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By Suzanne

Warren LeightMatt Olmstead

Interview with Warren Leight and Matt Olmstead of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Chicago PD," and "Chicago Fire" on NBC 4/22/15

We had this same call last year about the cross-over they did then. I don't watch these shows any more, so it was hard to think up a question. I used to watch SVU all the time. They gave really good answers to my questions!

NBC UNIVERSAL
Moderator: Gary Mednick
April 22, 2015
1:00 pm CT

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. And welcome to the Three Episode Crossover press and media call.

During the presentation all participants will be in a listen only mode, and afterwards weíll conduct a question and answer session. At that time if you have a question, please press the 1 followed by the 4 on your telephone.

As a reminder this conference is being recorded today Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

And I would now like to turn the conference over to Gary Mednick with NBC. Please go ahead.

Gary Mednick: Hey everybody. This is Gary from NBC Publicity. And weíre really thrilled to have on the phone with us this morning Chicago Fire and Chicago PD Executive Producer Matt Olmstead, and Law and Order SVU Executive Producer Warren Leight.

As you know, each of these series will be united in a three part special crossover that stretches from Chicago to New York, and begins on Chicago Fire next Tuesday, April 28 and concludes the following evening, Wednesday, April 29 on Law and Order SVU and Chicago PD.

So please welcome Matt and Warren. Weíll now open it up for your questions. If you can start - for starters you can ask a question and a follow up. So Iíll open it up.

Operator: Perfect. Once again ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to register for a question please press 1 4 on your telephone.

And our first comes from the line of Stephanie Piche with mangomediatv.com. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Stephanie Piche: Thank you. Hey Matt, I just have one thing to say - that kiss last night - but now on to my question. What did you guys - this is for both of you. What did you learn about working together in the last crossover event? And what inspired this story line?

Warren Leight: This is Warren here. Iíll take a...

Stephanie Piche: Hi Warren.

Warren Leight: Hi Stephanie. I think one of the things we learned is we wanted to make it more of a - this is actually in the sense of the third one, weíve had glancing blows at these before. We wanted to make it more of an integrated crossover. You know thereís always the challenge of two separate shows.

And I think Matt and I both liked the idea of this is - that Wednesday night is a two hour event, even to the point where now weíre starting in Chicago at 9 and going to SVU at 10, but itís all of a piece. So we wanted to make sure we had a story that could legitimately sustain over three episodes, and also that made sense geographically so that you didnít have the crime starting with Chicago Fire, then going to New York at 9 oíclock, then going back to Chicago at 10. Thatís a little bit of a hopscotch for a criminal.

So we - those were things we were thinking of. And then here at SVU weíve been kicking an idea around for a long time about a serial rapist/murderer who in the mode of a Ted Bundy kind of guy - incredibly charming, incredibly manipulative, able to get away with these crimes for a very, very long time across multiple jurisdictions.

And when the idea of a crossover came up, Dick suggested I donate that idea to the crossover. It was going to be a two parter for us. And then it became instead I think a good template - it became a - we knew we had enough for two episodes whether they were two SVU episodes or as it turned out, this crossover.

But we knew that that guyís spree, capture, you know, escape and that kind of thing, that there was enough with a guy like that to merit the - a task force of both of these squads.

Stephanie Piche: Wow, okay. Matt, anything on your side?

Matt Olmstead: Yes. In terms of logistics I think that we both learned from the first one which we felt was successful that it would be good to kind of get in the same room. And so we both - Warren and I - kind of cleared our schedules and I came up to New York. And we sat in the room for two days, which was really beneficial.

I could give a little more background on certain characters, as could he. And we just had a concentrated two days to really break this. And when I left we really had a handle on it as opposed to, you know, separate coasts and you put a message in a bottle and send it down the river and wait for one to come back. It was a...

Warren Leight: Itís tricky.

((Crosstalk))

Warren Leight: The two shows are written 3000 miles apart. So I really was grateful to Matt for coming to New York because itís a lot easier in the room. And it does - itís like Iím here for two days. Letís do this. It really works I think. And I didnít have to go there so it was great.

Stephanie Piche: Great. Oh super - thank you so much. And Matt, thanks for that kiss last night.

Warren Leight: I assume this is a story reference.

Matt Olmstead: Who knows?

Stephanie Piche: Yes, it is.

Warren Leight: Yes, okay. I saw it. It was very good. I liked it - very nice episode last night.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you.

Stephanie Piche: Awesome, thanks.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you.

Operator: And as a reminder, to register for a question, thatís 1 4 on your telephone.

And our next question comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with The TV Megasite. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Suzanne Lanoue: Good morning. I was wondering - Iím not that familiar with the way real life police detectives work. Iíve watched a lot of them on TV. And so Iím saying this not as a criticism but as an honest question. Do police detectives in different cities so far apart as New York and Chicago travel that much between them? Does it happen that often?

Warren Leight: Warren again here. You know it will happen more on a Dick Wolf series than it might in real life. But, you know, itís - but in truth what often happens is youíll get whatís called a joint task force. And itís increasingly used because criminals do cross borders.

In the real life story of Ted Bundy it was 15 years into his spree before police chiefs from four different states got together - of different cities in four different states - and realized they were dealing with the same guy. And thatís a long time ago.

Now thereís much more of an effort to profile, and people are entered in national (Dakota)ís database and thereís much more of an effort. Since criminals can cross borders, itís imperative that police departments be able to work together. And itís never easy for them, you know?

We saw that obviously - you see that on the federal level when they try to put together these terrorism task forces. Thereís always inherent problems when people with two different cultures or three different cultures try to work together on a case.

So we - yes, I donít know. It might be odd that every four months New York and Chicago do a task force. That may be more of a network convention I suppose. But they do get together, and they do have different ways of going about things which we try to write toward actually - we enjoy writing toward.

Matt Olmstead: Yes. If Beverly Hills Cop taught us nothing else, itís when personally motivated you can travel and hopefully cooperate with the hometown officers. Yes, so it does happen, and in our case I think it works really well.

Suzanne Lanoue: Right. And sort of a follow up, what - why do you think that so many successful TV cop shows take place more in New York and Chicago than other cities? I mean thereís a lot of crime in, you know, Detroit and Dallas and other cities - LA.

Warren Leight: Tax breaks?

Matt Olmstead: Yes, no kidding. I was on - I was lucky enough to be on NYPD Blue for a long time. And when exploring cop shows in other cities, you realize that the mere fact that itís so concentrated in New York and you can get uptown and downtown in different neighborhoods very quickly, as opposed to, you know, LA cop shows, thereís a lot of driving time. Thereís a lot of - itís so spread out. So just the mere concentration of people I think is one of the benefits.

Suzanne Lanoue: Interesting.

Warren Leight: I mean I think some of it has to do with - honestly some of it has to do with New York and Chicago encourage production in various ways now. So some of it is as simple as TV production goes to the friendliest places to shoot.

But we love shooting in New York. We get a real - we can turn a corner and it looks like weíre in another part of the city entirely. We like the life on the streets and the vitality. I know when they tried Law and Order LA, it was hard to legitimately say a witness on the street saw this because thereís so seldom really are passersby.

A lot of it - the nature of crime I guess is a little different in a spread out city thatís more of a sprawl - a suburban sprawl. And, you know, thereís a lot of - the population here is huge. But itís - weíre densely populated. So we have the ability to have witnesses that see things and more typical characters I guess - more interesting characters - a wider range of ethnicities and class that can clash with each other.

Anyway for me, also I grew up here so I like to write what I know.

Suzanne Lanoue: Well, thanks very much.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Bridget Liszewski with TV Junkies. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Bridget Liszewski: Yes. One member of intelligence is said to be lost during the crossover, and itís going to have impact on Erin Lindsay. I was wondering if you could preview how that loss will affect Lindsay for the rest of the season on Chicago PD and maybe what role Halstead will have in helping her get through the tough times.

Matt Olmstead: Yes. Itís very impactful and weíve established the back story of that character is someone who came from the other side of the tracks. And Voight found her, gave her his card, kind of reclaimed her. She moved in, finished high school with him and his then wife. And she owes this great debt to Voight, but she came from the neighborhood so to speak and has put it all behind her.

So when this stuff happens, it starts to send her back over to the other side of the tracks, and which is the first time weíve seen that. And sheís from there. Sheís comfortable there. And it starts to have a crisis of conscious in terms of do I belong here? Is it worth it in terms of just kind of distancing yourself from grief and pain? And to be around people that she grew up with who are more than welcome just to let her, you know, throw a few back and just kind of be reabsorbed back into that lifestyle.

So itís a - she starts to go down a path of in her mind trying to heal herself, but also just kind of distance herself from the pain that becomes one of our cliff hangers for the season really is the proverbial fork in the road for her in terms of continuing to be a cop or to hang it up and get the party started again.

Bridget Liszewski: And in (unintelligible) factor in at all to her downward spiral? In what capacity will he be there for her?

Matt Olmstead: Yes, you know, heís there for her, counsels her. But since he knows her so well, heís not going to nag her because he knows that sheís going to do her own thing. Sheís going to make her own choices and sheís not going to listen to advice.

Plus he sees around him other people trying to give her some firm life advice, and itís not working. So he doesnít need to be an additional kind of nagging spouse to her. So it breaks his heart but also he just - he realized that sheís going to do what sheís going to do. And all he can do is let her know that heís there if and when she wants the help.

Bridget Liszewski: All right. Thank you.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you.

Operator: And as another reminder ladies and gentlemen, to register for a question on the phone lines, thatís 1 4 on your telephone.

And our next question comes from the line of (Arasellie Ovulas) with TVovermind. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Arasellie Ovulas: Hi Matt and Warren. Thanks for talking to us today.

Warren Leight: Hi.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you.

Arasellie Ovulas: Hi. So Iím a longtime fan of both shows, and watch religiously. In talking and SVU, both teams at times have very different philosophies about how to handle a case and how to bring criminals to justice. And I think itís a reflection on their leaders, you know, Voight and Benson are such great leaders but they have very different personalities.

And we saw those personalities come out in the last crossover when they met. It caused a bit of tension between them. Do we revisit that tension this time around? Or this time around are they on better terms?

Warren Leight: Matt, you got it? You want me to go?

Matt Olmstead: Yes. Thatís a very astute observation. And the shows are different in that regard. And it did - Chicago PD, the DNA of it really did start from Voight as you point out. And he came from Chicago Fire obviously where he was a dirty cop. And so we couldnít all of a sudden just whitewash that character. And he shows up on a new show with, you know, Dudley Do Right.

So it became trying to reconcile his past with where he wants to go. But also it became about looking into the Chicago of it all, and not going - by no means having a crew of dirty cops or rogue cops. But thereís a slight wish fulfillment into the Chicago of it all where thereís just certain corners that are cut - certain things that are overlooked in service of justice so to speak.

So itís a little bit more less by the book. And so when those - the two shows come together, sometimes collide. Definitely there are different philosophies. And one of the things I love about these crossovers is the interaction between Voight and Benson, and from our point of view theyíre strangely enough cut from the same cloth in that they want justice more than anything.

And they respect the other. They know they canít game the other. And thereís I think a certain fondness and also a certain protectiveness one for the other, especially Voight towards Benson. I think that itís reciprocated from her to him.

And one of the things - and she knows how to wrangle him because one of the things that comes up in this crossover is the case has a personal connection to her. And she lets it known to Voight that you canít - do me one favor, you canít screw this up in case it ever goes to trial.

And he accepts that - maybe not normally what he would do, but he accepts that because sheís important to him. The case is important to him. And he will defer as a colleague to her because she has the most hooks into this case. So absolutely something that we play into the different personalities, the different methodologies between the two shows.

Warren Leight: I like that moment a lot. And thereís a - also, you know, in SVU we have District Attorney Rafael Barba there which is the legal - so that - there is that component to an SVU. And CPD doesnít deal as much with the legal process or the trial process.

So not only do we have Olivia telling Voight this is - letís not cut any corners here. Letís not - this is - we want this guy. Letís not do anything that could jeopardize it if it goes to trial. But there are a couple of tense moments between DA Barba and Voight as well. Itís just - itís more of a harness I guess I could say than Voight is used to wearing. And he bristles a bit with it.

But I think we try to write to the differences in the way both squads deal with criminals. And itís kind of interesting to us to - not to - the writing expression is we hang a lantern on it as opposed to hiding it. But itís kind of fun to watch the conflict manifest itself.

Arasellie Ovulas: Yes. Iím just thinking thatís the part Iím definitely looking forward to the most. Iíve been hearing a lot about a particular scene with all three heads of the Department of Fire, PD and Intelligence in one room. And Iíve heard that all of them are really, really excited about that scene.

Matt Olmstead: Yes, it was - itís in the Chicago Fire episode. And we see theyíre definitely - youíre aware of the fact itís, you know, three heads of state for each show. Itís special - itís a special moment.

Warren Leight: I call it the justice league of America.

Matt Olmstead: There you go.

Arasellie Ovulas: Iím looking forward to that. Okay, thank you so much.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line of Megan Schaefer with the International Business Times. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Megan Schaefer: Hi Matt and Warren. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

Matt Olmstead: My pleasure.

Warren Leight: Hi.

Megan Schaefer: You both give the viewers (unintelligible) more after every episode. So is it safe to say that fans can expect three times as real in the upcoming crossover?

((Crosstalk))

Matt Olmstead: So go ahead Warren, take it.

Warren Leight: Two point five. Two point five times as well. Well what I think - what Iím proud of because I do think we pulled it off is we sustained it - sustained the story. If youíre watching at 9, I think youíll be watching at 10:55. And thatís - it was a story that really can hold our attention, and it legitimately begins the night before on Fire.

And yes, I think itís, you know, it was funny because when Matt left town we looked at - we had all the index cards up on the board. And I looked over the cards. I go we just plotted a movie. You know itís - instead of a five act hour, itís really a larger thing.

Megan Schaefer: Yes, thatís really cool. Is there a moment you guys are most excited for fans to see?

Warren Leight: The ending is pretty good. Thereís a lot of good. No, I mean I donít want to, you know, one of the things weíve spent a lot of time on is the transition from the 9 oíclock to 10 oíclock hour and how there will be no credits in between or anything like that I donít think.

I think it just moves pretty - thereís some great - that moment where the baton is passed is pretty provocative I think.

Matt Olmstead: Yes. I mean for me again in the structure of it, the 9 oíclock hour turns enough - SVU obviously timeslot - it takes place in Chicago with SVU characters there, which we were responsible for on our end. Then Warren and his staff were responsible for the 10 oíclock hour which takes place in New York, so everything is flipped.

But in the ten oíclock that they did, thereís certain accusations made against Voight that will make you sit up in your chair. I thought that whole thing was done very, very well. And you - to mix metaphors, your stomachís in knots because of - Iíll just say certain allegations are made against Voight.

And you can see his jaw set in. And never before have I seen that guy want to jump across a table and do harm than in that thing. So I think that - I tip my cap for you guys in the 10 oíclock hour for sure.

Warren Leight: I think that - this is a good point to mention that Dallas Roberts turns in a sensational performance across both PD into the SVU episode as a very likely suspect in all thatís going on. Thatís also - just watching Dallas sit in with both squads or deal - not sit in with, but combat both squads. I mean it takes both squads - heís pretty great villain, and itís a fantastic acting performance.

And watching him test both squads to their max - just push them to their brink emotionally in several cases and, you know, just avoiding them for as long as he does. Itís a remarkable performance. And thatís something that we seldom get to do in one hour. To watch this guy across the two hours, I mean he helps I think unify the two episodes as well.

Megan Schaefer: Guys thanks so much. Iím looking forward to tuning in.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you very much.

Warren Leight: Thanks.

Operator: And our next question comes from the line (Shalina Cunningham) with Spoiler TV. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Shalina Cunningham: Hi. What was the most memorable aspect of filming the crossover episodes - like memorable and challenging from city to city?

((Crosstalk))

Warren Leight: No, I was going to say the poor actors - we were moving them back and forth. I think Jason had to come here - had to fly back and forth three times in five days. It was - the logistics of this are tough. And itís fun watching the two teams - the two guys - the two squads size each other up as characters and as actors, and get adjusted to two different sets.

Itís a remarkable thing, when regulars on one show have to go to another city, and theyíre used - theyíre in the same character but itís not their squad room and itís not the team that theyíre used to around them. And I give all the actors a lot of credit for taking their characters with them across the interstate borders and figuring out how to deal with a whole new group of people. Itís quite a challenge for them. I never left my office.

Matt Olmstead: Yes, I agree. And yes, like Jason was doing six day weeks for a while - a lot of travel back and forth as Warren stated. But so - but within that, itís funny because based on the last crossover, when the actors on our end knew that the crossover was coming, everybody raised their hand and wanted to be in on it because they love it when the actors from SVU come over. And they love going over there.

Thereís just something invigorating about it because this adds a huge dimension to the show. They very much like the actors who come over. And if it was the opposite and they didnít get along, this would be a very tough thing to pull off. But the fact that they do really like the other actors and really want to do these crossovers - though taxing - it really helps out a lot.

Shalina Cunningham: Thatís good. Thank you.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Cody Schultz with Hidden Remote. Your line is open. Please go ahead.

Cody Schultz: Hi guys. Thanks again so much for taking time to speak with us today.

Matt Olmstead: Of course.

Cody Schultz: My first question is for Matt. We know the crossover center is at the serial rape investigation. So my question is how does the Chicago Fire team get factored into the crossover?

Matt Olmstead: The whole thing kicks off in Chicago Fire when they respond to a fire call. And in that fire call there is a female victim who becomes apparent after they respond to it that that victim was sexually assaulted and cracked over the head. So itís not just a smoke inhalation, itís a crime.

And then thereís certain details about that victim who is still clinging to life at Chicago Med that get on the radar of obviously Chicago PD, and then Benson at SVU. And so yes, and then they become - thereís certain scenes that happen within Chicago Fire of Voight and Benson and Boden making himself available for, you know, getting to look at the crime scene and like that. So the whole thing kicks off in Fire like that.

Warren Leight: That fire was set to cover up the crime scene. And Benson remembers a similar MO to an unsolved case in her early days at SVU. So it all comes together quickly there.

Cody Schultz: All right. And then my second question is for both of you. If you could recruit or steal a member of the opposing showís team, who would it be and why?

Warren Leight: Oh, I donít want to hurt anyoneís feelings. You know what I envy? Among the things that I envy is - other than Matt has a - we have a smaller squad room, I envy that you have the unis downstairs, and that you have Amy Morton - that great desk sergeant there and the two unis I think are terrific. Ad we donít have - SVU in New York doesnít use - doesnít have unis in the same.

Anyway we donít have - I envy - I would love to be able to have a sort of another tier of characters who arenít detectives, but are engaged in police work in the floor below. I think they mine that to great effect on PD. And by the way, I donít think any of those guys came over here. But I love - I just think thatís fun to write for.

Iíd love to see Amy Morton hook up with Ice. I think that would be fantastic.

Matt Olmstead: Could happen.

Cody Schultz: All right. Thank you so much. Looking forward to watching next week.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you very much.

Warren Leight: Thanks.

Operator: And ladies and gentlemen, weíre almost out of time. So if you would like to register for a question, please press 1 4 now.

And we have no further questions at this time. I will turn the call back to you Gary.

Gary Mednick: Okay. I want to thank everybody for taking time to be on the call. And Matt and Warren, thank you so much for your time as well.

Everybody should really enjoy the episodes. So if anybody has any questions, feel free to contact (Matthew Mitchell), (Erica Lewis) or myself, Gary Mednick. You can go to NBC Media Village and our information is there if thereís any assistance that you need.

Thank you so much. Have a good day.

Warren Leight: Thank you all very much.

Matt Olmstead: Thank you.

Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude the conference call for today. We thank you for your participation and ask that you please disconnect your lines. Have a good day everybody.

END

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