A few years ago, NBC’s new show, Chicago Fire, set up shop, filming the entire first season right here in our city. One season later, a sister series—Chicago P.D.—was added into the mix. This month, we’ll see the premiere of the third show in the franchise, Chicago Med, and there’s no denying it: Dick Wolf’s series of Chicago-based dramas is a bonafide hit.
This week, NBC announced that it is renewing both Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. for the 2016-17 season. That same day, we stopped by Pilsen’s Cinespace Film Studios for a day of special effects demonstrations, set tours, and catching up with the actors and producers behind this growing small screen universe. Here's what we learned.
“I love Chicago… it’s one of our great American cities. The people [who] live here love their town, and it’s really fun to be in a city and be representing a city on TV that takes such pride in itself.” —Patrick Flueger, who plays Detective Adam Ruzek on Chicago P.D.
“I’ve gotten to have a lot of… 'pinch me' experiences here in the city. So thank you, Chicago. You're beautiful.” —Taylor Kinney, who plays Kelly Severide on Chicago Fire
“I don't know any other city that would be as accommodating or so generous with its backdrop, than Chicago has been to this entire series." —Colin Donnell, who plays Dr. Connor Rhodes on Chicago Med
“There’s a beautiful brutality to Chicago that is very different than New York City… There [are] just different elements and I love both cities, [but] I have grown to really love Chicago probably more." —David Eigenberg, who plays Christopher Herrmann on Chicago Fire, and grew up primarily in the Chicagoland area
“You get good at layering. You spend some money on it, too. You go buy that Canada Goose jacket no matter how much it costs, because you don’t wanna die.” —Jesse Lee Soffer, who plays Detective Jay Halstead on Chicago P.D.
“The people here are really lovely. There’s a great sense of community, They love their city, they're very passionate about their city, and that’s really nice to be around.” —Jesse Spencer, who plays Matthew Casey on Chicago Fire
“It’s very patriotic here. It’s very loyal in Chicago, and I like that.” —Monica Raymund, who plays Gabriela Dawson on Chicago Fire
“I always tell everyone it’s not the ‘where’ but the ‘who,’ and the people of Chicago… are so warm, so inviting. You fall in love with them [and] you fall in love with the city, no matter how hard the winters might be.” —Brian Tee, who plays Dr. Ethan Choi on Chicago Med
“Chicago, first of all, is a personality. I’ve always said Chicago is the lead of the show, so you're acting with this incredible presence and you can't find it anywhere else but Chicago.” —Jason Beghe, who plays Detective Hank Voight on Chicago P.D.
“I think it’s a tremendous backdrop for a show about working-class people because it’s such a working-class city. I think it's incredible." —Joe Minoso, who plays Joe Cruz on Chicago Fire
“You can’t pay people to run into burning buildings—it’s that simple. They're doing it for another reason… and I thought that it would be completely credible in Chicago. It is the heart of the country; you can express Midwestern values on screen without being mocked or vilified about it.” —Dick Wolf, legendary creator of the shows, as well as Law & Order
“One [reason it works] is the look of Chicago—to me Chicago doesn’t look like anyplace else. I also think that you can't get more extreme, sicker, weirder stories than Chicago politics in particular, so to have some of the outrageousness particularly that happens on P.D., you go, ‘Well, it’s Chicago—I kind of buy it.’ I also think our talent pool here is second to none.” —Amy Morton, Oak Park native, who plays Sargent Truty Platt on Chicago P.D.
“I feel like it's happening. This lot feels busier than the Universal lot sometimes.” —Derek Haas, executive producer of Chicago Fire
“It’s a real boom for Chicago. All of the people that I know who went to L.A. are just cursing themselves [because] all this work is here.” —Christian Stolte, who plays Mouch on Chicago Fire
“I’m telling all my friends who are just graduating college to move to Chicago.” —Yuri Sardarov, who plays Otis on Chicago Fire
“I actually feel that Chicago is a fantastic incubator for young actors. There’s a tremendous theater scene in this city and it is very accessible. I think that in general the actors in this city are more of a cheerleader to one another than they are combative to one another… Barring the cold, I think Chicago is the best city in the country... I was born and raised in New York and I have openly said I think this is a better city.” —Joe Minoso
“For a long time I think the actors in Chicago almost felt neglected from the powers that be, like L.A. and New York. So now bringing shows like this to Chicago and being able to represent the Chicago actors, I think it's a... possibility that I’m thankful for. I think it gives the Chicago actors hope, more than anything, that they can be a part of something as extravagant as this world that Dick Wolf created.” —LaRoyce Hawkins, who plays Detective Kevin Atwater on Chicago P.D.
“There’s a place called Headquarters [Beercade]—that’s one of my favorite places in town. Free video games from the '80s and the '90s, and draft beer on tap!” —Patrick Flueger
“[I love] The Purple Pig!” —Dora Madison, who plays paramedic Jessica ‘Chili’ Chilton on Chicago Fire
“[I love going to] Blackhawks games. Sports here are great… Chicago [loves] their sports.” —Jesse Spencer
“The theater scene here is so rich, [and] we go to the Art Institute [of Chicago], we go to museums, [and] hit the theater scene up. It’s just such a cool city.” —Monica Raymund
“Little Goat on Randolph. I love it. I always say that I’m gonna branch out and try something else on the menu, because I know it's all amazing, but that chickpea [“The Chickpea” salad] is so good. Every time I go in there I have such goals, and it gets me every time." —Kara Killmer, who plays paramedic Sylvie Brett on Chicago Fire
“I'm super excited to get over to the Steppenwolf and see something. [And the] Looking Glass, Chicago Shakes; all of them. [For eating], so far, my wife and I have been to Girl and the Goat. We take our dogs over to Green Street Meats every once in a while when the picnic tables are out. [And] she took me to The Office for my birthday, underneath The Aviary.” —Colin Donnell
“For brunch, Carriage House in Wicker Park is out of this world—they have probably the best homemade biscuit you'll ever have. For dinner, La Sirena Clandestina. It’s this awesome little Spanish place on Fulton Market—real romantic. I took my girlfriend of now two years there on our second date. I think that’s where I landed her, to be honest with you.” —Joe Minoso
“I still love Au Cheval. That’s the best burger I’ve ever had in my life.” —Jesse Lee Soffer
“There’s a couple of amazing parks out here. I think Millennium Park is like the Central Park of Chicago, and it’s amazing. And then you can get the elegance of Lincoln Park as well, and the... zoos and the lake. And that’s all kind of in the heart of the city, which is amazing to me. L.A. is so vast and so spread out. Though I love it as a city, we don’t have that kind of central environment that Chicago does.” —Brian Tee
“We do what we can to be as accurate as we can in depicting what these men and women do. But it’s a drama and there’s always going to have to be that element to the show, so it’s kind a give and take. But, for the most part, I think we do right by them.” —Joe Minoso
“We have [district attorneys] coming in, we have judges coming in, [and] we have coppers coming in, so everything that you see is at least based—and not even that loosely—on something that really happened to the real police; a case that happened in the city,” —Patrick Fleuger
“We are creating as realistic scenarios as we possibly can without actually opening up somebody's chest… because we can't do that." —Colin Donnell
“Chicago is an academic powerhouse for medicine, so we have really big britches to fill. It's also a social and political animal, as everyone knows, so the show tries to address a lot of all these things that are going on around us… and we try to make it all look legit.” —Andrew Dennis, a trauma surgeon at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital and the medical advisor for Chicago Med
“We do a lot of shadowing at [John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital] with Dr. Dennis, and what [the show] looks like is very real [compared] to what we've actually seen on an operating table. It's phenomenal.” —Nick Gehlfuss, who plays Dr. Will Halstead on Chicago Med
“[There’s] no greater training you can have than actually following [real doctors], watching them and shadowing them in their real-life element." —Oliver Platt, who plays Dr. Daniel Charles on Chicago Med
“We spent about two weeks in the [firefighting] academy before we went anywhere near a camera.” —Eamonn Walker
“Steve Chikerotis [retired Chicago firefighter and technical advisor for Chicago Fire], not to mention a lot of his team, are always on set making sure we're doing things the right way, making sure it’s official and it looks real, and we try the best. We really do put a lot of stock into making it realistic.” —Yuri Sardarov
“Every copper that you see in uniform [on the show is] actually off-duty or retired. Those are their uniforms that they bring in; that’s not wardrobe.” —Patrick Flueger
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHY BY ELIZABETH MORRIS