Tonight, NBC is giving you quite a gift in the form of the three-part Chicago Justice crossover. You’ll start with Chicago Fire, and then get a Chicago PD episode that serves to further launch the series premiere of the latest edition in the One Chicago franchise.
So where does Chicago Med fit in to this? What was the process like getting the shows all together? To discuss the planning and execution of the big event, we spoke recently to Peter Jankowski, a man who is an executive producer on all four shows, and is also the President and Chief Operating Officer of Wolf Films to go along with it.
CarterMatt – The first thing I’m curious about is how all of the construction for this works scheduling-wise, because it wasn’t until relatively recently that the Chicago Justice premiere date was announced. How difficult was the process of working on this show, but not really knowing when it would begin or how it’d fit in the surrounding story?
Peter Jankowski – I think early on, Dick was thinking in terms of a crossover to launch Justice. We didn’t get into any real plans until right before Christmas when we were assigned a premiere date by NBC on Sunday night. It just made sense to use the other shows to draw eyeballs to Justice on Wednesday. NBC was very helpful in providing what I would call an ‘expanded budget’ and the time period to do it. Once we realized that we were going to have it, we then had to figure out what story to do. What would sustain over three hours and all four shows.
Was this a situation where you guys had already done a good bit of Justice, and were effectively having to go back in time to film this episode, which takes place before any of them?
Absolutely. I would go so far as to say that if we shot the crossover first, it’d be a much different crossover with Justice. We’re shooting it as the 13th episode, which is the last one ordered. Even with it on the air, it’s really clear that the actors have become comfortable with their roles and interpret them differently than they did when filming the first episode. The last episode of the crossover is terrific, and we had done all of the episodes up to that point. It actually worked out very, very well creatively for us.
In terms of the story, what was the process like of coming up with the right idea in terms of trying to integrate all four shows together over the course of three hours?
Dick basically said to everyone ‘I need a story between all of the four shows that can build across the half-hours.’ We got all of the writers / showrunners together in a room — Derek [Haas] and Michael [Brandt] from Fire, Matt Olmstead on PD, Andrew [Schneider] and Diane [Frolov] on Med, and Michael Chernuchin on Justice. Even though he ran Law & Order for us for many years, he’s the new guy for us in this world. They sat down and fleshed it out.
There isn’t an episode in the crossover that is specifically designated as Chicago Med. How is that show in particular going to work in there?
Interestingly, when we first came up with a three-hour block, Med was the middle hour. It just became clear as we were developing in the story, there was so much invested in the information that PD became the centerpiece of the middle. Med became the triage portion of the first hour. All of the characters are in it, and they’re all doing what they normally do. There are a lot of people getting screen time. It’s a really complicated dance.
I think we did it pretty well — I think everybody has their day in the sun.
I’ve heard it said a few times now that Med is the natural extension of Fire. Would you say that PD is going to be the natural crossover partner for Justice?
Yeah, I think so. Someone gets hurt on Fire, they go to Med. Then as you figure out [what happened], it goes to PD, and when you figure out who did it, they go over to Justice.
Over the course of the rest of the season, are we going to more of the dynamics and the preexisting relationships that are there between the members of Justice and some of the other characters in the franchise?
Absolutely. I don’t know what’s been said to you just yet, but the second episode and our first one in the [Sunday] timeslot is a major crossover in its own right. [There is a discussion of] police brutality, and a character is going to be under the microscope for something that they did. It interacts with PD in a really major way.
You mention that, and I know that the show will be a little all over the place when it comes to its schedule linking it with various shows. How important was it to do that right away to establish it in the world?
It’s a no-brainer. It’s One Chicago. Justice is the intellectual extension of that.
Are there any other crossovers or ideas now that the writers are starting to ponder over?
In terms of right now the answer is ‘no,’ but I wouldn’t rule it out. We’re just so focused on [promoting this one] right now that once we catch our breath, we’ll come up with something new.
What’s the sentiment like right now when it comes to the future of the franchise? Obviously Justice hasn’t premiered yet, but are you optimistic about renewals for everything else?
It’s all up to NBC. I would say that I think the shows are doing well, and more importantly I’d say the shows are really good right now. We hit a stride with all shows that are really gratifying. We’ve had some bumps in the past, but I think that all shows are going well right now. The benefit of doing Justice for 13 episodes before it goes out on the air is that you can move around the schedule in any way that you want.
Is there anything within the three-part crossover that you are specifically excited for people to see?
The scope of the fire is bigger than anything we’ve done before, and it’s darker than anything that we’ve done before. I think we also ended really well with Philip [Winchester] in Justice. It’s a really gratifying show for a guy like myself, who worked on Law & Order for many years. There’s nothing else like it on television.
Finally, is there a five-headed beast looming somewhere in the future in terms of their being a fifth Chicago show?
That’s for Dick Wolf. He’s got his eye on the horizon. I focus on what’s in front of me, and I got a hell of a lot in front of me right now (laughs).
For further coverage
If you do want to see some other interviews related to Chicago Justice and its premiere, head over here for more from Joelle Carter and Monica Barbaro!
What are you most excited to see on the three-part crossover tonight? Be sure to share in the attached comments! (Photo: NBC.)