By Emma Sarran Webster | March 3, 2017 | People
Chicago Justice star Joelle Carter shares on the first season, how her first-ever gig involved Dick Wolf, and what it’s like to be a part of the “One Chicago” world.
On Sunday, March 5, NBC’s “One Chicago” will add another member to its family: Chicago Justice. This will be the fourth show in Dick Wolf’s ever-growing franchise, which already includes Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med, and viewers can expect an added dose of drama from both the new series and crossover episodes. One of the actors to watch is Joelle Carter, who plays State’s Attorney Investigator Laura Nagel. We caught up with Carter—who received a 2015 Critics’ Choice Award nomination for her role in FX’s Justified—to talk about what we’ll see on the new show, joining the “One Chicago” family, and how she’s liking the city so far.
How did this role come about for you?
JOELLE CARTER: I had gone through my first pilot season after Justified and was taking a little vacation with my daughter, and they called me and said that Dick Wolf wanted to offer me the role of the investigator on his new show in Chicago. So, I got a call from Dick Wolf and he told me about the show and the Chicago franchise and what it meant to him; and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was a really great honor to get [the offer] and to come here and actually play with them and create [my character]. I can’t wait to see what we did!
This was not your first acting job in a Dick Wolf production. In fact, your first acting job ever was in Law & Order, correct?
JC: Yeah, oddly enough, Dick Wolf gave me my first acting job when I was in New York. I think every actor at that time did an episode of Law & Order. It was the Benjamin Bratt era; I got to work with Jerry Orbach [too], and I just remember how giving and dear that whole cast [was]. It was a great experience.
Jon Seda as Antonio Dawson, Joelle Carter as Laura Nagel, Philip Winchester as Peter Stone, Monica Barbaro as Anna Valdez, and Carl Weathers as Mark Jeffries.
The “One Chicago” franchise is so unique, with four shows that are constantly being interwoven with each other. What is it like joining something like this?
JC: I was told that they’d become a little family here and it’s really true. I believe Dick Wolf described it as [being] like four legs of a chair. It was nice to come in and complete the family and vision he saw, and also come into welcoming arms. Everyone here is just so talented and gracious and grateful, the town of Chicago has been amazing—and the winter has been mild! It’s been really wonderful to try to recreate the “law and order” part of the whole chair that Dick Wolf envisioned. It’s fun to be here and to see [my character], Nagel, come to life.
What can we expect from season one of Chicago Justice, and from your character?
JC: The series is [going to] draw on storytelling from the headlines, as it did in Law & Order. And you get to see Jon Seda [who transitioned from Chicago P.D. to Chicago Justice] come over and be a part of our crew. Philip Winchester is our fierce leader and he does a wonderful job of really running that courtroom. Carl [Weathers] is the go-to guy for the answers, the advice, and the order, I guess! I really love the dynamic that Jon and I have been able to create out on the streets. I think Chicago plays a really big part [too], almost like another character. I know Dick Wolf was asked, “Why Chicago?” And he said, “Because it’s middle America; people can relate to this city, [its] people, and how the people work so hard, and unfortunately the crime.” It’s nice to play a character that really wants to try to serve society and bring justice to the forefront. I worked with a state investigator to try to really get to know more of the feeling of the role of the investigator and how they do their jobs in the day to day. People really love what they do, or I don't think they'd do it, because it’s a lot of work.
Joelle Carter as Laura Nagel in Chicago Justice.
The TV industry has been growing so much in Chicago. What is it like as an actress to shoot something here versus in LA or New York?
JC: It’s refreshing. [Chicago Justice] hasn’t aired yet so I’m still kind of not recognized as much, unless people know Justified. But Jon Seda and some of the others can’t step outside without people coming into their day-to-day existence. It’s been nice to disappear into such a cool city. There are museums, culture, and arts, and it’s nice to be in more of a middle America area. I feel like that’s one of the reasons [Wolf] put it here, because L.A. has gotten to be such a big city and a big industry, and so has New York. Sometimes it’s nice to step away from that, and I feel like that’s why the cast is so close here, because it’s almost like you’re on location. Sometimes when you're on location during a shoot, you tend to stick together and form a bond.
What are some of your favorite things to do or places to go in Chicago when you have some downtime?
JC: Well, we just wrapped, so I just got my downtime. I got on one of the Divvy Bikes when we had a 60-degree day here—which is unheard of this time of year—and I rode around a bit. I went to the Chicago History Museum and that was really lovely. When I first got here they had me downtown, so I tried to do a bunch of things around the river. I’m really looking forward to my hiatus because I’ll be here with my kid—she's in school—and I'll get to discover a lot more of the city.
You mentioned the casts are all very close. What was it like for you and the rest of the Justice cast coming in as the "freshmen"?
JC: It’s interesting because when they moved Jon over, I feel like it really connected us and I feel like it’s going to connect the audiences, too. He’s really opened up his home, even, to bringing all of the casts together. And we’ve done a few events and the women have a book club, so it’s been nice to get to know people not on the set. I’ve never been on a show that can cross over to so many different shows, so you get to continue to be your own character, but you get to do the other shows. It’s pretty genius.
If you did have to switch to one of the shows and play a cop, a firefighter, an EMT, or a medical professional, which would you pick?
JC: Maybe Fire. I think I’d be a firewoman. I’m athletic, and I like to go outside. But I think their schedule is a lot more grueling than ours.
Photography by Chris Haston/NBC and Parrish Lewis/NBC
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