Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Law & Order: SVU already pulled off a successful three-show crossover in November. So when the drums began beating for a second two-night, SVU showrunner Warren Leight knew he had to up the ante.
“I felt like if we were going to do it again, I wanted the stories and the plotting to be more integrated,” he tells THR. “It’s really a unified two-hour crossover. I don’t know how they’re going to list it on TV Guide but it really flows all as one piece.”
Kicking off on Tuesday’s new episode of Chicago Fire, the latest crossover centers on a charismatic doctor (The Walking Dead‘s Dallas Roberts) suspected of serial rape and murder in Chicago. Originally planned as a two-part episode of Law & Order: SVU, one of the biggest tricks was figuring out a way to bring NYPD to Chicago and vice-versa. “You have to figure out a reason why you’re crossing state lines,” says Leight. “Its fun when the Justice League of America gets together but we have to know why.”
SVU factors in when Benson (Mariska Hargitay) realizes a victim first discovered by the Firehouse 51 team is frighteningly similar to one she had investigated a decade earlier with then-partner Stabler (Christopher Meloni) in New York. “It was based a little bit on Ted Bundy, who’s a very charming serial killer in America’s past,” says Leight. “It took a long time before people realized it was the same guy and that there was a pattern. It was an interesting idea so we said maybe he had been active and then he went to another city.”
Adds Chicago PD star Jason Beghe: “It’s not just, let’s find this guy. Being the Ted Bundy nature of it, he’s very smart and we don’t really have him enough to prosecute him so we’re playing a cat and mouse [game].”
Once they’re in the same city, blending these two teams together will be difficult in and of itself. “The two police departments could not be more different in their procedures,” says Leight. “We get to court in New York in this story as well and that’s clearly different from what went down in the past with these things.”
That’s because, unlike SVU and the many other iterations of Law & Order, there is no district attorney on Chicago PD. As Leight says, the Intelligence Unit at PD is more focused on a “biblical sense of justice” than a legal one. “As far as I can tell, they don’t have a legal system,”says Leight with a laugh. “Sometimes Voight goes a little rogue and [Benson] basically tells him, ‘Watch yourself. I don’t want this case blown because of police misconduct.’ So we wrote to the fact that one department plays more loosely than the other when it comes to constitutional protections. Our guys get a little tense about that; a little more protective of the system.”
That even extends to Benson and Voight, who shared a friendly drink the last time she was in the Windy City. “There was a lot of warmth, maybe even could be construed as flirtation,” says Beghe. “Things get so serious and rough by the time we’re back in New York that we don’t have a lot of time for the lighter enjoyment of things. It’s a very distressing and personally wrenching experience particularly for the characters in Chicago.”
Behind the scenes, the process of crafting the crossover was not without it’s bumps either. “You learn a lot from the first one,” says Leight. “If we do another one some time, I’ll have learned a lot from this one. Its trickier than doing episode 90 for me of a show that I’ve been on because its episode two of the crossover and its learning what their team can do, what our team can do.”
But now the question stands of how long it will be before a possible four-show crossover comes to fruition if Chicago Med is picked up to series. “Yes, and the [rumored] resurrection of Law & Order the mothership, and I suppose there’s a way to do a five-show crossover,” says Leight, “but I think that will be my final act. (Laughs)”
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m., Chicago PD airs on Wednesday at 9 p.m. and Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. on NBC.