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Interview with Executive Producers Matt
Olmstead and Warren Leight of "Chicago Fire", "Chicago
PD" and "Law & Order: SVU" on NBC 11/7/14
This was an interesting call, and these guys were very
informative and friendly. I'm glad I got to participate!
NBC UNIVERSAL November 7, 2014 3:31 pm CT
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen thank you for standing by and
welcome to the Law and Order SVU Chicago Fire Chicago PD
Crossover. During the presentation, all participants will be
in a listen-only mode.
Afterwards, we will conduct a question and answer session.
At that time if you do have questions you may press the 1
followed by the 4 on your telephone.
If at any time during the conference you need to reach an
operator simply press Star 0. As a reminder this conference
is being recorded today, Friday, November 7, 2014.
It is now my pleasure to introduce Gary Mednick with the NBC
Publicity. Please go ahead, Gary.
Gary Mednick: Hey everybody thank you so much for joining
todayís call. We are really thrilled to have on the phone
with us this morning Chicago Fire and Chicago PD Executive
Producer, Matt Olmstead, along with Law and Order SVU
Executive Producer, Warren Leight.
As you probably know, Tuesday, November 11 and Wednesday,
November 12, these three series will united in the three
part crossover event. It will begin on Chicago Fire on
Tuesday concluding the following evening, Wednesday over two
hours on Law and Order SVU and Chicago PD.
We do want to allow as many folks to ask questions as
possible. So please keep to one, if you donít mind. And if
you have a follow-up request you can reenter in the queue.
So please welcome Matt and Warren and we now open it up for
Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you would like
to register for a question, please press the 1 followed by
the 4 on your telephone. You will hear a three-tone prompt
to acknowledge your request.
If your question has been answered and you would like to
withdraw please press the 1 and the 3. And if you are using
a speakerphone, please lift your handset before entering
And our first question from the line of Bridget Liszewski
from TV Junkies. Please go ahead ma'am.
Bridget Liszewski: Thank you to both Warren and Matt. My
question is for Matt. There seems to be a slow burn going on
between Halstead and Lindsey on Chicago PD. And given that
they are travelling to NYC together during the crossover,
what can we expect on the Lindstead front?
Matt Olmstead: Further slow burning, because as it has been
made clear to them by Voight, he doesnít tolerate in-house
romances, so they are holding true to that.
It is tested a little bit, as you might imagine, because
they are out of time, but there is no crossing the line yet
for those two.
Bridget Liszewski: Okay. Thank you.
Operator: Our next question is from the line of Mary Powers
from TV Geek Talk. Please go ahead.
Mary Powers: Hi, this question is actually for both Matt and
Warren and it is about the writing teams for the various
shows. For the crossover did the writing teams write for
their particular characters or did they write for the
episodes? And how much did the team end up collaborating and
Warren Leight: Well, this is Warren. Our episode goes first
so I will go first. It was - each showís team wrote each
showís episode. But there was - Matt and I probably - Matt
and I were on the phone in the initial plotting stages. One
of our writers, Ed Zuckerman who is the teleplay writer of
the SVU part of the crossover went out to LA for a few days.
And there is back and forth. It is very scary for a show
runners. Show runners are all about control. Very scary for
a show runner to let somebody else write their characterís
lines. So we checked in with each other.
If there was something I felt was a little wrong for one of
our characters in the PD part, I politely made my opinions
known and vice versa, I would say. Matt?
Matt Olmstead: Yes and we had a I guess a brief run through
last season when we were able to get some of the SVU actors
over to Chicago PD for a little crossover just kind of a
one-way crossover, I guess.
And the same thing. It was actually pretty exhilarating to
be able to kind of write for new characters. And so we wrote
for the Fin character and the Rollins character and of
course we sent the script to Warren to check out and that he
would know the characters better than we would.
So yes, there was - it was kind of a respectful checking -
vetting, I guess, of both material. And I could say that
when I read the SVU script of our characters - three of our
characters going over there - it sounded very true and there
really wasnít any notes.
So yes people were dealing - high level writers were dealing
with these storylines. So it came across pretty sharp.
Warren Leight: My only complaint was I didnít like Amaroís
wheelie suitcase in your episode.
Matt Olmstead We snuck that in. That was a late addition. I
Mary Powers: Well, thank you, guys. I appreciate it and I am
really looking forward to next week.
Matt Olmstead: Cool.
Operator: Our next question is from the line of Jenny Rarden
from TVisMyPacifier.com. Please go ahead.
Jenny Rarden: Hi guys.
Jenny Rarden: This is for both of you. Most of the time when
we see what, you know, the networks term the event
crossover, it is somewhat disappointing in that the
character from the visiting show isnít on very long. You
know, we see them for a line or two. And so we donít get,
you know, much interaction.
From what I have seen on the commercials this is much more
intensive with longer appearances, more interaction and
things like that. Is that the case?
Warren Leight: Yes. This - we have participated in
disappointing crossovers where there is just one scene. We
are guilty of that. But this is - it is so much the case
that it made production and scheduling very difficult.
We had Kelly, Danny and Mariska in Chicago for four days,
four days and two days. Which took them - which meant our
next episode was a legal one just to allow for scheduling.
And we had Halstead and Lindsey and Voight here for, I
guess, two days for Lindsey and four and four for Halstead.
So that this is much - I think this is less of a cheap
tawdry gimmick than is usually the case. Matt?
Matt Olmstead: Yes, absolutely. You know, last season in the
crossovers referring to we had a substantial amount of time
with Fin character and the Rollins character. There was a
bit of - to kind of light the fuse, so to speak, we had our
Lindsey character appear for one scene at the end of SVU the
prior hour which some people might have interpreted it as a
crossover. We didnít want to sell it that way obviously
because it really wasnít a true crossover.
But now the characters are really engrained in the
storytelling throughout the whole hour.
Jenny Rarden: Excellent. Well that is - go ahead.
Warren Leight: I also think one thing very interesting about
this is Lou Taylor Pucci is a guest star in both episodes
and links it to also in a very interesting way. Matt can
talk a little bit about who his character is.
But to see one guest occur heavily in both episodes is an
interesting way of linking them as well.
Jenny Rarden: Right. And it isnít just the Chicago Fire PD
and SVU. It is across all the networks, I think. CBS does it
with the NCIS where they tout it as a major crossover event
and it turns out to be very disappointing.
So I am really looking forward to this because it sounds
like you guys really put a lot of thought and effort into
it. So it is really appreciated.
Matt Olmstead: Confusingly this actually may be a major
Jenny Rarden: Thanks, guys.
Operator: And our next question is from the line of Brent
Furdyk with TV Week. Please go ahead.
Brent Furdyk: Hi, my question is about when you were writing
the episodes coming up with the storyline. How difficult was
it to keep all of the various cast members from the
different shows integrated into the storyline?
Warren Leight: Matt, you go first.
Matt Olmstead: Well I will back up a little bit. It wasnít -
the point of actually integrating the characters in the
storyline wasnít that difficult. Usually the most difficult
thing - and we have done a version of this when we did a
crossover team Chicago Fire and Chicago PD last season.
The most difficult part is actually locking down what the
air dates are going to be and the logistics of when the
actors can go over back and forth; which people in
production and they do it really well. And it requires a lot
of moving around and the actors are very accommodating.
But once that is locked down and we knew that the kind of
bones of what this crossover is going to be - because it
kicks off at the end of Chicago Fire. And when Dick Wolf
kind of laid out a version of what he was envisioning in
terms of what the kind of balancing ball would be,
You know, you could spend a lot of time on meetings and
follow-up meetings and logistics and trying to chart this
whole thing. And I think what Warren and I both did was
letís just jump in. I know what I am going to hand off to
him at the end of Fire.
And then he is telling me what he is going to hand off back
over to me in Chicago PD and letís just get some drafts in.
And then we can begin to fine tune and figure out the
logistics from there.
So once the story was done and logistics and we were kind of
mid-stream, writing towards those characters wasnít really
difficult any more so than it would be writing for the
characters that we have on our show as principal actors. It
was a pleasure to write for them.
Warren Leight: Yes, it is fun for the actors to act with
each other and they all come back refreshed. I found it - we
have a smaller squad than Mattís team does. We have only
really four detectives.
And so I didnít always - at first I had to figure oh my god
I had to grapple - we had to grapple with extra bodies in
our squad room which ones go where. It was a little - just a
few more pieces on the board.
And always when we are writing for actors this good you
donít want them to be in a three-page scene and just have
one line. So you try to spread - everybody has - you know,
it is sort of family hold back in a way. You want to make
sure everybody gets something.
Brent Furdyk: Thank you very much.
Man: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question is from the line of Courtney
Vaudreuil with OhSoGray.com. Please go ahead.
Courtney Vaudreuil: Hi. Can you talk a little bit about the
genesis for the crossover? Where the idea came from and
whether or not you were enthusiastic about it from the
beginning? Or whether or not you had any concerns about how
to make it work?
Matt Olmstead: Well, it came from Dick Wolf. He - Dick sees
the long game and he knows it will be good for all three
shows. I think my first reaction was anxiety. I know the
fans will like it. I just know how much extra work is
And as I said before, I get nervous letting go of my - there
is a certain amount of letting go which is exactly what show
runners donít do in terms of letting your characters go to
another stage and set and not having as much say in what
happens to them there as you are used to having.
And also legitimately I think there are two very different
PD and SVU are very different kinds of police shows and I
wasnít sure how the cross pollination would work.
Once we got into it as is usually the case. Anxiety mounts
until you actually have to do the work and then there was a
such a burst of energy from these guys coming here and Beghe
and then Sophia and Jesse coming here. It seemed more
natural once shooting began. But I understood the reasons
for doing it but I had anxiety going into it was how I was
about it. Matt?
Matt Olmstead: I believe as the great Sammy David Jr. who
said that if you donít have butterflies before you go on
stage, then you should get out of the business.
And you can get into a routine and it is nice to get into a
groove and a rhythm. And then you are thrown a curve ball
like this and initially absolutely you are like this is
going to require a lot and there is going to be things we
have to take on and unexpected stuff and there are
But in creative endeavors often times that is when you do
your best work because you are kind of pushed outside your
comfort zone. So yes same thing. I got the butterflies. But
then I also kind of recognized the fact that this might be a
good thing. And having seen the three episodes crossover I
am glad we did it for sure.
Courtney Vaudreuil: Thank you both. I am looking forward to
Matt Olmstead: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question is from the line of Suzanne
Lanoue from The TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.
Suzanne Lanoue: Hi, I was wondering is it difficult to
balance writing when you have - you know, you have viewers
who may not be watching all three parts of the crossover, or
maybe they are used to watching one show and not the other
two? To balance it so you introduce these characters but
without boring your regular audience, that kind of thing?
Warren Leight: Yes I mean that is one of your big fears is -
each episode it is still - in the Dick Wolf universe at the
end of the day each episode has to standalone and yet link
to the one - in my case the one before and the one after.
They have to link.
So that is a particular challenge and you want to make sure
- you donít want to have at the beginning of SVU a three
minute previously on Chicago Fire. You want that to be as
short and clear as possible.
But it is part of the challenge of these things is to make
sure that our episode is self-sufficient as a standalone yet
the baton passes and there is a lot of - there are enough
unresolved parts to get - allow PD to get another hour out
So I found out - that kind of challenge I enjoy. That is an
interesting writing challenge. But how much to reveal when
and how to stage the investigation and the information over
One good thing that we have I think is our episode goes
right into PD. So presumably people will stay with it, one
hopes. And that it is good that they are on the same night
and not separated by two or three days.
Our hope is that the audience that night comes in and stays
for both hours and that we have made it compelling enough
for them to do that.
Suzanne Lanoue: Thank you.
Operator: Our next question is from the line of Vlada Gelman,
Staying In TV Blog. Please go ahead.
Vlada Gelman: Hi guys. Thanks so much for taking time off to
Man: Thank you.
Man: Sure thanks.
Vlada Gelman: It has been (unintelligible) and
(unintelligible) interaction. So what is that like when they
Warren Leight: They crossed at the end of the Chicago Fire,
the first hour on Tuesday. And it is an amicable cross
because as we have always designed for those two characters
they are brought together in a somewhat accelerated fashion
because they are both cut from the same cloth.
And no expectations and no drama and they are kind of
brought together and it is like the most while it is here
and when it is not, it is not. Who knows if it could be
rekindled down the road? So it is not like when
(unintelligible) crosses he is rolling his eyes like oh
Christ I have to deal with my ex-girlfriend.
She is perfectly agreeable and good seeing you and she has
got her own thing going on. So it is an interesting cross,
but it is not one that is fraught with disappointment and
betrayal and like that because who knows down the line if
they are going to pick it back up again.
Vlada Gelman: Great. Thank you.
Warren Leight: Thank you.
Operator: Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you would
like to register for a question you may press the 1 followed
by the 4.
Our next question is from the line of Stephanie Piche from
MingleMediaTV.com. Please go ahead.
Stephanie Piche: Thanks. Hi guys. I have to tell you that if
my father was still alive, he would put your shows above
NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues, hands down.
Warren Leight: Oh, high praise. High praise.
Stephanie Piche: He was on the job for 25 years in Miami,
so, you know. Living in that household growing up, you know,
I have a great appreciation for your shows, too. Great. I
Man: Thank you.
Stephanie Piche: My question for you because of the nature
of keeping your audience engaged and, you know, they are
watching whenever. You know, like On Demand or, you know,
Are there a lot of - because there a lot of times using
Internet such as childproof pornography. How do you decide
how much tech police work talk do you use in an episode?
What is your gauge?
Warren Leight: Iím sorry, how muchÖ
Stephanie Piche: That can be it's own episode; right?
Warren Leight: How much tactfully - I didnít hear the rest.
It dropped out there.
Stephanie Piche: Oh Iím sorry. How much of the tech talk do
you decide to put in?
Warren Leight: Oh, I see. Tech talk. I thought you were
referring to - yes, yes tech talk is to me is really a
rabbit hole and I donít like going down it for very long.
We have done, you know, you get into - the truth is, the
stuff is encrypted and it is on the dark net and there are
many layers to the dark net and you can start - and we have
had experts come in and talk to our group about it.
And the minute you start putting those words in the mouths
of normal people, it is just - I would rather - I will do
anything I can to avoid a large amount of tech talk.
I basically say encrypted, bit coin - I put out some words
and I think the audience understands it is not like ordering
a pizza from on one of those internet services.
But the more tech talk we do, the less - our show and PD
these are emotionally driven shows and tech talk is tech
talk. I havenít had a lot of fun with heavy exposition in
Matt, have you found - if you found a way, let me know now.
Matt Olmstead: No it is exactly how I have approached it
also. You want to get enough in there that kind of new
information or new lingo the audience hasnít heard. Because
after a while the audience and we as writers grow tired of -
we couldnít lift any prints off the shell casing or cameras
couldnít pick up that.
It is the same kind of two or three things you always bring
up. So you have to find some fresh, new technology. But then
it is a rabbit hole because there is that tipping point
where you donít want to get into too much of it because your
eyes to kind of roll in the back of your head.
So you just want to kind of get in and out when it comes to
that stuff, in my opinion.
Warren Leight: Zoom in, enhance.
Stephanie Piche: Agreed. And I think it is perfect because I
know a lot of people, even friends of mine just, you know,
what do they mean by that? You are like, shut up, listen.
Matt Olmstead: Yes right.
Warren Leight: And I always think we have used an acronym a
hundred times like we have our episode begins at the
National Center for Exploited and Missing Children, which is
NCEMC and it is very important branch of - they do very
important work and we say NCEMC a hundred times.
And I will be at home watching with friends or my wife and
they will go wait whatís NCEMC again? What is (taru). Even
the acronyms that we think by now watchers of our show know
- acronyms are - it is death by a thousand initials. It is
Stephanie Piche: Okay. Thank you.
Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Lori
Rackl from Sun Times. Please go ahead.
Lori Rackl: Hi guys, thanks for doing the call. Question
about some of the previews have hinted that there might be
some fireworks between Voight and Benson. I canít talk to
good or bad fireworks. What can you tell us about what their
interaction is going to be?
Warren Leight: You know, it was fine when they were in New
Matt Olmstead: And they went to shit in Chicago, didnít it?
Oh, boy. What are you going to do?
Warren Leight: Okay. Well, it depends on what kind of
fireworks you mean. There are two kinds of fireworks, I
think, that we could be talking about here. They have two
very different approaches to interrogation; right?
The two shows have different approaches. The police
procedure and I think we all know Voight can be a little
more physical and Olivia is in general a more empathic
detective. And that is two different schools of how you work
And those kind of fireworks take place in both episodes. And
I think they are among the most fun scenes in both PD and
And then the question is at the end of the day, at the end
of the case do these two probably have more in common than
any of the other people in their squadron?
What did you think of that Matt?
Matt Olmstead: I totally agree. It is interesting talking to
Jason Beghe about it because the chemistry and the dynamic
of the two characters in both shows was reinforced how the
two actresses felt by each other which is in terms of Voight
he rolls over most people. There are not a lot of people who
can go toe to toe with him.
So here comes this equal whom he respects. Is formidable. He
knows he canít run a game on her. And even though they have
different policing styles he - there is a mutual respect.
They are both coming from the same place. They both want to
protect their cities so they may have different tactics
going about it.
They do lock horns. And they do so equally but then when it
is over it is over. But there is a real - in the PD side of
it when the Benson character shows up for the first time and
in the midst of a pretty grim investigation with grim
details. When Voight sees her with a smile on his face he is
happy to see here.
Because there is this immediate chemistry, immediate kind of
shared affection between two very similar characters.
Ironically, though they may have different backgrounds and
different approaches to it.
And then when they have their kind of private moment in the
episode on PD what is funny is that there was a point when I
was talking to Jason he was asking about is Voight ever
going to have a love interest?
I said, I donít know. I mean we have always portrayed that
he has done some dirty stuff. He has one true love which is
his wife who is no longer in his life but that was it and he
has become married to the job.
I said but you know, there is a scene coming up with Mariska
and he said, donít say another word. I know exactly how to
play it. I was like okay, I will let you do your actor
thing. I will back off from here.
So who knows what else in the characterís mind he feels
about the Benson character. But there is a real bond right
away between those two characters.
Warren Leight: And I think also as actors they are two
actors that take their respective shows very, very
seriously. A lot of times the number ones on the
(unintelligible) should get a little complacent or whatever.
These guys care enormously about their show. Care enormously
about every scene they are in.
And so the characters have a lot in common and the actors at
the end of the day have a lot in common. So there is nice
Stephanie Piche: Great.
Operator: And our last question will from the line of
Suzanne Lanoue from TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.
Suzanne Lanoue: Hi itís me again. I was going to ask you
about this other crossover. Some of your actors were
recently on This Week with John Oliver?? Doing a little
comedy bit. Were you involved with that at all?
Warren Leight: We knew about it. Actually we were trying to
- they had asked for Mariska and we just couldnít schedule
it. But John Oliver even though he is a fun or is a national
treasure. I thought that was a brilliant piece that he did.
Suzanne Lanoue: Oh it was hilarious.
Warren Leight: Not just - but honestly I think he is doing
one of the best news shows on and it is funny. But he was
raising very serious issues and any time our characters - I
am happy to see our guys go out and do stuff like that
especially in service of something that is well written and
well thought out and about a serious issue.
I donít know if you saw it Matt. It was about government
confiscation without trial. He threw a bunch of Law and
Order guys in some of whomÖ
Suzanne Lanoue: Jason was on it too?
Warren Leight: Sorry?
Suzanne Lanoue: I think Jason from Chicago PD.
Matt Olmstead: Oh yes was he?
Warren Leight: Yes so he - I would much rather see that
than, you know, well I am not going to mention shows that
also rip us off.
Suzanne Lanoue: Well thank you guys.
Warren Leight: That would be impolite of me.
Matt Olmstead: There you go.
Operator: And Gary I will turn the call back to you for your
Gary Mednick: All right thanks so much. Matt, Warren thank
you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to
participate in todayís call.
If anyone has any follow up questions or needs additional
information please feel free to reach out to me and the rest
of the publicity team and we will do our best to get you
what you need.
If anybody wants a transcript please reach out to Marsha
Rickett and she can get you one within the next 48 hours.
Again thank you all for joining us. Have a great rest of
your day and weekend.
Warren Leight: All right. Thanks very much.
Matt Olmstead: Thank you guys.
Gary Mednick: Thank you.
Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude the
conference call for today. We thank you all for your
participation. Have a great weekend everyone.
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