'Chicago P.D.' Boss Breaks Down "Dignified" Finale Exit and Possible Season 4 Replacement

"We wanted that character to have an ending where he could ride off into the sunset," showrunner Matt Olmstead tells THR about Roman's departure.
Mark Seliger/NBC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Wednesday's season three finale of Chicago P.D., "Start Digging."]

District 21 said goodbye to one of it's own on Wednesday's season three finale of Chicago P.D, but thankfully the departing individual didn't go out in a body bag. After getting shot earlier this season in the backdoor pilot for Chicago Justice, and after beginning a hot and heavy romance with his partner, Burgess (Marina Squerciati), Roman (Brian Geraghty) decided to leave the CPD. Knowing his recovery wasn't going well, and he couldn't be a beat cop again, Roman opted to make a clean break and move to San Diego. 

Behind the scenes, it was a similarly amicable departure for Geraghty, who came on board the series in season two. THR spoke with showrunner Matt Olmstead to get the story behind the actor's exit, who might fill Roman's shoes and more season four scoop.

How did the conversations for Brian's departure first come about?

A couple years ago with moving LaRoyce Hawkins' character upstairs, we knew there was an opening in uniform to pair with Marina's character, and [executive producer] Dick [Wolf] really targeted Brian and really wanted him. Dick's really good at a couple of things, one of them is casting and even back on Chicago Fire when he really wanted Jason Beghe and he really wanted Jon Seda and that basically was the show, Chicago P.D. He really wanted Brian. Brian was interested but he didn’t want to get locked into a long-term deal because he had other things going and had come off of a series, but we were looking for someone of his caliber to come in and really help solidify what at that point was a young show and get it really out of the gates. He was looking to do the show, but he was looking for a little flexibility if, in fact, down the road he wanted to go and pursue other things. He honored our requests and he helped solidify Chicago P.D. We honored his request and midseason this season, he called like a gentleman and said, "Hey, I got these other things going on. I feel like I've done my thing, and I'm just giving you a heads up that I'm going to go pursue those things." It wasn't breaking contract because it was essentially a handshake deal at the beginning and it was a handshake goodbye at the end.

Obviously, you're not afraid to kill off characters as we've seen before. How did you decide how to write Roman out?

A couple things came together: One was the idea for the backdoor Justice spinoff when we knew it was going to be an officer shot. And it was like, "Well, we have this available to us because we know Brian is leaving after this season," so we had it be his character shot. And I tell ya, there are some times when breakups with actors can be acrimonious, they can be eagerly anticipated, they can't come soon enough. I think its just human nature that the exits of those characters can be a little… you don't really care as much about besmirching the reputation of that character as you would under ordinary circumstances. This is an example of really liking the actor, really liking the character, really liking how the whole process worked out with Brian and so there's no axe to grind with him via the character. And we've done enough of people going out with a bullet in the back of the head so to speak. When we arrived at the fact of, he doesn't need to get killed in this ambush, we actually liked the idea of a somewhat dignified though not uncomplicated exit for the character because it's just been a very professional, from our end. We're super grateful for what he did, what he brought to the show, how he conducted himself and again, it was a gentleman's agreement at the beginning and a gentleman's agreement at the end. We wanted that character to have an ending where he could ride off into the sunset because down the road, who knows?

Would you have still explored a romantic relationship with Roman and Burgess if he was stayed for season four?

Yeah, we wanted to. Its just a fact of life that, obviously, relationships when they spark, they spark quickly, especially in jobs where you're working really closely together. It lends itself to this accelerated romance and we wanted that to happen, and we also needed it for the complication in the "Justice" episode. The main complication in the episode was the discovery that they were intimate and did that cloud her judgment when she was pursing the guy who shot her partner? We needed it for that. We would have done it regardless and we would have seen where it went going forward.

How will Roman's departure affect Burgess in season four?

Next year, we want to play… We'll see, we're still just kicking around ideas for next season but there's certainly a pitch for a vow of celibacy for her. In that she was engaged to a guy upstairs, she was romantic with the guy that she was working with, both of those kind of went sideways on her. there's a part of her that has to recommit to the job and her next boyfriend's probably going to be a mailman.

Now that there is an open spot, what kind of character do you think you want to bring in?

We've talked about that, and it's still open right now. We do want to bring someone in who… We've had success on Fire when the Kidd character was introduced and we intentionally had it where when she walked in, there was a beat where Dawson said, "I'm not going to work with her." And then you realize it was a ruse and they're actually tight. If that character likes the new character, the audience by extension will hopefully like that new character. The other way to go, we've done it, is when a character comes in with a prepackaged complication or a cloud over them or beef with someone else and it gets you immediate conflict, but then you realize you've dug yourself a hole a little bit. You have to decide if you want to preserve that character, because you have to dig them out so to speak. So we want to have someone come in who brings wind into the sails of the show. We've had people come in with shady pasts or unknown agendas and right now, I think we're looking for someone to come in and partner with Burgess to really re-launch that pairing of two uniforms; a robust pairing as opposed to having to carry somebody or I'm going to look sideways at somebody. We want someone to come in who is already in fifth gear.

Looking ahead, how do you think the dynamic of the entire team will change after the events of this finale?

What happens in the finale is a major, major event; it's a criminal act. But you have individuals in the unit looking at it not as someone from Internal Affairs looking at it because they're not in Internal Affairs. They're looking at it as a father or in Halstead's case, someone who was at war and saw atrocities there and had certain reactions to avenging losses of people he was close with. And you have Lindsay, who is close with Voight and considered Justin a brother and so going forward, it's not a unit and by extension a television show, that is stumbling. It's not fractured, it's actually a galvanizing event for the unit in that they put themselves in Voight's shoes and what would you do? They've got a job to do. We've touched on what's going on in Chicago and Chicago is going through a lot. This isn't a show that is [about] a murky unit that is corrupt or a fractured unit that is about these separate alliances. This is a show about an elite unit that exists in Chicago, the Intelligence Unit. While you may have detectives or uniforms in other departments who are reluctant to get involved and reluctant to make an arrest because there are lawsuits, you have this unit where more than ever, you need them to defend the city, to protect the city. That, ironically or not, is heightened going forward. It's not fractured.

Chicago Justice was picked up to series but isn't slated to premiere until midseason. Has there been any talk of the characters from that show appearing on P.D. early in season four the way you had Chicago P.D. characters appear on Chicago Fire before its formal premiere?

Yeah, for sure, we don't know the exact specifics but I was talking to Dick about it and we definitely want to use whatever episodes we have on the other shows before Justice airs to help platform. And it's not even that formal of an approach, it's just to kind of get to know 'em. They drop in for a Molly's scene or maybe there would be a couple-episode arc, but more it's just to show them in that universe so that when that show launches, the audience knows them that much better.

Chicago P.D. returns in the fall for season four. Will you miss Roman? Sound off in the comments below.

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