The events of 2020, especially the police shootings and killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, made a lot of TV shows featuring cops sit up and take notice as to necessary changes for 2021.
Up until now, these shows have propagated the idea of the hero cop, but the mood of America has shifted, and these shows know they now need to reflect conversations happening in the real world.
One such show that has undertaken change is Chicago P.D., starring Jason Beghe as Det. Sgt. Hank Voight, head of the Intelligence Unit, who has always done whatever it took to bring criminals to justice. But in the new era, Voight has had his wings clipped – and while he still pushes the line – he now toes it.
Samantha Miller is the New Deputy Superintendent
Enter CPD’s new deputy superintendent, Samantha “Sam” Miller (Nicole Ari Parker), whose mission is simple: police reform. The two butt heads initially, but unlike the previous superintendent, Brian Kelton (John McGinley), Voight does have some respect for Miller.
“I think that he generally has respect for most people, but he needs her in order to survive and to succeed, so they’re forced into this [relationship],” Beghe tells Monsters & Critics on an NBC Zoom junket. “She’s quite good at what she does. If she wasn’t, I think it probably would be much more adversarial. They are growing to trust each other which is the only way that they can both succeed.”
Not only do the two members of CPD need each other to succeed, but they both want the same thing at the end of the day: a safe Chicago. It’s just that their approach to making that happen is different.
“They’re kind of intractable and set in their ways,” Beghe continues. “They know they are right, so what’s interesting is whether Voight changes 5 percent and she 95, or vice versa. We’re going to find out. We’ll see what happens.”
Of course, the solution to what’s happening in policing today is not that simple, and the writers of Chicago P.D. are aware of that, so, even though they brought in Miller to be the face of police reform, that doesn’t mean that every case is on the up and up.
Jay Halstead Learns Policing Isn’t Black and White
For example, in the “Equal Justice” episode this season, after a seemingly innocent young man is gunned down in the street, his grief-stricken father doesn’t trust the police to resolve it and is determined to do his own undercover work. As a result, Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) finds himself crossing an ethical line in pursuit of a killer, and having to live with the choice he makes for the rest of his life.
“We play cops that are people first, and people aren’t black and white,” Soffer says. “People live in the gray area, so everybody has a line, no matter what your moral compass is or your ethical code, there’s the line that if it was crossed you might do anything in any given situation. You might break the law if something happened to a family member or if someone had had your spouse at gunpoint.”
Soffer is normally the by-the-book cop, so this episode was an opportunity for his character to learn, and for him as an actor, it was one of his favorite episodes ever.
“It’s a growth moment for Halstead to understand who Voight is a little better, understand him as a cop better, and for Jay to understand himself as a cop better himself, and say, ‘In any given situation, maybe there isn’t a right or wrong. It is the given information I have in front of me and that’s what I have to work with.’”
Chicago PD airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET/9c on NBC.