Walking the Beat on Chicago PD
by Jay S. Jacobs
Thanks to veteran producer Dick Wolf (the Law & Order series), Chicago is not just a toddlin’ town, but Windy City is the go-to place for young TV professionals. In the last few years, Wolf has created a series of procedural shows based on the town, looking in on the police in Chicago PD, rescue workers in Chicago Fire and now doctors in the latest addition, Chicago Med. Among those resolute young striders trying to find their life’s work in making the city safe is street cop Kim Burgess, a beautiful and determined uniformed officer played by actress Marina Squerciati.
Chicago PD is not Squerciati’s first TV role. The actress has been working her way towards capturing the notice of casting directors for a decade now, landing bigger and more important roles as she went along. She had an important arc in Gossip Girl and also played a conflicted Russian spy in the first season of The Americans. (Honestly, that was the first time I saw her and her accent was so good that when she turned up on Chicago PD I was surprised to find that she was actually not a Soviet actress.)
However, Chicago PD is her biggest role in her biggest hit yet. Squerciati plays Officer Kim Burgess, a patrolwoman who cases the streets of the Windy City. As the series is entering it’s third season, Burgess has her hands full. She has just been turned down for her dream job of working undercover in the intelligence unit, however her new partner is giving her a newfound respect for being an uniformed policewoman. She has also gotten engaged to another officer, a situation which will undoubtedly cause intriguing conflict.
As the third season is taking off, we recently were one of a few select media outlets to chat with Squerciati about life in Chicago PD.
What is it that you like most about the character you play in Chicago PD?
I really like the fact that she’s not cool. I mean that in the fact that I see a lot of role models who are just badass at everything. My character definitely has badass qualities, but also has some places where she needs to grow and learn. Much like young girls today or people looking to go into law enforcement. Everyone has places they need to grow. My character definitely has that. That excites me as an actor as well, because my character is constantly trying to improve.
Do you think Kim is scheming to be part of the intelligence unit? What are her plans for her future?
As an actor, it was really hard when I learned that I wasn’t making it to intelligence. That had been my goal as an actor and as a character for so long. But I really do think it’s something that she’s not thinking about right now. I think that Roman – her new partner – really has this love of the streets. It’s taught her this newfound respect for being where she is. I’m not saying that [joining intelligence] is not in the cards, but I really do think it’s something that has taken a back seat to her ambition right now. I think she’s very happy where she is.
The idea of two police officers being in love and engaged is very romantic, and yet it’s also fraught with so many different potential perils. Do you think that their relationship will be able to survive both the dangers and just the stress of the job?
That’s actually something I’m excited about that they’re going to address; the fact that your partner is constantly putting themselves on the line, as are you. How do you react when you see that? So far, Ruzek has been a little bit protective when he sees me, which is not helpful, unfortunately. I think the more that we interact as cops, the more that will rear its ugly head. So that’s actually a story point that I’m excited to see develop.
I do find that Burgess has these bursts of comedy that come out on the show. Is a lot of that you just working it in or if that’s in the scripts originally that you should be funny. How did that evolve?
It’s both. I love comedy. I’ve done a lot of improv at UCB [comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade] and some at Second City. The writers see that I can do humor and comedy. So they write it in. But I also think that the lightness is really wonderful to have with all the darkness on Chicago PD, so I try to work it in there. When I’m working with Platt [played by Amy Morgan], it just comes naturally. We both have a good rapport. It’ll come out of any scene, even a horribly serious scene. Sometimes we have to run it a couple times offstage, so we don’t laugh. (chuckles) We literally just run it a couple times.
Since Burgess and Ruzek are now engaged, will we get to see any kind of wedding planning going on this season?
We’re filming episode nine and so far there has been no wedding bells, or hint of wedding bells. A lot of my fans tweeted me: when are we going to see it? They think that I know. (laughs) I don’t know. The writers do not trust me with that secret. Hopefully this season, but I literally have no idea.
So we’re not going to see Burgess taking Platt up on her offer to be a wedding planner any time soon?
She’s definitely doing it. I just don’t know how long it will last, or when the wedding will take place, or if the wedding will take place.
Dick Wolf is such a legend in making TV procedurals. What is it like to work with him and on one of his shows?
There’s a lot of trust and confidence when you work on a Dick Wolf show. It’s like you know that you’re safe, because you know that his formula works. You know he knows how to run a show and treat his actors and his writers with respect. It feels like a great, safe environment. You’re with someone who’s been through it and knows exactly what works.
Chicago – isn’t that your home town? Or do you live there?
No, my home town is New York City. I was born and raised in New York. I went to Northwestern for school. So I do feel pretty comfortable here, but it’s not my home town.
Do you run into female police officers that look up to you? You’re a very authentic character in what you do in the show.
Oh thanks. Yes. We have a technical advisor on set. His name is Brian Luce. He’s absolutely wonderful. But I think sometimes there are problems specific to female officers. He set me up with a female who I’m not going to name, but she has been helpful and guided me in the murky waters of being a female police officer. One of the things she always told me is that she tries not to lead with her voice or bark, because a guy’s always going to probably be louder than her. So she finds other ways to control the situation. I found that interesting, using your strengths as a woman to control a situation. She’s really helped me in other matters as well.
I know that fans of the show really appreciate the strong female characters. And one thing that we haven’t gotten to see too much of is the interaction of the two main…
(excited) Between two women! I know. Don’t even get me started. I know!
You’ve only filmed nine episodes so far this season, but will we get any more of that? Or you’re also pulling for it but it hasn’t happened yet?
Well, Sophie [Bush] is a good friend of mine and I love her. We always want to be in scenes together. It’s fun to work with your friends. To be fair, I’m not really in one-on-one scenes with a lot of intelligence officers. We have different storylines. But this year we definitely have more interaction. There’s a couple storylines where Jesse and Soph go undercover as uniformed officers for a minute. We have this interaction in the teaser. So little things, which really are lovely and hopefully will build to a big kickass girl-fight sequence that I hope the writers read that I’m requesting right now.
We can always start a campaign and harass them online too.
I’m trying myself, so join my one-woman campaign.
As you mentioned, Burgess and Roman seem to make a pretty good team. Could you preview anything that they have coming up with their partnerships this season?
We’re about to film an episode where their… Let me see. How do I put this? Where their relationship and Burgess’ loyalty to Roman really gets tested. Roman is coloring outside the lines a little, which is not something that Burgess is completely comfortable doing. But it’s a classic story. How far do you go for your friends? Do you do exactly what you want or do you have to blur the lines a little because you need to help a friend? We’ll see. It’s really exciting. It’s [episode] 3-09 and it’s kind of a crazy story in which Roman gets into a lot of trouble.
Beyond the show and Chicago Fire, they’re now adding the new show, Chicago Med. Will that show be crossing over into the world of Chicago PD?
Oh, my gosh, yes. I’ve already been on Med, which is so wonderful and cool. I’ve been on Fire a couple times. There’s going to be a lot more Molly’s scenes [set in the hangout bar for all the shows], which is great. Dick Wolf has said that he wants more Molly’s scenes, more crossovers in each episode. What I love about it is sometimes there’s substantive crossovers; but a lot of times it’s just because it’s the same world and Chicago’s such a big little city. We’re all often at the bar just walking by, saying hi, ordering a drink. It doesn’t have to necessarily be this major storyline, which is cool. It just shows that the world is so cohesive that Dick Wolf has built.
Just as a follow-up on the crossover question, there’s been quite a few crossover episodes and there are more to come. Is there any character or actor that you haven’t had the chance to work with yet, but you’d love to? Be it from one of the Chicago franchises or Law and Order?
Torrey [DeVitto] is a new female on Chicago Med [she plays Dr. Natalie Manning] and I think it’d be so cool. And [S] Epatha [Merckerson, former Law & Order actress who plays the head of the hospital] too. It’d be great to have… we’re just talking about a girl power story. Let’s get everyone in the hospital fighting a criminal and just trying to take him down – me, Epatha, Torrey and Soph. I’d be down for that. (laughs)
One of the things I’ve been bummed about is we haven’t seen that much of Burgess and Ruzek out of work, how they fell in love and the development of their story. Have you guys had a chance to shoot any more scenes where we get to see them being a couple?
I have to say, unfortunately not. I would love that as well. I would definitely say there is more Ruzek and Burgess developments of their story line coming up, especially in an episode coming out Wednesday. There’s something which I think is interesting, Roman inserts himself into a situation. The relationship between Roman and Burgess is very interesting and how it affects – not in a jealousy way – but how it affects her relationship with Ruzek. You’ll see very strongly in this coming episode.
Now that the show’s been going for a while, do the writers look at your strengths when they’re planning on things for Kim? Do you have any kind of input at all? And also, how do you feel that you’re most like and unlike Kim?
Okay. So one, I went to ask the writers, do you have a whiteboard of what we do well and what we don’t do well? (chuckles) They went, no, not exactly like a whiteboard. But yes, it’s like any job. They can see your strengths and your weaknesses and they play to your strengths, which is great. Let’s do that always. Then in terms of Kim, I really do love her dedication to her job. I had a day job as I was trying to make it as an actor the whole time. I did commercials. I did all the stuff you needed to do to work my way and get this job that I love so much on Chicago PD. So I think that drive and the inability to be exhausted by it in terms of just trying to get to your goal – I think that definite we share that.
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 24, 2015.
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