Marina Squerciati is every bit as spirited and determined as Officer Kim Burgess, the character she plays on Chicago P.D. When I had the chance to chat with the actor by phone, I discovered she fights as valiantly for her character’s future as Burgess does in the series. She’s passionate and excited about the opportunities open to her in the world created by executive producer Dick Wolf.
Working within the Chicago franchise is exciting, Squerciati says: “I feel like Dick Wolf is the captain of the helm, doing something that hasn’t been done before. I mean, it’s been done with The Flintstones meets The Jetsons, but it hasn’t been done in this sort of format. This year we were a midseason replacement, but next year we’ll be starting at the same time, so there will be a lot more crossover and a lot more seamless interaction, which I find so thrilling to see how they do it.” She compares it to “a cool puzzle that the writers figure out and we get to enjoy.”
It’s a fine balancing act working between the two shows, she says, but it doesn’t necessarily mean more work even if it means more actual days of filming for the actors. “If you’re heavily featured on one show, you can’t really be featured on the other,” Squerciati says. “It’s a nice balance. It’s a dance. You work maybe more days, but it’s not exhausting.”
Squerciati likes Burgess’ energy and happiness, but worries about her future since she keeps getting kicked: “I’m hoping that she maintains some of that joy. I think part of it is because she’s green, but another part of it is because she’s a driven, joyful person. She knows what she wants. But we just saw in the last episode that she didn’t get it, so to see if she maintains that joy when she’s been thwarted so much … I’m eager to see what happens.”
It’s no secret that Burgess has been doing everything she can to work her way up to the Intelligence Unit to work under Hank Voight (Jason Beghe). In one of Squerciati’s favorite Burgess scenes, her character puts it all on the line to prove herself worthy. “I think that scene in ‘Turn the Light Off’ was really a seminal moment for my character, to see if she could do that, to see if it was within her,” she says. “I don’t think she knows exactly what joining Voight’s unit entails, that there’s a bit of a gray area, and I don’t think Burgess has really delved into that gray area, so I don’t know that she’s going to be OK with everything. It was interesting to see how, in this moment where she has to do something that was out of her character, if she was able to step up. And she was, and I as an actor was excited by that ability as well, by the chance to do that.”
When Burgess was passed over for the promotion in favor of Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins), Squerciati was taken aback: “When I read it, I went to executive producer Derek Haas and writer Michael Brandt and said, ‘Are you kidding me? I didn’t make Intelligence?’ I kind of mixed up that I wasn’t really Kim Burgess. I was like, ‘I have worked so hard, I have done so much! I’ve gone undercover!’ And I kind of just took it on for a moment until I remembered, ‘Oh right, OK. It’s not me.’ I thought it funny how much I’ve fallen in love with Kim. I’m very protective of her and I got upset.”
Squerciati thinks the relationship between Burgess and Atwater will be tested because they love each other very much and are protective of one another, but since they were both aiming for the same spot on Intelligence, it’s difficult not to feel slighted. “It’s always tricky in any sort of a relationship when one person is more successful than the other, and sometimes you can navigate it well and sometimes you can’t,” she says.
The actor also suggests that while it’s possible Burgess might be somewhat resentful of Ruzek (John Patrick Flueger) for being the reason she was passed over after their brief romantic dalliance, she may also look at it differently. “I kind of wonder whether, if you don’t get your professional life going well, if you’re willing to sacrifice your personal relationship as well. I think yes, she would be bitter, but if Ruzek came to her, I feel like since the biggest thing in her life has just been taken away from her, I don’t know that she could turn him away. That’s my guess.” Squerciati continues, “Who knows what Ruzek is thinking? I know that Paddy and I love working together, so any time we have a scene together, we just jump at it.”
Burgess and Ruzek have become so popular, they’ve spawned a “shipper” name: Burzek. Squerciati has some thoughts on their relationship. “I ship them too! I think they could be really great together. I think with Adam and Wendy’s relationship, she didn’t realize the extent that being in Intelligence would change him. Especially when you’re lying to your significant other about anything, but specifically what he does every day, I feel like slowly you build this wall,” she says. “Coming from Kim’s side, I know she doesn’t want to be a homewrecker and she crossed a line she didn’t want to, but I do feel like they are in this together and there’s a certain thing that happens when you work with someone in that high-adrenaline situation that really just bonds you to someone for better and for worse.”
Squerciati agrees that the chemistry between her and Flueger works, and says the entire cast of both Chicago shows is extremely close. “Dick Wolf said when he took us out to dinner, us and Chicago Fire, that he got lightning in a bottle twice. He got two casts that really get along. That’s not a stunt. We all genuinely like each other. The audience gets to see that chemistry because it’s really there. I’m really close to Paddy and I’m glad it shows.”
The most challenging thing about playing Burgess for Squerciati is playing something that she wouldn’t do herself: something unethical or out of character. “When she kissed Ruzek, it was a line that Kim crossed and Marina crossed that I don’t think either of us would ever cross. You have to rationalize it. OK. She just shot her gun for the first time, she’s really a wreck, she’s highly emotional, and she’s looking for comfort; so you try to find a way to make it plausible for both Kim and the actor.”
Sometimes an actor will stumble when asked what future they imagine for their character. Not Squerciati. She’s put a lot of thought into what might happen if she were writing the scripts. “I’d like to see her romance pitted against her ambition. I’ve really thought about how maybe Voight tells Ruzek that he can’t be in a relationship with me if I’m in Intelligence, so he breaks my heart but he really still loves me. Just so I can get into Intelligence. Something like that in which the romance is still there, but so my character still gets to go to Intelligence. I mean, come on! I’ve done a lot!”
But what about the finale that airs tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 21)? Is there any chance at happiness for the plucky officer before the season rolls the final credits? “Something works out,” she offers. “It’s either romance or professionalism. Kim’s been kicked a lot. I think she deserves a lot.”
Be sure to tune in to Chicago P.D. Wednesday at 10/9 C for the season finale, and find out whether Officer Kim Burgess gets some satisfaction on the job or in her heart!