‘Chicago P.D.’ Boss on Voight & Upton’s Dilemma, Plus Will Jefferson White Be Back?
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Chicago P.D. Season 10 Episode 9, “Proof of Burden.”]
Intelligence spends “Proof of Burden” trying to find what they need to officially take down sex trafficker Sean O’Neal (Jefferson White). Meanwhile, Voight needs to get Chief O’Neal (Michael Gaston) to accept the truth about his son. Just as they’re about to arrest Sean, however, they hear gunshots from inside the chief’s home. Once inside, they find both father and son on the floor — but Sean’s alive! It takes Upton a few moments longer than Voight to give him aid, then at the hospital, the doctor tells them they saved his life.
Showrunner Gwen Sigan delves into that decision and teases what’s ahead.
Talk about Upton’s reluctance to step in to help and then how she and Voight feel after hearing Sean is alive at the end. His father isn’t, but Sean is alive.
Gwen Sigan: We loved the idea that at the end of the day, we would save the monster and that you’d make the decision in that dilemma of, do you let nature take its course or do you step in and save someone that you could save right now? I think at that moment, they made the right moral decision for themselves and their ethical decision, but the fallout is not necessarily right. Now, this man is still alive, and he’s exactly who he was before this happened. He says to them, “You can’t fix me. I won’t change.” And he won’t. And so we are going to see him come back. Sean O’Neal will be back this season. It’s not over yet.
But to us as the writers, it was so important to show, for our characters’ arcs, that they both had different reactions to that moment of, do we save him? To me, a few seasons ago, Voight probably wouldn’t have. I don’t think Hailey would have. But at this moment, Voight moves, I think, predominantly in my mind because Hailey’s not moving, and he’s doing it for her. He realizes you can’t handle this, and you shouldn’t handle this. That’s not necessarily something we’ve seen Voight do much. And so it was in our minds echoing what the chief said, which is, “you’re responsible for the people you love in your life.” I think he knows he’s responsible for her. And to me, if Hailey had two minutes longer, she would’ve moved. She would’ve saved him.
But the instinctual thing [came] after everything she’s seen with this man and the obsession that she’s had with him and this obsession to get him. She sat in so many rooms and heard these young women’s stories, and these children tell her these crimes he’s committed and heard it from his own mouth that he’s never gonna change and that he’s justified it in his head, which is like the scariest kind of criminal to me, is one that thinks they’re doing good. So I think it was an instinctual thing of, I’m not gonna save this person, but if we had lived a little longer, she might have made a different decision, which we do see. She eventually does jump in and help.
When is Sean coming back? Will you pick up this case in the winter premiere or later on?
No, it’s gonna be later down the line. It will be Episode 12. We’ll see Jefferson White back again for another episode with Tracy.
I am so worried about Upton because she has not been doing well since Jay (Jesse Lee Soffer) left. One of the lines that stuck out to me was Sean’s, “do you think this might stop the pain?” And so now, if she doesn’t have this case to focus on, what does that do to her?
It was always one of the most interesting parts to us was once the distraction is gone, you have to go back home, and what is that gonna do to her? We’ll see the fallout of that and see the reality that she’s pushed away everything, and she’s had this great distraction and this thing she could just throw herself into. But now it’s gone, and the reality of her situation has not changed. Her husband, her partner, is gone. She does not know if he’s coming back, and she’s still married to him, and she’s living in the house that they got together. It’s just a hard place to be in. So she’s gonna have to look at it now; she’s going to have to deal with it and find out what it means for her that he’s not here.
[Laughs] Complicated. It’s always my answer. Complicated. I think they’re in a great place, honestly. I think they have this unique thing that is so messy and weird but also just kind of works for them. They’ve been living together since Episode 2 and co-parenting very well. There’s certainly a lot of fallout after Episode 8. That story continues for Burgess of what she’s been struggling with mentally, some things coming back up, some unprocessed trauma coming back up. We will see Ruzek be there for her in a very real way and how that strengthens her relationship, and I think will give her some revelations of things that she might have been pushing away for certain reasons. We’ll kind of delve into the psychology behind that, and it might make her see Ruzek a bit differently than she’s been seeing him the past couple of seasons.
Last time we talked, you said there might be some promotions this year, and it’s about finding the right time and the right story for each character. So how is it looking?
We continuously talk about it in the room. I do think there will be this year. We’re just trying to figure out the right story. We have all these characters that are still patrol officers, and it’s just a question of how we do it. When do we do it? Who do we do it with? What’s the most interesting version of it? It’s still up in the air, but yes, they certainly deserve the responsibility. They’ve all been very good patrol officers for a long time.
Also, we see them doing the same jobs as the detectives.
Exactly. They all kind of take on the same responsibility in the unit, for sure.
What else is coming up? Any new multi-episode cases?
There will be, yes. We have a new multi-episode case coming up in Episode 12. You’ll meet some new characters. And then we also have some great standalone episodes for each of our characters coming up.
Our first one back is going to be a really Torres-centered episode. It’s his second episode of the season, and we get to see him in a whole new light and get to know him this time through policing. Last episode, we really got to go home with him and meet his mom and meet his community and his friends. This time we’ll see who he is within the police force and how he feels about policing, and just all of the very gray areas that we’re gonna get into this episode and dilemmas for him. So that’s a great one. Episode 11, we’ve got a great Atwater [LaRoyce Hawkins] episode that I’m very excited about. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years. We finally found a way to do it. So I’m excited to see that one.
Is there anything you can say specifically about that Atwater episode?
Somebody from his life comes back.
Is there anything you can say about casting for that multi-episode case or character-wise?
We’ll meet a new family that we’re gonna get to know very well throughout the rest of the season, and they aren’t necessarily what they seem.
Chicago P.D., Winter Premiere, Wednesday, January 4, 10/9c, NBC