And Chicago Justice makes four. Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchise expands with its legal show this week. Justice debuts Wednesday as part of as three-part crossover with Chicago Fire and Chicago PD. It returns Sunday in its regular 9 p.m. timeslot. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Peter Jankowski, an executive producer on all the Chicago shows.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was there any hesitation in launching Justice or fear that four Chicago hours were too many?
PETER JANKOWSKI: Not only was there no hesitation, but it was by design. I remember standing on the set when we were shooting the Chicago Fire pilot almost six years ago now in Chicago and we were getting close to the end and Dick started talking about how we were going to have a cop version, and a hospital version, and we’ll do Law & Order in Chicago. I remember looking at him, going, “Okay. Whatever you want.”
Were there any other occupations considered for this or for the future?
No. It’s actually worked out quite well because I think we got all the big ones. Meter maids and that kind of stuff — I don’t know if meter maids even exist anymore — those were ones that were made as kind of a joke, but these were the four that [Wolf] always wanted.
Would you do another city? Would that be the next expansion?
I wouldn’t rule anything out. Um, sure. Sounds good. The question is: What city? We’ve done New York and Chicago now, so…
Somewhere on the West Coast?
Sure, sounds good.
Tell me about using Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) as a through-line in this franchise. He started on Fire, helped launch P.D., and now he’s helping to launch Justice.
What we’re really trying to accomplish is to take this show and comfortably fit it into the Chicago world that we’ve created and, at the same time, giving it a different feel than the other three shows… It made sense. We were looking at a couple things: We were looking at a new show and who do you bring to it from the Chicago world to give it some continuity? Jon Seda became the obvious choice. He’s a cop, he was amenable to making the move, which was not a simple thing, and it made sense within the Chicago universe.
The other shows have these big romantic storylines, but that’s not generally a part of the Law & Order franchise. Are we going to see that continue as a through-line, or is Justice going to go more of a Law & Order route and focus a little bit less on their personal lives?
Justice is certainly more self-contained storytelling than the other three shows. When it comes to romance or character story, it will have certainly more than Law & Order ever did, but probably a lot less than what Chicago Fire has. People will be fond of each other — I’ll say it that way right now. We haven’t gotten into heavy romance as of yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Are there certain pairings of characters we should look out for, whether they’re romantic or otherwise?
We’re still kind of living off the relationship Antonio Dawson has with Kara Kilmer’s character (Sylvie Brett) on Fire and it’s sort of cross-pollination right now. Within the show of Justice, we don’t have that much going on romantically yet.
How are some of the other stories weaving in for this crossover? Are we going to see more of what’s going on with Severide (Taylor Kinney) and Ruzek’s (Patrick John Flueger) return?
Ruzek’s return is in it. The real centerpiece is Elias Koteas’ character (Detective Olinsky) … Chicago Fire starts with a tremendously deadly rave fire somewhat ripped from the headlines of what happened in Oakland. Thirty-nine people are killed and one of those people that is badly injured is Olinsky’s daughter, Lexi, and she is left shipped off to Med. Olinsky is left questioning his relationship with his daughter: Was he a good father? Was he a good husband? The things he screwed up in both of their lives. … It involves all the characters and their points of view towards vigilante justice, which bleeds over into Justice the actual show. Olinsky is the through-line for all three hours and looking for justice if he can ever get it, and Stone becomes an instrument of that.
How is Voight (Jason Beghe) dealing with some of these Justice guys?
Peter Stone, played by Philip Winchester, put Voight away originally, so there’s no love lost there. Also, he has sought vigilante justice for his son and did some things that he probably shouldn’t have done. So, when he realizes what Olinsky is intending to do, he’s got some soul-searching of his own to figure out. What does he say to Olinsky? What’s his council? I think you see a different side of him — it’s not what you expect.
Where does Bradley Whitford fit into that?
He is the defense attorney who defends the ultimate bad guy.
I’m already rooting for him to be recurring. Are there any plans to bring him back?
For now, he’s just in this. We wrote this part with him in mind — thank god we got him. We have other district attorneys that have bounced around in various episodes, so I wouldn’t rule out seeing him again, but right now the plan is just for this one.
How many stops at Molly’s are in this three-hour crossover?
I don’t think we have any! [Note: NBC followed-up on this and confirmed there will be zero stops at Molly’s over the three hours.] Molly’s tends to be celebratory — and, many times, a button on the storytelling — and there’s not a hell of a lot to celebrate in this.
Are we going to see any Justice–SVU crossovers?
If we find success with Justice in the ratings and the show is renewed, I wouldn’t rule anything out. It seems like a natural crossover to me.