One of TV’s top makers of procedural dramas is still in the game, and he’s expanding his role in it again.
“Law & Order” mentor Dick Wolf went in another direction last year by introducing “Chicago Fire.” He now spins that off into the police world he knows so well by also executive producing “Chicago P.D.,” which NBC debuts Wednesday, Jan. 8. The two shows are linked by characters including maverick squad leader Hank Voight, still portrayed by Jason Beghe in the role he originated on “Fire.”
Jon Seda (“Homicide: Life on the Street”), Jesse Lee Soffer and LaRoyce Hawkins are among others carrying over their “Fire” characters to “P.D.” Sophia Bush (“One Tree Hill”), Patrick John Flueger (“The 4400”) and Elias Koteas also are in the ensemble cast of the filmed-on-location show, which Wolf says largely evolved from Beghe and Seda’s work together on “Chicago Fire.”
“They were both so good, there was no way I just wanted them to ride off into the sunset. When we started talking about what we could do, it quickly became apparent that if we maneuvered [the Voight character] out of jail — even though it was a very satisfying conclusion for that arc — we could get a pretty interesting cop show with those two as two of the leads.”
The raspy-voiced Beghe is hardly a newcomer to series work, having also been featured in such shows as the original “Melrose Place,” “Everwood” and (with his close friend David Duchovny) “Californication.” He confirms to Zap2it that the unpredictable Voight is “a bit of a rough beast. It’s nice to be trusted with the part, and it’s fun to play. It’s all a big honor for me, and I want to do my best with the opportunity.”
Beghe is getting help from real-life Chicago cop Brian Luce, whom he describes as “quite a fascinating, interesting person who’s actually become a very good friend of mine. I think I probably research police stuff inadvertently just by hanging around with him and some of his buddies, but this is more like a personality profile, though we always know what [Voight] does for a living. I think he was born to be a cop. I can’t think of what else he could do, or at least do as well.”
A “Chicago P.D.” crossover with Wolf’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” — with that show’s Ice-T and Kelli Giddish visiting — is planned to air in February, and “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” regulars will turn up on one another’s shows with some regularity. Bush already has filmed “Fire” scenes, and she maintains it’s entirely natural for each set of characters to turn up on the other’s turf.
“Part of it,” she explains, “is that if you were to look at an aerial map of our shows, Firehouse 51 is 2 1/2 blocks from our district office. These are our friends. We go to the same neighborhood bar, and we work some of the same crimes sometimes. These are our people, and as we’ve learned from the police officers we work with, your fellow servicemen are people you would give your life for.
“The shows I’m more drawn to typically have been cable shows,” Bush adds, “because they’re edgier, and they’re grittier, and they push a little farther. Watching ‘Dexter’ or watching Bryan Cranston play Walter White (on ‘Breaking Bad’), we know the actions of the character are wrong, but we also view those actions as being for the greater good. We’re living in that really great gray area on our show, and it fuels everything with so much tension and energy.”