*Actor Carl Weathers is best known for portraying Apollo Creed in the Rocky series of films, and George Dillon in horror thriller “Predator.” The former professional football player currently stars as Cook County state’s attorney Mark Jefferies in Dick Wolf’s latest spinoff of Chicago-set procedural dramas, “Chicago Justice.”
The series premiered as a special preview on March 1, and focuses on the legal system in the Windy City. Executive Producer Michael S. Chernuchin said “almost every” episode will mix and mingle with “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.,” or “Chicago Med.”
“I think almost every show there is at least somebody from “Fire,” “Med,” or “P.D.” in the episode… not as a crossover, but more as an integration,” Chernuchin said during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.
“Chicago Justice stars Monica Barbaro and Philip Winchester as prosecutor Peter Stone, who is often in conflict with Mark Jefferies. The State’s attorney sees the world through a political prism, but together with their team, Stone and Jefferies strive to bring some much-needed justice to the Windy City.
EUR/Electronic Urban Report sat down with Mr. Weathers during NBC’s Chicago press day last year, and we caught up with him again during TCA back in January to discuss his character’s interests and ambitions and how Mark Jefferies prefers to deploy his power.
“Well, his interest is really this job that he’s in, and, of course, he was politically motivated from the very beginning, and this is a political position. So he has to be interested in doing the job to stay in the job,” Weathers explained.
“And, of course, I guess his aspirations are beyond that. I can see Mark Jefferies absolutely being the man who follows Rahm Emanuel, being the mayor, and then perhaps moving on to governor, and then there are larger positions in the political landscape that he might move into. But, right now, I see Mark Jefferies as a guy who is really committed to his job, in doing right, following the law, living up to the letter of the law whenever he can.”
Chernuchin noted that “The interesting thing about that position in Chicago is that the state’s attorney, Mark Jefferies, is the second-most powerful person in the city, and where in L.A., you see celebrities walking down street, you see movie stars walking down the street, in Chicago, their celebrities are the politicians. So this man is a big deal when he goes out to a restaurant, when he walks down the street, and a lot of his positions in the show go through that prism that I’m representing the city.”
When asked why has Chicago become such a hot location for filmmakers, Dick Wolf explained, “Well, for us, I mean, I think the city has had probably exponential film growth, and I credit Rahm and Governor Rauner. I mean, they have made it a very, very hospitable location for filming.”
On why he settled on “Chicago Justice” over “Chicago Law,” Wolf said, “Chicago Justice” not “Chicago Law” for the simple reason that they are very different shows.”
He continued, “I didn’t want them compared directly because there is not the bifurcated structure of “Law & Order,” but any comparisons are welcome. I think that the two shows are two of the smartest shows that have been on television over the past 30 years. I think that it’s a I’ve described to other people that the four shows are a joy because it’s kind of like the human body, that “Fire” is the crotch, “P.D.” is the muscle, “Med” is the heart, and this show is the brain.”
Although he’s been crowned the King of Crossovers, Mr. Wolf wants you to know that producing crossovers can be “a pain in the ass.”
“Everybody hates doing them. I don’t have an exact number, but usually, the highs for many of the shows have been during crossovers, and you get, unfortunately, it’s like ratings crack, and it’s a bad addiction because you don’t want to overuse it. But the premiere on March 1st has never been done before. It is “Fire” and the “P.D.” and the “Justice” with the cast of “Med” scattered through all three of the hours. It’s really amazing. It’s incredibly gratifying. It’s incredibly hard to pull off, but when it works to be able to do something after, whatever it is, 75 years of commercial television that has literally never been done before, it really is exciting, and it gives the actors, as they stumble out in 13degree weather at 6:30 in the morning, a reason to get out there.”
During NBC Chicago Day 2016, Carl Weathers said that there were “so many aspects” to Jefferies that he found “really fascinating.”
“And there’s a largesse about him that, in terms of the way he’s written, that sometimes you don’t find in characters,” Carl explained. “I will be throwing everything I can as an actor and as a human being into him to give him depth, strength, character — character in the sense of a man with character, and at the same time find whatever flaws are in him, or whatever unsavory things about his past that if he had to do again he would decide not to do that way, which would make him far more interesting.”
So, is Jefferies the type of politician who plays by the book, or does he break the rules in the name of justice?
“I’d like to think that’s he’s a man of integrity but at the same time, not without his flaws, has the ability if he needs to-to drop the hammer when he really thinks, despite what the verdicts are… might be, that he can do some good, despite what a jury may decide,” said Weathers.
“We can’t let a bad person go, we gotta do something about it. Or, conversely, no matter what a jury or a judge decides, if something about something doesn’t smell right, and a person is going to be incarcerated unjustly, it doesn’t go down well with Mark Jefferies. So I think there’s a lot about him to like. Hopefully we’ll find some things that’ll make us question him a bit because that makes a guy interesting.”
Jefferies is not the type to play dirty or accept bribes, but Mr. Weathers told us that he does believe that Mark “knows where power lay, and he’s not a fool.”
“He’s a politician, so you know — the game is about not necessarily you being the powerful one, but it’s all those people who are behind you who are true power. And so as a politician, he has to be smart enough to be able to know where the parameters are, where the lines are drawn, who really are the kingmakers, and if you look at any point to be the king, you better know how to play ball with the kingmakers.”
If you missed the “Chicago Justice” special preview premiere, stream it now on nbc.com.
Tune in to “Chicago Justice” Sundays at 9 p.m. on NBC.