It’s been a busy week in the Dick Wolf universe. The Law & Order creator scored a straight-to-series order for a new series starring Christopher Meloni reprising his Law & Order: SVU role as Elliot Stabler, as revealed today by Deadline. Tonight, it’s also the unexpected season finale of FBI after production on the CBS drama was shut down as a result of the coronavirus. The episode marks the long-rumored crossover between NBC’s Chicago P.D. and FBI – the first multi-network crossover in the Dick Wolf universe.
The episode is directed by Monica Raymund, best known for being in front of the camera in Wolf’s World as Gabriela Dawson, star of Chicago Fire from 2012-19. It is only Raymund’s third television directing gig after an episode of SVU in 2018 and an episode of FBI earlier this season.
Raymund tells Deadline she had no idea that this episode – Episode 19 – would be the season finale when she was directing it. “Me and the rest of the world have been curtailed by this virus,” she said. “Right as the sh*t hit the fan, I had just got back to L.A. after directing [the episode] in New York. I was in post the first day, right as everything was starting to go down. By the end of the second day of post-production, that was when everything was starting to shut down. I didn’t go into post because I had to stay inside; a few of the editors were older and I don’t know their pre-existing health conditions, so I needed to stay home and worked remotely with my editor to finish the episode that way.”
Editing the episode remotely also was a challenge for Raymund. “It was strange. A lot of directors work remotely on television shows when they’re editing, but I don’t like doing it,” she said. “I like to be in person as much as possible, that’s my process. I can jibe with the editors and bounce ideas back and forth. Being in person on any kind of collaboration is better, for me, than being on the phone. We’d already developed a shorthand, so we were able to communicate over the phone. But then on the last day of editing, we found out that they’d canceled the rest of the season, so now my episode is the season finale.”
Written by Rick Eid and Joe Halpin, tonight’s eposide, titled “Emotional Rescue,” is notable for the fact that it brings together Chicago P.D. star Tracy Spiridakos, who plays Detective Hailey Upton, with the FBI cast. It follows the FBI team investigating a drug deal gone bad after the body of a college student is found. Upton is helping out, but her usual investigative methods clash with the bureau’s more buttoned-up environment
The crossover was set up on the March 25 episode of Chicago P.D. on NBC, in which Upton was dispatched by her commanding officer Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) to serve a temporary assignment at the New York bureau of the FBI.
It was an ideal opportunity for Raymund, having spent so much time in Wolf World, to direct. “I know the Dick Wolf pack very well; I’m very comfortable working in that world. I’m very attuned to their style and tone,” she tells Deadline.
But without revealing the specifics of the crossover, she hints at one of the challenges brought forth in the format. “Every Dick Wolf show is different,” she says. ‘The writing is different, the tone is different, the group dynamic is totally different, so that’s what’s really great about working in his world.”
Raymund, who also starred as Dana Lodge on CBS’ The Good Wife, hopes to direct more episodic television, balancing that with being in front of the camera. She stars in Starz’s upcoming drama series Hightown, which launches in May.
“Being behind the lens is a very different experience to acting,” she said. “You have to be so much aware of everyone else’s story and all of the technical aspects of putting a story together. All of the small details need to be thought about, and everything needs to be grounded in the reality of the show. You need to flesh it out with real human connection and stories and do it in a condensed amount of time, which is exceedingly difficult and is exactly what my brain likes. I feel calm when I direct.”
She also is planning to use the coronavirus-enforced down time to shoot her second short film. The short, her first writing project, is based on her mother’s journey from the Dominican Republic to the U.S.
“It deals with this young woman’s stress and trauma of being an immigrant worker in the U.S. working as a janitor,” Raymund said. “This short film follows her emotional arc of what it means to have that kind of stress and burden to achieve her dream. This window has allowed me to write. As difficult as this time is for everyone, I can use this as a creative opportunity to express myself.”