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TV producer Dick Wolf can’t get enough of Chicago

TV producer Dick Wolf, (left) actor Jon Seda and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

Television producer extraordinaire Dick Wolf says there’s a reason why he can’t get enough of Chicago — and hopes to keep it that way for the next 10 or 15 years.

“I said to the mayor [that] I tell people Chicago compared to New York — where I grew up and still love — this is a cleaner, politer New York with slightly heavier people. And I love the portion sizes,” Wolf said

Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the put-down in stride, perhaps because he is the wiry antithesis of Wolf’s cartoonish description of the overstuffed Chicagoan.

At a news conference Wednesday at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, Emanuel jokingly made the “cut” sign before high-fiving Wolf, the producer of NBC shows “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago PD” and “Chicago Med.”

The fourth installment in Wolf’s Chicago series, “Chicago Justice,” starts filming at Cinespace later this week.

Don’t be surprised if Emanuel, whose brother is the most powerful agent in Hollywood, has another cameo role in the series premiere, just like he did in the other three.

“All I can say is, stay tuned. Justice is coming on. It’s gonna be really great. Gee, I sounded like Donald Trump. It’s gonna be HUUUGE,” Wolf said.

“Very few people get to exceed their wildest dreams. I’m incredibly fortunate to have done that. . . . When this started, I never had any idea we could get up to four. . . . The support of everybody here has made this possible. And I hope it will continue to be possible for the next 10 or 15 years, which is not an outrageous dream when you have the level and quality of acting and writing that we have on these shows.”

Actor Taylor Kinney, who plays Lt. Kelly Severide in “Chicago Fire,” was asked about the seemingly insatiable appetite for shows that begin with the word “Chicago.”

“It’s not weird. There’ll be 10 more shows in five more years,” Kinney told reporters.

“I just want to reiterate what the mayor said and what Dick [Wolf] said. It’s America’s city. It’s a great place to tell stories. The landscape. The city, we’ve always said — it’s a character in itself. So it lends to the story, and it lends to the narrative of what we put out there.”

The Illinois Film Office awards a 30 percent tax credit to movie, television and advertising productions filmed in Chicago. The savings can be used toward “qualified expenditures” that include local crews and the purchase of goods and services within the state.

“If we didn’t have the tax credits, we simply couldn’t be here. It would be too expensive,” Wolf said.

“I know there’s controversy that swirls around everything. But the proof is in the pudding here. Economic mutuality between this city and Universal and NBC has really brought something that I don’t think anybody would have thought possible at that first meeting.”

Emanuel contended the tax credit is not the only thing that has turned a former steel plant in North Lawndale into the nation’s largest soundstage outside Hollywood.

“We live up to our moniker as a city that works. . . . When an issue comes up, we’re able to fix that. Nobody is lost on time. There’s no hours spent unproductive from a producer’s and a director’s point of view,” the mayor said.

“I want to thank all of the people that do the filming in television — not just because of the jobs. Not because of the economic development [although] that is good enough. But also getting out of this space into our neighborhoods and also investing in the local economy when you’re doing filming around the city of Chicago. That helps us show off the greatness of our city — all 77 neighborhoods throughout the city of Chicago.”

Cinespace President Alex Pissios is not satisfied simply presiding over a bustling soundstage where the hum of saws could be heard as union tradespeople built more sets.

He’s working with the city to vacate the streets needed to open a Hollywood-style backlot that could become a tourist attraction akin to Universal Studios.

The ambitious plan calls for closing Rockwell between 15th and 16th streets, along with a chunk of 16th Street, officials said.

Pissios plans to use the additional space to build streetscapes of other cities that would allow filmmakers to shoot those scenes without setting foot outside Chicago.

If City Hall grants the necessary approvals, backlot tours could start at Cinespace and include other locations where famous movie scenes were filmed in Chicago.

Think, “The Untouchables,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Blues Brothers” and “Batman.”

“We’re working with the city now. We’re hoping to get that done soon to actually fence this whole property. Actually make a backlot very similar to like they do in Los Angeles, then take facades of our building and make one façade New York, one London, one Chinatown, one Main Street U.S.A. Then the shows could use that as backdrops,” Pissios said.

“There’s also an idea of actually tapping into the tours that Lagunitas [Brewing Co.], our tenants, last year gave somewhere around 400,000 tours. We were hoping maybe to tap into that so we could actually make a tourism effect here in North Lawndale.”