'It Felt Appropriate': Chicago P.D. Showrunner On Characters Starting Season 11 With Big Decisions

 Jason Beghe as Hank Voight in Chicago P.D.'s Season 11 premiere.
Jason Beghe as Hank Voight in Chicago P.D.'s Season 11 premiere.

Chicago P.D. returns to NBC on January 17 with the first new episode since May 2023, and the Season 11 premiere isn't just going to pick up where Season 10 left off last year. NBC's hit cop drama will jump ahead six months from the tenth season finale that ended with Ruzek's life in danger and many other unanswered questions for Voight and the Intelligence Unit. Showrunner Gwen Sigan has opened up about what the P.D. writers felt was "appropriate" for the major characters in arriving in the 2024 TV schedule.

Ruzek's imminent fate after being shot in the Season 10 finale was one of One Chicago's most intense cliffhangers at the end of the 2022-2023 TV season, but P.D. is jumping ahead six months, just like Chicago Fire and Chicago Med are, to start 2024. When I spoke with the showrunner about the long-awaited return to primetime, I asked how the P.D. team approached the time jump in light of how uncertain Ruzek's fate was back in the spring. Gwen Sigan shared:

We knew we wanted to stick with the time that had passed, so we knew we wanted to jump time. We ended up going with six months. It felt like the perfect option to see where our characters were in a big way, to see how they changed and what big decisions they've made off screen. So we decided to use it. It's such a good storytelling technique when you're able to do it because it just jump starts your characters into something fresh, and it felt appropriate since we've been off the air so long.

While the jump means that we won't see the immediate aftermath of the stressful Season 10 finale that showcased Patrick John Flueger and is currently available streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription, there were evidently some "big decisions" over the course of the six months that will be examined in Season 11. As for whether the "appropriate" jump means good news or bad news... well, only time (and the return of One Chicago) will tell for sure.

Gwen Sigan previewed some of the changes for Tracy Spiridakos' Hailey Upton, and also weighed in on how the long hiatus – due to the WGA writers strike and SAG-AFTRA actors strike – affected the new batch of episodes. When asked if there were any early plans that had to be scrapped for Season 11, the showrunner shared:

I think if we had been right back, there might have been some other things that we did, but in hindsight I actually think it's better. I think it worked out better having this time off storytelling-wise. We got to put them in different places, which just felt fresher. It felt fresher for us.

Chicago P.D. already had to make some big changes in Season 10 due to the departure of Jesse Lee Soffer as Det. Jay Halstead, largely with how his absence affected Upton after she was left behind. It was the show's first season with just one detective in the Intelligence Unit, which left me hoping to see Atwater promoted up from his status as officer, and LaRoyce Hawkins shared his thoughts on that possibility. That hadn't happened yet as of the end of Season 10, but my fingers are crossed!

It remains to be seen just what the unit will look like in the wake of Ruzek being shot, and just how many members of the team will be back in action in 2024. Although he was absent from last season's finale, Benjamin Levy Aguilar (who plays Torres) had a fun idea for a different kind of episode, and Tracy Spiridakos' departure as Upton won't happen until the end of Season 11 (via TVLine).

Tune in to NBC on Wednesday, January 17 at 10 p.m. ET for the Season 11 premiere of Chicago P.D., called "Unpacking." The episode will see Upton at odds with a mental health clinician when she shadows a crisis prevention team, and she'll have to deal with some personal issues with Voight as her support.

NBC will have a full night of One Chicago action on January 17, starting with Chicago Med at 8 p.m. ET to pay off on some Season 8 cliffhangers and deliver more of Hannah and Archer's dynamic, followed by Chicago Fire with Taylor Kinney's return for a tense Stellaride moment after the time jump that involved a "rude shock" for showrunner Andrea Newman. As usual, P.D. will close NBC's One Chicago Wednesday lineup.