Tracy Spiridakos Exits, Talks Hailey Upton Sendoff


[This story contains spoilers from the May 22 finale of Chicago PD, “More.”]

Chicago PD’s season 11 finale — titled “More” — gives its viewers more than just an emotional sendoff of longtime fan-favorite character Detective Hailey Upton, played by Tracy Spiridakos, a young, loner police officer who spent nearly eight seasons dealing with deep emotional traumas from her backstory (her father was an alcoholic and physically abused her mother, Upton and her siblings when they were children). But the season’s 13th episode also provided closure for Jason Beghe’s Sergeant Hank Voight, who, like his protégé Upton, also walked a solitary path of loneliness and despair. But, were they alone?

“More” reveals that Upton and Voight may have felt alone, but they actually had each other. Subconsciously and consciously, they held one another up in their shattered lives of past failures, regrets, pains and heartaches. But for the two of them to really see and feel that bond, it would take violence, blood and both of them to be on the precipice of death.

The season finale picks up where episode 12 left off, with the whole Chicago PD Intelligence Unit converging on Voight’s home. Last week, Upton and the squad had confirmed that a civilian lockup employee named Frank Matson was the key suspect serial killer who had contact with Noah (a teenager Voight took in after being tortured in episode seven, and recaptured and murdered in episode eight). The team could now prove that Matson was the lone contact with all the victims who were found tortured and murdered, their mutilated bodies put them in barrels like Noah’s. But Matson had targeted Voight as his next victim and slipped a drug in his drink at a bar.

When we first see Voight in the finale, he’s at an undisclosed location, still woozy from being drugged, tied to a chair and finally face-to-face with Matson, Noah’s killer. Matson knows he doesn’t have much time and tells Voight that he will be his last sacrifice. But before he kills him, he needs the police sergeant to do what he asks of all his victims: call the person he loves the most, so that Voight can watch that person die first. Voight, of course, says he’s not calling anyone. Voight also believes there is no one to call. But Matson has been studying Voight. He knew of his relationship with Noah, and he saw his deeper connection with Upton. He wants the call to go to Upton. Matson begins the cutting and torture process to get Voight to bend to his will.

Voight’s will is strong. He won’t call Upton. In one instance, he shifts his body and causes Matson to give him a more mortal chest wound than anticipated. The wound is the most surprising scene of the finale.

Hoovering on death, Voight begins to hallucinate. Out the shadows, he sees someone sitting and watching him. The camera then focuses on Voight’s best friend and former partner, Detective Alvin Olinsky played by Elias Koteas (in season five, Olinsky took the wrap for killing the murderer of Voight’s son, although Voight actually killed the guy. He went to prison, and before Voight could get him out, an inmate stabbed him to death).

“What you get into this time, Hank?” Olinsky asks.

“Is this what it felt like?” Voight asks his old friend. “I’m okay to go out like this …” The ghost of Olinsky tells Voight that Upton is not okay with it, and it is not his time to die. At that moment, Voight and viewers can hear that Matson is back. He has tricked Upton, who has been looking for her surrogate father. And yes, she did come!

Upton struggles with Matson and manages to injure him. She breaks away to find Voight in the basement of an empty house. Voight is not pleased to see her, as she is also injured while fleeing from Matson. “What are you doing here? Do you ever think of your own safety?” Voight moans. “I’m not worthy! Do you think I want this? No dad would want this!” Upton unties Voight and gets him to pull himself together. They both overpower Matson, and Voight beats his head into the basement concrete until he’s dead.

Spiridakos, who joined the Dick Wolf police drama in season four, had announced that this season would be her last. With the finale marking her anticipated exit, The Hollywood Reporter recently caught up with Spiridakos and Chicago PD showrunner Gwendolyn Sigan to talk about the shocking finale, the relationship between Upton and Voight, and if there is more life for Upton in the Dick Wolf universe.

***

Tracy, what was the most difficult scene for you to shoot for the finale?

TRACY SPIRIDAKOS The scene I was most intimidated to shoot was probably also my favorite. It was the scene with me and Jason [Beghe] when, after the hospital, he and I are sitting in his office. And it’s where he gives her permission to do what she needs to do for herself. I was nervous and intimidated. I just wanted to make sure we got it right. Jason and I always have so much fun working together; we were equally excited but nervous. It turned out to be my favorite scene.

Gwen, we learned from this season that Voight and Hailey’s traumas were sort of interconnected. They were loners but at the same time, maybe subconsciously, leaned on each other as if in a father-daughter relationship. Am I on the right path here?

GWENDOLYN SIGAN Yeah, definitely! Over the seasons they’ve really grown into that. And, as a writer, once you see it on the screen — whenever we see Tracy and Jason in scenes, you just want to write more of it. So, it ends up becoming a big part of the show. They understood each other. I think they have a lot of the same fears, this inner turmoil that goes on, and so there’s almost this kinship. And they are able to push each other.

Over the seasons, we’ve already seen that Hailey was never intimidated to tell him what she thought and where he was not fulfilling some ideal. And the same thing with him. He sent her away once [in season seven, Voight sent Upton away because she was exhibiting some erratic behavior. Her character popped up on season two, episode 19 of the series FBI on CBS]. He always was that person. The father-daughter of it all I think was always baked in, but was something we really wanted to dig into this season because it’s also this hole in Hailey’s life that needed to be filled so that she could have some clarity and healing. And, for Jason too. So, it was a nice simple arc there for us.

Tracy, that scene between you and Jason that you mentioned earlier, the goodbye scene, wasn’t jarring, but gentle, as if Voight could sense what was coming before you said it. Can you expound on that some more?

SPIRIDAKOS At least from how I felt, it’s like he knew. But there’s also a sadness that comes with that for him too, right? They’re so close, and it’s knowing that this is something she needs to do for herself, but also that means you’re going to be saying goodbye, and that is a difficult thing to do. The timing of it was so wonderful, where they’ve come from this crazy thing where they both almost died. They are both in very raw places. And Voight reads people so well, and he knows Hailey so well. So, when the conversation starts to go in that direction, he knows before she knows, which really was a beautiful thing.

It’s him giving her the permission to look into things further without feeling guilty, without feeling like she’s going to lose something and him. And saying, “you know we love you and we’re always here, and the door is always open for you.” I think that allowed her to go into this direction in a very different way than we’ve seen Hailey before, in a very happy sendoff. And I don’t think that she would have been able to get there if not for all of the things that happened leading up to that moment.

Jason Beghe and Tracy Spiridakos in Chicago PD.

Lori Allen/NBC

Gwen, when did you think about bringing Elias Koteas back to the show for what audiences may find an equally heart-wrenching scene of Voight near death and hallucinating about seeing his former partner, Detective Alvin Olinsky? When I talked to Jason not long ago, he spoke about having an actual near-death experience after a car accident some 20 years ago.

SIGAN That was something that Jason, himself, has really been wanting to do for a few years: find a way to bring him back. And we had this great opportunity to do so with the story, with how vulnerable, and how physically vulnerable, he was to have that actually make some sense, and feel really fulfilling and satisfying for the audience. So, it was incredibly special, as it as a group of people who missed him, and who really love seeing him on screen and working with him. It was so nice to bring him back! That scene was beautiful. They just couldn’t have been better in it.

Tracy, is Upton going to FBI (CBS)? We see her looking at those different agencies — I saw you looking at that FBI application! And, we know she made a guest appearance in season two.

SPIRIDAKOS (Laughs) No, not that I know of. No. You know, I think the idea of that was just that she’s exploring what her options are and she’s seeing what else is out there. But for me, I did not fill in the blank. Where I left it was that she is feeling happy about this decision for herself, and she’s taking her life in a different direction. And we don’t know what that is and what that is going to look like for her, but I love that it came from such a place of peace, which is the first time we’ve really gotten to see that with her.

What about for you, personally? What are some of your plans or hopes to do now that you’re moving on from the show?

SPIRIDAKOS I don’t know, we only finished, what, three weeks ago? So, probably, definitely going to go visit some family, go to Greece and go see my family. And then that’s it. That’s as far as I got. (Laughs)

Will you come back to visit?

SPIRIDAKOS Absolutely! Absolutely! I’ve made such great great friendships and relationships in [Chicago] and on the show. I definitely am going to be back in Chicago, and I’m going to run on set and hug every single person I see. I can’t wait!

Gwen, did the season accomplish everything you set out to tell?

SIGAN Yeah, it really did! It really all came together and I think this finale has been so nice because, creatively, there’s a bit of everybody in it. There’s just so much. And so you look at it and I’m very proud of that element of it, that there’s a piece of everybody in that finale.

Chicago PD streams on Peacock.



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