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Chicago P.D.’s Tracy Spiridakos Breaks Down The Differences Between Upton’s Underwater Scenes, Plus What Viewers Probably Missed

Spoilers ahead for Episode 13 of Chicago P.D. Season 9, called “Still Water.”

Chicago P.D. is officially back after several weeks off for the Olympics, and the show didn’t hold back from delivering a doozy of an episode with the return. Upton’s effort to set a routine for herself after all of the struggle of the first half of Season 9 was ruined in “Still Water” when her jog was interrupted by a car crashing into the Chicago River. The result was Hailey taking a February jump into some very cold water, and it was only one of two dangerous dips before the end of the hour. Actress Tracy Spiridakos opened up about the underwater sequences, and shared something that viewers couldn’t have seen from home.

I spoke with Tracy Spiridakos about “Still Water,” which featured some stunts unlike any others that Chicago P.D. has delivered before, and the show used practical effects to pull it off. Upton going into the water in February was a very bold move considering the cold, and the actress shared her reaction to finding out and how she prepared with stunt double Kelli Scarangello: 

I first read it, and it was January that we ended up going in, and I was like, ‘We have to go in the river in January. Oh my god.’ And then I realized, ‘Kelli has to go in the river in January,’ which is my stunt double who I love. She’s amazing! Yeah, my first response was, ‘Oh god, Kelli and I are gonna freeze’ and then I was like, ‘Oh, wait, Kelli’s gonna freeze. Oh, my god.’ And I went right to her and told her what was happening.

As a look behind the scenes of “Still Water” confirmed, the scene of Upton going into the Chicago River wasn’t just TV magic making a tank look like a body of water. Kelli Scarangello really did jump into the river in January, and there was even ice on the river that the P.D. team had to use barges to push away. As viewers have now seen, the scene that showed Scarangello’s jump into the river was quite impressive, and Tracy Spiridakos joined her double in a tank to prepare for the close-up shots of underwater Upton. The actress continued:

Preparing for it was just trying to get comfortable underwater, was the biggest thing. There is a dive shop here called Underwater Safaris, and they let me go there, and Kelli, and they had one of their instructors get us familiar with some diving stuff, just getting comfortable being with a tank and breathing underwater and then having your mask come off and on just so you can get comfortable being underwater because so much of, especially the tank, we were underwater for two days, just playing under there. So that was the biggest thing, is just being comfortable, opening your eyes underwater, being comfortable to not inhale, you know, breathe in through your nose. I had a mask that I would practice with actually walking around so it would stay suctioned onto my face to not breathe out of my nose, because I took a lot of water in in the beginning. [laughs] So that was part of the process.

Figuring out diving and wearing a mask to not only film underwater, but actually perform underwater, was a big task. Upton went through an emotional journey underwater while deciding to save the man (who turned out to be one of the worst kinds of criminals to appear on the show) and having to let the woman drown when help couldn’t arrive quickly enough. Where’s Chicago Fire‘s Squad 3 on time when you need them?

Upton was back in the water by the end of the episode, when she jumped into a pool to save the life of the bad guy. While saving him when she could have just let him drown was a sign that she has really moved away from the Voight-inspired darkness of the end of Season 8 and even early Season 9, it did mean she had to jump fully-clothed into water all over again, complete with a winter coat. 

When I asked Tracy Spiridakos how filming in the tank for the river sequence compared to filming in the pool, she explained the process as well as what viewers undoubtedly missed: 

They were super different. I think the pool portion happened first and that one was we were kind of figuring out just the technical part of it. I had a wetsuit on because that pool was a little bit colder than the other pools were. Forget the river because that’s a whole other category. But I had a wetsuit on and then a winter coat, which – everybody was so wonderful. I just want to say, with the crew there. Everyone just went out of their way to help in any way they possibly could. So even with my winter jacket, one of the costumers took out – seam by seam – took out the stuffing in the jacket so that I didn’t have too much weight when I was underwater, which I think is very incredible and kind.

While it certainly looked like Upton jumped in the pool wearing her normal Chicago winter gear – although she’s probably running out of winter coats after this episode, unless they dry well – viewers couldn’t see that the costume team removed some stuffing to make filming easier for Tracy Spiridakos. It was easy to miss while watching the intense scene, but certainly kind of the costumers! That didn’t mean that the whole pool sequence was easy to pull off, however, as she continued:

But still trying to figure out – the wetsuit makes you float and the clothes make you sink. And then you have to get to the bottom, so then getting the weights. We have weights on just to get to the bottom of the pool. And so there was just some technical stuff that I think with the pool portion of it were some challenges, and it was a daylight dependent scene. So we were losing the light, which is also a fun challenge. Whereas the tank, it was a little bit more isolated. And we were able to just kind of play there. We knew what we were doing. We were submerging the whole time, and we had two days to get all the material so it felt a little bit more relaxed.

Who would have guessed that filming the harrowing sequence of the river rescue in the tank would be more relaxed than the quicker scene of Upton and the bad guy in the pool? Luckily, Upton only had one person who needed saving the second time, and Halstead – who may be inclined to try and pad her clothes with floatation devices if his wife keeps jumping fully-dressed into bodies of water – turned up in time to help her get the man out. All things considered, it was an action-packed episode, and Tracy Spiridakos weighed in on whether she’d want to do it again:

I had so much fun. I had such an incredible experience on this script, I would absolutely love to do it again. The tank, it was two days of being in the water. And by the end of the second day, I was like, ‘What else can we do? What else?’ I mean, I was exhausted. We all were, but I didn’t want it to be over. We were having such a good time. So I would 100% do it again.

It might be bad news for Upton and the Intelligence Unit if cases keep coming up that involve daring underwater rescues, but Tracy Spiridakos is up for it! Even though there were no crossover appearances from Chicago Fire‘s Severide or other members of Squad 3 who are usually the One Chicago heroes doing the water rescues, it would be fun if Spiridakos someday got to put her underwater experience to use again with the Fire crew. 

For now, fans can look forward to new episodes of Chicago P.D. on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC, following Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. and Chicago Med at 8 p.m. Be sure to check back with CinemaBlend for more from Tracy Spiridakos, and check out our 2022 TV schedule for more viewing options.

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.

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