It is very exciting to talk to actress Marina Squerciati about her role on NBC’s “Chicago P.D.”. As patrol officer Kim Burgess on the police drama by Emmy-award winning executive producer Dick Wolf (“Law and Order”, “Chicago Fire”), Squerciati goes head to head with the windy city’s street crimes. A graduate of Northwestern University, where she earned a BA in Theater, Squerciati says she has been enjoying discovering what it takes to look as real as possible to serve and protect. In a recent interview, she discussed her training experience for “Chicago P.D.”, what she has learned about what it is like to be a female on the police force, and the exciting storyline ahead for Burgess!
Congrats on “Chicago P.D.”!
Marina- Thank you. It's so nice to be proud of what you're doing. I think everyone is just really happy with it and that's very exciting.
What are you most enjoying about playing Officer Kim Burgess?
Marina- I really enjoy that I have a really great character that I have fallen in love with. Her storyline has gotten incredibly interesting. She has all these twists and turns coming up that I think are going to surprise people. It's so exciting. There's a lot to do with Kim and that is pretty awesome.
Speaking of twists with her, recently we saw her show her ambitious side when she went out on a lead with a case that the unit was working on. She just did it on her own and she proved to be successful. Are we going to see more of that with her?
Marina- I think so. She's definitely made no bones about the fact that she wants to be in intelligence and I don't think she's doing it to get into intelligence, but I just think it's who she is. She's a go-getter and really wants to get things done, and ultimately be a leader. I don't think she's quite a leader yet, but she knows where she wants to go and she's heading there. So absolutely. That's definitely in the near future.
Can you talk about what the preparation process was like for you and what you learned about what it’s like to be a female cop? Did you get an opportunity to meet women in the field?
Marina- Yes, I did. We have a couple male technical advisers. And they're absolutely wonderful and incredibly helpful. For example, you'll be doing a scene where a suspect is coming up to you and they'll help you remember that your head is on a swivel; or in the last episode you were beat up so you're even more eager to get a criminal this time. They keep you on point in terms of being a real cop and being grounded. But in terms of being a woman, we don't have any women technical advisers, so I was set up with one of our technical adviser's ex partners and friends, and she has been incredibly helpful. She said most women come in with guns blazing, and that every woman has a different technique to be taken seriously because women are generally not taken seriously as police officers. And her technique, which I kind of incorporated into Kim, is that you catch more flies with honey. And I don't think that means that she's entirely sweet; but for example, if Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) barks, his bark is going to get more attention than if I bark. So, it's like what can I use to my advantage as a woman to get things done?
On this show we see that there are some gray areas with morals and nothing is black and white on the force. But there was one specific scene that stood out to me with your character: when you were asked to arrest a woman who stole a loaf of bread. And you seemed to sympathize with her. Obviously she broke the law but she did it to feed her children. Kim seemed torn.
Marina- Exactly. That is a story that actually happened to one of our technical advisers. So I was able to talk to him about the situation and that was very helpful. But what I like about the show is that everybody is making these choices about the cop and the person they want to be. Voight (Jason Beghe) makes larger choices and his gray area is probably bigger than Kim's; but I probably should have arrested that woman. And that intrigues me because I think Voight is Kim's idol to some extent. And it intrigues me that, yes, these are smaller issues than Voight that she is exploring, but they're also grey areas that she is exploring.
You think she looks up to Voight? I never thought about that.
Marina- I absolutely think she looks up to him. I think that she doesn't know him well enough, she hasn't seen everything he does, but the mystery of Voight and what she does know, she absolutely looks up to him. Because remember, the audience sees a lot of the stuff that Kim doesn't see.
Is there a favorite storyline that you have had with Kim this season that we have seen or we are going to see in the future? One where you personally felt stood out to you as an actress?
Marina- Yes, absolutely. I will leave it a little vague to say that Kim gets to go undercover. And it is a complete departure from anything that Kim has done or even Marina has done! So that was fun. It's fun to explore three layers of me playing Kim, Kim playing someone else. One of the female cop's once said to me, "You know, if criminals followed their instincts I would be out of job." So I found that really interesting. She said, “When you go undercover, no way that you can 100% completely full someone. There is something that always gives you away. But being a woman, if you were a pretty girl, most guys will tend to sort of over look or ignore something in their gut that's telling them that something is not right with you.” So that's another advantage you have as a woman.
That’s very interesting.
Marina- Yes, isn't that fascinating? She said that she never carries a gun when she goes undercover because with your instinct as a cop you always check for it and she doesn't want to do that. It’s small things that really inform a character. When you go undercover always use the same name because what if you were caught and you forget the name that you were using this time. Small things that really make you understand more about what these cops go through and how these things can matter in a way that is truthful.
I imagine you had to train how to shoot a gun as well?
Marina- Oh, yes! I've had a lot of training. I've never shot a gun before so I did a lot of training and went with a couple people to the gun ranges to really hone our technique, because that is something you don't want to look like an amateur with! (Laughs) Sophia [Bush], who has had a lot of experience shooting a gun was really helpful. And it was also great to see another woman just doing so well when we're training. (Laughs) Showing up the guys! Team women!
There is an interesting dynamic between Kim and Amy Morton's character. Kim seems like she is intimated by her. Are we going to see her kind of soften up a little bit with Kim? She is definitely tough on her.
Marina- It's so funny because a lot of fans are like, “When are you going to stick up for yourself?” I think it's really interesting because ultimately that's Kim's boss. Kim wants to be a cop and that's her boss. So I think, in some small ways I can rebel, but ultimately I have to tow the line if I want to move up in this world. So there is a fine balance.
You had many various roles prior to this role. You had a big arc on “Gossip Girl” and worked on a variety of other shows. I know you have a great theater background. What would you say you brought from your past experiences as an actress to “Chicago P.D.”, if anything?
Marina- I don't know that I can pin point to specific roles where I can say I learned this or that. When I played Judy Holiday, I learned a stylized voice because I was actually playing a real human who existed and that I wanted to respect- so I could say I learned that. But I think every time you do something, it just kind of changes your chemistry a little. You grow each time. They say your brain grows by surprises and I think that each role is a surprise. You just learn something each time and you don't exactly know what it is but it always influences you.
If you could travel back in time and spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be and why?
Marina- I would like to talk to the playwright, Chekhov. I went to Northwestern University, and when I first started reading his plays I just thought he completely transcended ideas. He invented new realism. Every time I read his plays or act in one his plays I just get tickled. (Laughs) It really speaks to me. Everything has been invented right? I kind of feel like when Chekhov was around, what he did hadn't been invented. Everything has always been done; but what he was doing actually hadn't really been done. So I find that really fascinating. Where did his ideas come from? I would like to see more of that a little. I want to meet someone who blazed his own trail and was really brave and innovative.
Any final thoughts you would like to share on “Chicago P.D.” with viewers?
Marina- It just feels like summer camp is ending. We have six days left of shooting. Everyone is getting weepy. It's been a glorious time. It's just been a really fun journey. And I hope I get to see these people before we start season two! (Knock on wood!) We all watch the show together and live tweet on Wednesdays. It's really fun for us! Thank you!
“Chicago P.D.” airs Wednesdays at 10 pm EST on NBC.
Keep up with Marina Squerciati on Twitter- @MarinaSqu