On screen, Tracy Spiridakos commands the spotlight as badass detective Hailey Upton on NBC’s longtime fan-favorite Chicago P.D. But, behind the scenes of the Windy City-filmed series, the true Spiridakos is inherently jovial and undeniably charming. As the show prepares to kick off season 10 on Sept. 21, we sat down with the vivacious beauty to talk all things Chicago P.D., her favorite Chicago hangouts, video games and so much more.
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Chicago P.D. helped put the city on the TV production map when it premiered in 2014. How does it feel to be a veteran on this major television powerhouse?
It’s kind of crazy to think that I’m going into my sixth year. It’s great work, it’s a great group, and we have a lot of fun together. Even after all this time, everyone still really gets along. There’s nonstop laughter, which I know people say, but it’s actually quite true on our set. I feel really fortunate to be a part of it.
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What’s your favorite part about playing Hailey Upton?
She’s a really well-rounded character. She’s a strong woman yet also vulnerable; she’s not just one thing. She’s not just tough and badass without anything else. We get to see all these interesting dynamics that make her a well-rounded character. When I read the script, I never really know what’s going to happen with her and what direction she’s going to go. That’s been very fun for me to play.
Would you say you’re more similar to or different from her?
There are elements I have similarities with, but, for the most part, no, we’re quite different. I love her unapologeticness, whereas that’s not who I am. I’m always very Canadian and very apologetic about everything. I’m super bubbly and very smiley and happy all the time. When I’m playing her, as soon as they yell ‘cut,’ I’m smiling all over the place, and everyone always makes fun of me [laughs].
The One Chicago fan base has been extremely loyal and engaged. What do you think makes the shows so popular year after year?
The fans in Chicago support the One Chicago shows how they support their sports teams. It’s like you’re a part of Chicago—a part of the family. I think that’s a really big part of the One Chicago success—the incredible fans... who support us all the time.
Many of us saw the season 9 episode in which Upton jumps into the freezing Chicago River—and you’ve mentioned it was one of your favorite episodes to shoot. What went through your head when you first read the script?
To be completely honest, the very first thing was, ‘Oh, my God, we’re going in the Chicago River in December,’ which actually ended up happening in January. But Kelli [Scarangello], my stunt double, was the one who actually went into the river, so I can’t take credit for going in. But it was such a cool episode to shoot. I’ve never had an opportunity to do something like that before. We worked in three underwater locations: One was in a pool, which ended up being in the end of the episode. They also built a pool where we did a large portion of the part where it looks like I’m in the river. Then there was the actual river portion. We also flew out to L.A. to do tank work where the car was submerged. It was very involved. I think also because we shot it right before the Christmas break, and right after the break as well, it felt like we shot for a month. It was like the episode that wouldn’t end, but in a great way. I loved it.
What other actors or performers inspire you?
There’s so many. One of the reasons I got into performing was to connect with people, and one of my favorite ways to do that is by storytelling and sharing. I’m inspired by people all of the time in shows I watch and people I interact with.
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What shows are you watching right now?
I’m watching a Wondrium course—I’m learning about the Big Bang right now. And Severance was really cool. I also love The Boys. That’s Eric Kripke’s show, and I’m so excited and happy for him on the success of that.
After years of filming in Chicago, what are some of your favorite spots around town?
One of my favorite restaurants is The Purple Pig. Jimmy [Bannos Jr.] does a great job of putting his own spin on traditional Greek dishes I grew up with. I’m also a big nature person, so I always try to go to the lake whenever I can. But, truthfully, our hours are quite long, so by the time we finish work, a lot of places are closed or it’s getting late, and we have to wake up pretty early.
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What do you miss about Chicago when you’re not here?
I’ve made some great friendships here, so, for me, it’s the people. And the food, of course! That goes without saying. In my first year that I joined [the show], I ate everything, all of the time. Some of the food experiences here in Chicago are pretty unique as well, like Oriole, which is an incredible experience that I’ve never had anywhere else. That’s something I try to do with people when they come into town.
When you’re here, do you hang out with the cast outside of work?
We definitely try to. If an episode is focused on your character, other people have time off , and vice versa. It ends up getting a bit tough sometimes while working, but we try to get our walks, visits and glasses of wine in whenever we can.
How do you recharge and practice self-care?
I read a lot, and I’m really into this science website called Wondrium—it’s very interesting. I also play a lot of video games. I’m playing Horizon right now—the new one, it’s very good. That has been my quarantine companion aside from my dog, who has been wonderful as well. She’s looking at me right now, so how could I not mention her? During hiatus, I also try to travel as much as I possibly can. I love exploring new places, as well as visiting family back in Greece and Canada. I also try to get near the ocean for as long as possible to unwind.
Valentino mock neck long dress, valentino.com; Chanel printed bolero, chanel.com; Mach & Mach glitter double crystal bow pointed-toe pumps, nordstrom.com; Waldorf Astoria Chicago celebrates the completion of an extensive renovation project across the grand chateau-style hotel. The cornerstone Chicago property debuted an evolution of its dining venues with the introduction of Brass Tack, Peacock Lounge, and revived Bernard’s, enhancements to its award-winning spa, and refurbishments to guestrooms and premier suites.
What are some of your favorite spots you’ve recently visited?
My first trip since COVID was this summer when I went back to Greece. But one of my favorite trips was to an island in Southeast Asia with my best friend. The diving was incredible; the people and food were amazing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I really want to create my own content, as well as produce and get into writing. In 10 years, I would love to be doing that as well as performing; but producing, and maybe even directing, would be really fun.
Photography by: Katrina Wittkamp; Styled by Jamie Vear/LAB Artists; Hair and makeup by Heather French/LAB Artists; Shot on location at Waldorf Astoria Chicago