Balancing The Scales: ‘Chicago Justice’ Mixes Up The ‘Law & Order’ Formula

Chicago Justice Chris Haston/NBC
Chicago Justice: (l-r) Jon Seda, Joelle Carter, Philip Winchester, Monica Barbaro and Carl Weathers

In creating a fourth series in the Chicago universe, NBC and Dick Wolf are moving away from first-responder stories and presenting a series that seems more akin to the “ripped-from-the-headlines” world of Wolf’s Law & Order. And that’s by design, explains longtime L&O producer Michael S. Chernuchin, who is executive producing Chicago Justice. “I always liked that on Law & Order — and hopefully it works here, too — where you rip from the headlines to draw people in and then go in a completely different direction. It’s been working so far. I mean, they’re all fictional. Every case we do ultimately is our own story, but there’s just some little bit that people say, ‘Oh, I know that.’”

“We’re sort of following in the footsteps of Law & Order, in our format and how we’re doing it,” says series star Philip Winchester, whose character is focused on following the law and finding justice for victims.

“It’s a new century. It’s a new city,” adds Chernuchin. “We will deal with issues that we did deal with in Law & Order, but it’s 10 years later. There’s new approaches and new ideas. It’s a younger generation dealing with these issues.” But ultimately, “Law is law. I mean, it changes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Justice stays the same.”

In the series, Peter Stone (Winchester), deputy chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau, is often in conflict with the more politically motivated Cook County state’s attorney, played by Carl Weathers. With their team, the men strive to bring justice to the Windy City, but their investigations and cases aren’t limited to the city proper; all of Cook County is in play, including a pig farm in the series’ seventh episode.

Also starring in the drama are Jon Seda, whose character jumps from Chicago P.D. in search of a better work/life balance as the department’s chief investigator; Joelle Carter as a tough-as-nails investigator; and Monica Barbaro as Anna Valdez, the “second chair.” Barbaro describes her character as “a bit of a ball-buster,” and Winchester is quick to offer support, saying, “Yeah, she always picks up the stuff that Peter Stone misses, and that’s why she’s a great part of the team.”

And the series doesn’t only draw from Law & Order’s playbook of success; it also relies on the success of its Chicago brethren, as the legal world is filled with visits from firefighters, medical personnel and police officers. “I think almost every show there is at least somebody from Fire, Med or P.D. in the episode,” explains Chernuchin. “Not as a crossover, but more as an integration.”

Chicago Justice > NBC > Sundays at 9/8c, beginning March 5