det. Hailey Upton. (NBC photo by Lori Allen)
•BTS: There may be an easy comparable that I'm just overlooking here, but off the top my head I can't think of a scenario where you've got brothers on two different shows – and particularly for this length of time, this number of seasons. What's it been like for you guys to cultivate this relationship over the years?
Nick Gehlfuss: It’s a real privilege, that's for sure. And I think that's the beauty of working on a television show that continues to run and run. As for yourself, you get to peel back the layers of who the person is. But yeah, this other relationship – you know, we've had some really great moments to go and play throughout the major show crossovers.
Jesse Lee Soffer: It doesn't exist anywhere else in the industry. I mean, it's true we’re going on like – in a year or two – it's like a decade of playing brothers on separate shows. Where else is that happening on TV? I don't know.
Nick Gehlfuss: It hasn’t.
Jesse Lee Soffer: It's pretty fantastic. And, honest to god, some of the best work I think I've ever done has been on your show – in the storyline with our father and everything.
It's amazing to be playing on this whole universe.
Nick Gehlfuss: It really is.
Jesse Lee Soffer: It’s definitely a unique experience.
Nick Gehlfuss: And the crossovers, I think, is what's kept us so competitive in this abundant time period of television. There's just so many options that people can choose from. But being able to go over to the crossovers and play in their world – like for one crossover, you almost fall into their profession in a way. His character was in a building, and I had to like creep with the whole crew. And just playing around in that physicality that I would never play on “Med” is fun. And so, any time we get to crossover it's always nice to jump into their world.
•BTS: Of course, there are the simple crossovers; there are more complex crossovers. The multiarc crossover, obviously we couldn't have that last year, unfortunately. We're sort of in a crazy world still, and there's more protocols and whatnot. I know you guys are all being super-safe on your shows. But is there any thought as to when we might get a major crossover again – if that might be in the works for the next season?
Nick Gehlfuss: We haven't heard anything about that.
Jesse Lee Soffer: Yeah, we haven’t heard; we hope so. But who knows? We'll see. Time will tell.
Nick Gehlfuss: I think if there's a way to do it, and it’s safe, I think they'll be all over it, because they know how much it means to the fans. But you can rely on some of these smaller crossovers to be (in) this beginning part of the season.
Jesse Lee Soffer as Det. Jay Halstead and Tracy Spiridakos as Det. Hailey Upton. (NBC photo by Lori Allen)