NBC’s “Chicago P.D.” is dealing with changes in front of and behind the camera, but Chicago viewers will notice a more subtle shift: We’re going to see a lot more of the city in the fifth season.
“We’re out in the city more, on location, which isn’t great for our poor, overworked crew, but storytelling-wise it’s a much more interesting show for the audience,” actor Patrick Flueger told the Sun-Times. “I think it’s going to be a show that’s on its feet a lot more.”
“The Thing About Heroes,” airing at 9 p.m. Wednesday, opens with Flueger’s Adam Ruzek patrolling a street festival at Laflin and Taylor with Kevin Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) and Kim Burgess (Marina Squerciati). The show filmed in 10 other locations throughout the city for the episode.
“Chicago P.D.” has pulled 95 permits since filming began July 19 for various location shoots, according to Rich Moskal, director of the Chicago Film Office. Over roughly the same period last year, it sought just 79 location permits.
Getting the intelligence unit out of the bullpen and into the neighborhoods fits into new showrunner Rick Eid’s plan to infuse the series with many of the social, cultural and political issues facing Chicago. Eid replaces Matt Olmstead, who helped create the series.
Eid comes to “P.D.” from another one of producer Dick Wolf’s series, “Law & Order: SVU.” That long-running series is famous for ripping its stories from the headlines.
The new “P.D.” season will tackle several hot-button issues, including police reform, immigration and, as viewers will see this week, the threat of terrorism.
“The world is a very interesting place right now, to say the least,” said Hawkins, a Harvey native. “I enjoy [the show] being current because it helps me … digest those [issues], and think about those things critically. Hopefully the audience does, too.”
Hawkins and Flueger were faced with a current issue first thing after their summer break. In last week’s season premiere, titled “Reform,” a child accidentally was shot by an officer during a gun battle. Later, their characters approached a black suspect and Ruzek, a white cop, drew on the man as he reached for his phone, escalating the situation. Atwater eventually calmed everyone down without a shot being fired.
While the show has yet to hit the issue of questionable police shootings head on, the conversation the detectives have after the standoff at least brought up opposing views on the controversial topic.
Both actors were initially shocked by the script, mostly because like the actors themselves, their characters are close friends and colleagues. The situation didn’t seem to fit their relationship.
“The first thing I did was call ’Royce and said, ‘Did you see this? Is Ruzek racist now?’ ” Flueger said. He also called Eid to bring up his reservations, who told him “the intention was not to change the character or to paint him in a bad light” but rather to bring up both sides of a real-world debate.
The episode introduced a new recurring character played by Wendell Pierce, Ald. Ray Price, who will inject more political dealings into the show as he pushes for police reform. Mykelti Williamson also returned to the cast, playing Denny Woods, who has been appointed as an independent auditor overseeing the Chicago Police Department.
The Intelligence Unit has a new look this season, too. Star Sophia Bush left the show last season when her character, Erin Lindsay, took an FBI job in New York City. Tracy Spiridakos has been upgraded to a regular cast member, playing Hailey Upton.
And with the cancellation of “Chicago Justice,” former “P.D.” star Jon Seda returned to the show just as his character, Antonio Dawson, went back to his old detective job.
“We were all, honestly, disappointed to hear ‘Justice’ wasn’t going forward. But selfishly, getting Jon back is great,” Flueger said. “I cheered; I jumped out of my seat.”
Seda has a big episode airing Oct. 11, when Dawson leads an investigation that sees the unit contending with the perception of the police among the city’s immigrant population.
Behind the camera, former “ER” star Eriq La Salle, who has directed episodes of “P.D.,” “Med” and “Justice,” becomes an executive producer and main director for the show. Brian Luce, the show’s longtime technical adviser, is now an associate producer as well.
Hawkins and Flueger believe all the changes have reinvigorated the series as it approaches its 100th episode in January. Just a year ago, its older sister show, “Chicago Fire,” hit that milestone.
“Not that anybody ever hated coming to work because we all love our jobs, but I don’t think you can find yourself discovering more to love about your job than the way we all have,” Hawkins said. “We’re about to get it cracking like chapped lips now.”
Read more of Curt Wagner’s TV coverage at tvshowpatrol.com.