Dick Wolf has become a triple threat for NBC. It started when he had the three legal dramas “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” on the NBC schedule at the same time.
Now, he has a triple play featuring productions set in the Windy City: “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and, the latest entry, “Chicago Med.” The new series follows the staff of Chicago’s newest state-of-the-art trauma center. Oliver Platt, S. Epatha Merkerson, Nick Gehlfuss, Yaya DaCosta and Colin Donnell star.
Merkerson is actually linked to both the “Law & Order” and “Chicago” franchises. She spent 17 years playing Lt. Anita Van Buren on “Law & Order” before signing on to portray Sharon Goodwin, chief administrator of clinical operations, on “Chicago Med.”
Becoming part of the new Wolf franchise was a “no-brainer” for the Emmy-winning actress. Not only does she love how smoothly a Wolf production works and how much he takes care of his actors, she gets to play an interesting role.
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“The one thing that Van Buren was, most assuredly, was in charge. And I don’t know if she was as flawed as I would have wanted her to be. I think that with Sharon Goodwin, there’s an opportunity to show a woman who is very focused on her job, but also who is somewhat flawed,” Merkerson says. “I think that’s why it was sort of a no-brainer, because he knows what I did for 17 seasons. So to bring me in on that same line, I think, would be boring. So I’m looking forward to having a full person to work with.”
Spending 17 years playing the same character is an extreme rarity in television. Merkerson would be glad to play her “Chicago Med” character as long, or even longer.
The only negative the actress has seen in the role is shooting in cold weather. Wolf promised her she would be working indoors, but filming a scene for the opening episode meant the cast had to face a bitterly cold winter day in Chicago.
Filming three shows in Chicago has been a positive experience for Wolf and his team.
“The support of the city and the people has been incredible since we were shooting the pilot. But now these are the hometown shows. The actors do get recognized, but people are more polite in Chicago, too. They don’t come running over to the table as much as they do in some other cities,” Wolf says.
One of the bonuses of having three shows running at the same time is that it opens up crossover story lines. That’s already happened with “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” There are plans for cast members from those two shows to pop up on “Chicago Med.”
And, in February, there will be a four-way crossover with a story running through all three “Chicago” series and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
The crossovers are always a ratings boost. But, the overriding concern is that the crossovers occur so often that they become too commonplace.
And ratings will also be the factor in whether Wolf opts for a fourth series in the franchise. Wolf doesn’t rule out another “Chicago” offering, but for now is concentrating on keeping his three current projects running as smoothly as possible.
- 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, KSEE24