‘Chicago P.D.’ goes inside Cook County Jail Wednesday for ‘Prison Ball’

SHARE ‘Chicago P.D.’ goes inside Cook County Jail Wednesday for ‘Prison Ball’
SHARE ‘Chicago P.D.’ goes inside Cook County Jail Wednesday for ‘Prison Ball’

Orange is the new blue for a couple of cops on Wednesday’s episode of “Chicago P.D.”

The intelligence unit’s Adam Ruzek (Patrick Flueger) and Kevin Atwater (Harvey native LaRoyce Hawkins) go undercover —and behind bars —to reach a suspect in a 10-year-old girl’s slaying.

Scenes for the fictional NBC drama were shot at the very real Cook County Jail, a sprawling facility at 2700 S. California that often houses more than 10,000 inmates at a time.

“All I know is I got to leave at the end of the day and I was still pretty depressed when I got home,” Flueger said. “I feel for the guys in there.”

Cast and crew spent only three days shooting in the low- to medium-security section of the facility. But as is common with TV shows, they were long days.

“We were in there, locked in for 14 hours a day,” said “Chicago P.D.” location manager Nick Rafferty, who heads a team of eight scouts that scour the city for spots to film. Nearly 100 crew members from the show were involved in the shoot.

“It was literally like going to prison,” Rafferty said. “Inside we had to go through metal detectors. They patted us down. They had security check points. They had the dogs out sniffing the trucks.”

<em>Actors make like real inmates at Cook County Jail. | NBC</em>

Actors make like real inmates at Cook County Jail. | NBC

A couple of crew members from another TV series, Fox’s upcoming midseason drama “Empire,” ran into trouble while filming that show’s pilot at the jail in March.

Background checks run in advance of the crew’s visit tipped off sheriff’s police to an outstanding domestic abuse warrant for James Suhajda, 52. He was arrested and transferred to the custody of the DuPage County Sheriff.

During routine vehicle checks, Cook County Sheriff’s police also found an ounce of marijuana in the car of another crew member trying to enter the jail compound. That man was arrested but later released without charges —and without his weed.

RELATED: State auctioning off familiar ‘Chicago P.D.’ filming location

“We had more than 20 Cook County sheriffs supervising our work, limiting our interaction with inmates,” Rafferty said, adding that the Dick Wolf-produced drama will reimburse the county “tens of thousands of dollars” to cover the expenses that stem from filming there.

The original plan to shoot the episode, titled “Prison Ball,” was far less elaborate.

“We started by contacting the sheriff’soffice just to do some research to see what the inside of the jail looks like, and it quickly evolved into ‘Can we film here?’ ” Rafferty said. “First we were trying to maybe do an exterior scene. The director saw the outside of Division 11 and saw the guard towers and asked, ‘What about inside?’ When you show a director something like that, you can’t take it away.”

The experience brought back memories for Flueger — of going to school in his native Red Wing, Minnesota.

“Sadly, it kind of reminded me of my high school the way it looked inside,” the actor said. “It was a great school based on the teachers and the kids, but structurally, it really did look like this prison.”

The cameras weren’t allowed to capture any of the actual inmates.

“They kept us pretty separate,” Flueger said. “A couple of old-timers walked by us at one point, but they were pretty tame. They don’t want to get their TV privileges taken away is what I’m told.”

Rafferty said the production seemed to bring a welcome diversion to the inmates.

“There was some excitement,” he said. “There were times the sheriffs had to step in and say ‘quiet on set’ so we could get our shots.

“At the end of the day, we got to jump in our cars and go home,” Rafferty added. “Being able to walk back outside the gates into freedom, that was a breath of fresh air.”

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