'Chicago P.D' Star Talks Joining Drama After Sophia Bush's Exit: "Her Presence Is There"

CHICAGO P.D -  Episode 423 - Tracy Spiridakos -Publicity-H 2017
Matt Dinerstein/NBC

When Chicago P.D. returns for season five, there will be a new female member of the Intelligence Unit who also happens to be partnered with Jesse Lee Soffer's Det. Jay Halstead.

However, new series regular Tracy Spiridakos insists she's not stepping into the shoes left by Sophia Bush, who departed the cop drama in May after four seasons.

"I don't think of it as stepping into it, I think of it as stepping aside," the actress tells The Hollywood Reporter about joining the series full-time in season five.

It helps, as Spiridakos points out, that her character was first introduced in a two-episode arc last season while Bush was still on the series. "So they got to know each other a little bit beforehand," Spiridakos says of her character, Det. Hailey Upton.

In the episodes, Upton, then a robbery/homicide detective, collaborated with Sgt. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) and the rest of Intelligence on a particularly tough case. Although she and Voight initially butted heads, in the end he offered her a spot on the team if she was ever interested.

But now that she's seemingly taken Voight up on his offer, how will Upton fit in with the rest of the unit? THR spoke with Spiridakos about "tension" within the team, Upton's new partnership with Halstead and her "unapologetic" character. Warns the Revolution grad, "she's not there to make friends."

How was the role originally described to you? Did you know at all about the potential to come back in season five?

I only knew for the time that I was there so it came about that my character was coming in, there was a case, and that's all I knew. That's it. [Showrunner] Matt [Olmstead] and I had talked about where she was from and he had kind of told me what he thought about her backstory and all of that stuff, but that was it.

So when did you get that follow-up call after the season ended? What were those discussions?

I ended up finding out in the summertime that I was coming back and I was very excited.

What was it about those first two episodes and the character and the show that made you want to come back?

It was everybody that was on the show. The character herself I love. I'm kind of discovering more and more about her as I get to know her, honestly. I saw her as a force of nature when she comes in and says what she believes and what she knows and she'll talk about it. I feel she's unapologetic. She's a good cop. She's smart. She wants to protect the people of her city and she wants to do a good job doing it. She's not there to make friends. She's there to do her job and she's proud of what she does. I think one of the most fun things was just kind of seeing that side of her, the unapologetic side. I think at the end of season four, I started to kind of think about her like that and then in season five, that's definitely something that's come more to fruition.

Knowing Sophia wasn't coming back and that you're coming in full-time right as she's leaving, how much pressure did you feel stepping into that position?

I don't think of it as stepping into it, I think of it as stepping aside. Her presence is there, and she's wonderful. I had so much fun working with her. And her character's presence is involved in that. So it's not that she's just forgotten. And I also think that my character was there before she left and so they got to know each other a little bit beforehand. So I guess for me I just feel like Upton's an addition to the team. I don't think of it as a stepping-in sort of position.

You had originally molded this character with Matt Olmstead, but now Rick Eid has taken over as showrunner so how has it been working with him to further develop that character?

Rick is awesome. He's very lovely. He knew about the character's backstory and all of that so we just talked about it again and just talked about her being unapologetic and her being the best cop she can be. So we've got some great things coming up in this season. We're going to get to know a little bit about Upton's background and how she became a detective, which is very exciting. We see her, at the beginning, it starts off that she's working hard not to prove herself but to assert that she is an asset to the team.

In season four, Upton and Voight went from really butting heads to working well together. What will see with her dynamic with Voight going forward?

We'll see what comes out of it. At this point, they get on. I think he respects her, he respects that she knows what she's talking about. She's dedicated, she's focused, she's smart and he respects that. So their dynamic is good.

I wasn't sure if her unapologetic nature would make them butt heads.

I don't know. We'll see what comes up. Antonio and Voight, there might be a little bit of tension there. But I don't know what's going to unfold as far as our dynamic goes at this stage.

Who else will we see Upton working with the most?

Upton's partnered up with Halstead, but we see her with everybody. They do different things together.

What can you say about that working relationship since he's coming off of having a longtime partner in Lindsay?

They're working it out and they're both kind of the same kind of cop sort of thing where they both want to do the right thing and they both want to be good so they have that in common.

Any romantic sparks?

No, that I know of. Who knows what will down the pipe?

For you personally, what hesitations did you have about moving to Chicago for the role and making that leap for season five?

I love change. I love exploring and going on as-I-call-them "adventures". So for me, I was thrilled. Thrilled to be in Chicago, I think it's a beautiful city. I love the people there. I love being a part of it. So I'm just excited. I ran right for it. I've been there getting to know the different areas and seeing where I'd like to set up shop. But it's been fun.

Obviously, the three Chicago show casts are very close. How has it been getting to know everyone off set?

They've all been lovely. The different casts from the other shows that I haven't met yet necessarily right away, if we're passing  because our trailers are in the same area  so if I walk past, they'll come out and introduce themselves. If somebody's having a party, everybody's invited which is beautiful. So it's been lovely getting to know everybody and truly, it's one of those situations where everybody does get on, everybody does hang out. For me, I was so grateful that everyone had such a warm welcome with me. We've been invited to things and have gone over for dinners. So it's been really lovely. No complaints. It's been a beautiful situation.

Have you heard of any potential crossovers for your character to appear on Chicago Fire or Chicago Med?

I haven't heard of any. That'd been fun, for sure. We'll see.

Chicago P.D. returns Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. on NBC.