'Chicago Justice': Dick Wolf Talks 3-Show Crossover, 'Law & Order' Comparisons

"Any comparisons are welcome," the prolific producer said about the parallels between his 1990 drama and the forthcoming series.
Courtesy of Matt Dinerstein/NBC

Chicago Justice is kicking things off with a bang.

Before its formal series premiere on March 4, the legal spinoff of the popular Dick Wolf franchise will launch with a special preview episode as part of a three-show, one-night crossover on Wednesday, March 1.

The night will start with Chicago Fire at 8 p.m., then go to P.D. at 9 p.m. and conclude with Justice at 10 p.m. The three-part event, which also features characters from Chicago Med, was revealed Wednesday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

"Nothing remotely like this has ever been done with a three-hour block of programming," Wolf said. "[It's] very challenging, but a great story and something I think that will keep people sitting there for all three hours. Each one has a slightly different variation on the same theme. Each hour is giving you new information and moving toward a great courtroom conclusion."

This is just the latest multishow crossover for the Chicago shows, which have hosted several crossovers among the three already existing Chicago shows, as well as with Wolf's long-running Law & Order: SVU.

"The crossovers are a pain in the ass; everyone hates doing them," Wolf said with a chuckle Wednesday when speaking with reporters. "Unfortunately, it's like ratings crack. It's a bad addiction because you don't want to overuse it."

Much like Fire, P.D. and Med frequently share characters, the three-part crossover event will be just the beginning of the shared DNA among Justice and its sister series. "A lot of times there are interactions, I think in every show," showrunner Michael S. Chernuchin said. "Not as a crossover, but more as an integration."

Starring Philip Winchester (Strike Back), Monica Barbaro (UnREAL), Joelle Carter (Justified), Carl Weathers (Rocky) and Chicago P.D. grad Jon Seda, the legal drama follows the prosecutors and investigators at the Cook County state attorney's office. Just like their brethren in the Chicago P.D., the state attorney's team navigates heated city politics and controversy head-on while pursuing justice. As they take on the city's high-stakes and often media-frenzied cases, they must balance public opinion, power struggles within the system and their unwavering passion for the law.

Justice doesn't only share DNA with the Chicago shows. Winchester stars on the legal spinoff as Peter Stone, the son of Law & Order prosecutor Ben Stone, played by Michael Moriarty for the first four seasons. It's a fitting casting considering Chernuchin wrote for Law & Order during Moriarty's tenure. He called the Ben Stone character "a legend in New York and the moral center of everything that happened in that courthouse. Those are pretty big shoes to fill.

However, Winchester hinted that Peter will be "different" from his father, not the least of which because of the estranged relationship between father and son. "Even though he agrees to disagree with his father, there are some fundamental similarities he doesn't want to acknowledge," Winchester said. "He always has the whispers of his dad in the back of his head when he's prosecuting a case."

This is just the latest connection between Wolf's Emmy-winning legal drama and the fourth installment in his Chicago universe. The backdoor pilot for Chicago Justice, which aired last May as a episode of Chicago P.D., featured Lorraine Toussaint reprising her Law & Order role as defense attorney Shambala Green. Richard Brooks is also set to reprise his series regular role of former New York City ADA Paul Robinette in an upcoming episode of the first-year drama.

Although the series was originally named Chicago Law early in its development, Wolf said he opted for the Chicago Justice title to help differentiate the two franchises.

"I didn't want them compared directly, because it's not the bifurcated structure of Law and Order. But any comparisons are welcome," Wolf said. "I think the two shows are two of the smartest shows that have been on television over the past 30 years."

It's that distinction that Wolf said will help Justice stand out in the Chicago show universe. "Fire is the crotch, P.D. is the muscle, Med is the heart and this show is the brain," Wolf said.

Chicago Justice launches with a special preview on Wednesday, March 1 at 10 p.m. before moving to its regular time slot on Sunday, March 5 at 9 p.m. on NBC.