'Chicago PD' Star Discusses Surprise Team Shakeup

"Most people would do the same thing that Burgess does, as hard of a decision as that is," Marina Squerciati tells THR of her character's actions.
Matt Dinerstein/NBC
Elias Koteas and Marina Squerciati on 'Chicago P.D.'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Wednesday's episode of Chicago P.D., "Last Minute Resistance."]

In a season filled with surprising additions and sudden departures, Chicago P.D.'s Intelligence Unit said goodbye to another member of the team, at least temporarily.

Wednesday's episode put Burgess (Marina Squerciati) through the wringer emotionally and physically when her older sister was discovered bleeding in a subway station after having been violently raped. Pulling in the rest of the team to help with the investigation, Burgess led the charge, going undercover with Lindsay (Sophia Bush) and even downing a drugged shot of alcohol to put the guilty parties away. With her sister still recovering and her niece to also worry about, Burgess asked Voight (Jason Beghe) if she could take an extended leave of absence — a decision that comes mere months after she was promoted upstairs to Intelligence.

(Offscreen, there's a much happier reason for Burgess' absence for the rest of season four. Squerciati is expecting her first child later this year.)

Nonetheless, this is the latest in a long line of personnel changes. Season four has seen the exits of Jon Seda, who moved to Chicago Justice full-time, and recurring guest Samuel Hunt, as well as the temporary departures of Patrick John Flueger and now Squerciati.

"It's good for a show at this point to sort of shuffle the deck and keep people on their toes," the actress tells The Hollywood Reporter. "You're not used to main characters leaving and I think that's what's kind of amazing about Dick Wolf's franchise, is that you can't really rely on anyone to be there the whole time."

Just like with Flueger's temporary disappearance, which coincided with the arrival of Revenge's Nick Wechsler in a multi-episode arc, Squerciati's spot on the team will be filled by a new face: Revolution grad Tracy Spiridakos. Squerciati says to expect fireworks from the new character, a robbery homicide detective named Hailey Upton who is known for her killer instincts.

"I'm really excited to see her character go toe-to-toe with Voight," Squerciati says with a laugh. "I'm always for a female going toe-to-toe with Voight."

With Squerciati's final season-four appearance behind her, she spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about showing Burgess' "darker" side, her long-awaited promotion to Intelligence and showrunner Matt Olmstead's upcoming departure offscreen.

This episode obviously ends with Burgess deciding to take some time off. Was that your idea or the writers' idea? How did that come about?

It was a mixture of the showrunner and Dick. I think they were just kind of being kind and being, like, 'Take some time off, take care of yourself,' which is lovely. That's kind of what I've been doing. I miss being on set. I miss the crew, I do love them, but they're all coming over on Wednesday to live-tweet with me for a big party for my last episode, so it's nice.

So this will definitely be your last episode for season four?

Yeah, I think so. I just looked at the script for [episode] 23, and I'm not in it. Paddy and I were, like, 'Maybe we could talk on the phone?' (Laughs.) You could shoot me from the neck up and we'll be fine. But I think that it's just a little too hard at this point. I was saying I'd have to hold computer monitors instead of file folders to get away with not being pregnant at this point. It's OK. ... If someone steps off a show for a little bit, you want it to make sense and I think it really does. Her sister has been brutally attacked and she has to sort of become the head of household for awhile and take care of her sister and her niece. I think that most people would do the same thing that Burgess does, as hard of a decision as that is. It feels very valid and very truthful to me.

How do you think being the head of household and having to take care of her sister and her niece will impact Burgess going forward?

This episode is kind of amazing because we get to see this … there's a moment when her sister's wheeled into the hospital elevator as she goes into surgery, and for me that moment was, 'OK, I'm going to become the best cop you've ever seen. I'm going to push all my emotions down.' And Burgess is an emotional cop and very plucky and lovely. I don't think you've seen this darker side of her, and I don't think that's just going to go away very easily. This makes you think twice about the people that you work with, the people that you connect with in the city. I don't think she can be same person or cop after this.

How will this case also impact Burgess' working relationship with Voight going forward? He tells her not to take the drink, she goes against his orders, but he commends her for it in the end.

Voight is hard on Burgess because she needs it, kind of like how Platt [Amy Morton] is hard on her. But he also has a soft spot for her, which is nice because he's so gruff and rough. I think what he ultimately sees is somebody who's ready to be in Intelligence 100 percent which makes Burgess' decision to leave Intelligence for awhile that much more difficult because she's sort of gotten validation from the big boss. You don't want to, in that moment, be like, 'Thanks, but no thanks,' which is essentially what she has to do.

Should Burgess be concerned about potentially losing her spot in Intelligence? When Ruzek left for that undercover assignment, he didn't automatically get his spot back right away.

I think she is. That is something that she is suppressing because her job just has to be secondary to her family for awhile at least. Her sister's married with a kid and Burgess is single, and her job has been her most important priority and so she's pushing that down. But she's scared, for sure, that there won't be a space for her when she gets back. I do have some hope that Voight respects her enough that he keeps her seat warm, but we'll see.

What was it like for you as an actor, after four years of playing Burgess, to finally get a little more of her backstory and meet her sister?

It was lovely. The fans sometimes latch onto things and we've mentioned my sister several times over the years. [Co-creator] Derek Haas, who does these seven questions [on Twitter] on Wednesdays, has been pestered with, 'When are we going to meet Burgess' sister?' for so long. The fans were just so excited to meet this person who we've been referring to forever. That's kind of exciting to see this side story come to life. We are a procedural show but we have character elements, and it's so great to have an episode where you can just really stretch your wings as an actor. That's what I got to do in this episode. I feel like this is an episode where even if you haven’t seen Chicago P.D., it would be a great episode to jump in. Because it's a one-off, it's so emotional, everyone gives 110 percent and I'm pretty proud of it.

What did you learn about Burgess through this other character and this emotional case?

When I read the script, I was struck by how non-emotional her lines were. They were very direct. They were very get-to-the-finish-line, and Burgess is a little bit more quirky than that. I realized that this was an episode where she was going to be laser-focused and almost robotic in her decision to find these people that violated her sister. I think that's why the end is so brutal because she's finally letting those emotions overtake her and that's what happens. She's just been suppressing it because she knows if she shows too much emotion, Voight will take her off the case, and that's the worst that could happen. She wants to be apart of bringing these people down that hurt her sister.

Going back a bit, Burgess was promoted to Intelligence earlier this season. How far in advance did you find out that this was happening? How did you get the good news?

Generally, you get an e-mail and you see the script, and you're like, 'Oh, OK, that's happening.' They don't really warn you. I know that Amy and I kind of had a funeral for our relationship. We were so sad. I'm hoping in season five to be able to work with her a little bit more because I feel like the Burgess-Platt relationship is really special and should be preserved. I miss working with Amy. I mean, she just threw my baby shower — that's how much I miss her — she and Sophia threw me a baby shower.

Have you gone to the writers about writing more scenes for the two of them?

One hundred percent, and I try to mention it in every interview in the hopes that the writers will read it. (Laughs.)

Well, they had a few nice scenes in this episode, like when Platt gave Burgess and Lindsay the lipstick with the knife in it.

Oh, yeah. It's hard, too, because Amy and I did film this other scene that was sort of touching where she gives me advice about how to handle my sister and that got cut. And there was this scene with Ruzek that finished the episode with [Burgess' niece] Zoe and that got cut. It's just the nature of TV, it's the nature of movies, things get cut, but you're always like, 'Oh! You guys aren't going to get to see that! It was really sweet!'

That promotion meant that you're working primarily with different actors on the show, so how did you handle that shift personally?

It's nerve-wracking. You have your own routine and you have the people that you work with and all of a sudden, you're working with different people and you have different clothing. There are some nerves because they all have a pattern, they've been doing it for four years, and you come in and you're disturbing that pattern a little bit. You want to fit in and be cool, but it's hard. I think both Marina and Burgess tried to play it cool, but we're both not good at that. (Laughs.)

Why do you think it was the right time for her to move upstairs?

You tell the fans something and you have them hold on for three seasons — I think by the fourth season, it's time to give them what they want, and they wanted her upstairs.

What's been the biggest change for the character with this promotion?

For sure the outfits. Every week I have to have a costume fitting now! Before I was like, blue polyester, blue polyester, blue polyester. Occasionally I got to pick different sneakers. I was like, 'Oh, the power! What black sneakers shall I choose?'

And the leather jackets...

Yeah, I haven't worn my own leather jacket yet because I'm generally too cold, but maybe at the start of season five, I'll get some cute little thing.

The promotion also means that Burgess has had more face time with her ex, Ruzek. What can you say about that relationship going forward?

Ultimately, when he left to go undercover, it was the best thing that could happen because all other awkwardness and anger sort of melted away. I think they're rebuilding. … They have a really great relationship. If I had that kind of relationship with an ex, I would be thrilled. They're able to joke with one another, they're light-hearted with one another, they support one another. It's a bit vague, I think, to the fans and myself and Paddy as to what's actually going on, but I surmise that they're not together but they're enjoying each other's company.

In your opinion, should they give a romantic relationship another go?

One hundred percent! I like the idea that they jumped into it too quickly. But I do think that there's true love there. It’s better this time around if it takes awhile to build. It will be better for the fans to be OK with it, and for Ruzek to mature and for Burgess to establish her career again and then focus on a relationship.

Last week, news broke that Matt Olmstead will be stepping down as showrunner at the end of the current season. As someone who's been with the show since the beginning, how concerned are you about that change going into season five?

I really miss Matt, I really like him, he's a lovely man. I wish him well. I have no fear. It's a good ship that we've built, and I imagine the next showrunner will be just as wonderful as Matt.

***

Chicago P.D. airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. Will you miss Burgess?

comments powered by Disqus