Philip Winchester talks moving from Chicago Justice to SVU

LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- "The Undiscovered Country" Episode 1913 -- Pictured: Philip Winchester as Peter Stone -- (Photo by: Michael Parmelee/NBC)
LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT -- "The Undiscovered Country" Episode 1913 -- Pictured: Philip Winchester as Peter Stone -- (Photo by: Michael Parmelee/NBC) /

Philip Winchester starts his Law and Order: SVU journey tonight, and told One Chicago Center what it’s been like playing Peter Stone after Chicago Justice.

It turns out Chicago Justice was just the start for Peter Stone. Tonight, Philip Winchester takes TV’s most badass prosecutor over to Law & Order: SVU, and it’s a journey.

One Chicago Center connected with Philip Winchester ahead of his SVU debut to talk about why Peter Stone ends up in New York, what he’ll be doing on Dick Wolf‘s other series, and how things are different from Chicago Justice.

The best news One Chicago fans could’ve gotten after the end of Chicago Justice was that Peter would get a second life, after a deal was closed to make him a recurring character in SVU season 19.

But it hasn’t been so simple as just moving him from one state to the other. These are two very different shows, with different casts and different tones—and oh yeah, Peter Stone has history in New York, as the son of Law & Order‘s first ever prosecutor, Ben Stone.

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So how exactly has it been to bring the character from one franchise to another?

“It’s really different,” Philip told us. “It’s nice to reinhabit Peter Stone again, because I know who he is. We had ample time to find him with 13 episodes on Justice.

“But to step into such a smooth-running machine, that’s been running such a long time, was pretty jarring actually,” he added. “I just had to get out of my own head and let Peter Stone do his own thing. It took me a little time!”

Which is fitting, because Philip Winchester is essentially going on the same journey that Peter Stone is taking. He’s trying to figure out his place amongst a well-established unit of people and in a whole other city—and for Peter, his arrival in tonight’s SVU episode starts with something very emotional and kind of painful.

“He comes up for his father. His father passes away,” Philip explained. “He gets presented with a interesting question from the District Attorney [Jack McCoy], and says I’ll do it but then I’m going back to Chicago. I’ve got a good thing going on there, I’ve got an amazing team and they trust me and expect me to come back.”

Except, of course, since Peter Stone will be in several SVU episodes this season, fans know that’s not what happens. So what on Earth could convince Peter to leave Chicago and willingly step back into the shadow of his father that we know he was trying to avoid?

While we can’t tell you the answer to that question, we can tell you that it will get answered. And that’s just the start of what we’re going to uncover, because Philip revealed that he does have the room to explore Peter Stone a bit more, even though he’s now in a supporting part rather than the lead role.

“One of the things that [former Chicago Justice and current SVU showrunner] Michael [Chernuchin] and I spoke about was diving into Peter Stone more,” he said. “Even though we had so much time with Peter Stone in Justice, we didn’t really get to find out much about him.

“Ironically over here on SVU, we have more time to dive into who he is. He’s not taking on all these big cases, he has more time to do some other things in his life, and the audience in turn gets to see that.

“Which I think is really good. We needed that and if Justice would have gone forward, I think that’s one of the roads that would have opened for us,” he continued. “Unfortunately it didn’t, but they’re kind of picking up where we left off with Peter Stone on SVU, which is great because of Michael and some of the writers. They know who this guy is.

“We’re saying hey, if you want to know more about him, go watch Justice; otherwise this is who he is now and we’re going to dive into that backstory. I think it’s great because for the Chicago Justice fans, it won’t be a repeat of what they know.”

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What you will see is the Peter Stone that audiences grew to love, which means Philip Winchester kicking a little butt. Just because he’s not the star of the show, or even the only lawyer on SVU, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be sitting behind a desk. He’s still out there fighting for what’s right and not caring if that gets taken the wrong way.

“I piss a lot of people off in this first episode,” Philip laughed. “It’s a different world for Peter Stone. He’s a homicide prosecutor in Chicago, and now with the stuff he’s getting presented it’s sex crimes, so it’s very grey. There’s a lot of grey areas where he’s like man, this is new territory. He’s leaning on [Olivia] Benson to give him a lot of the answers.”

Even if their first meeting does not go well at all, as you can watch below:

Which brings us to another burning question of how Philip Winchester has swapped one set of great actors for another. On Justice, he was working with a legend in Carl Weathers and a franchise veteran in Jon Seda. Now on SVU, he’s working with another legend in Sam Waterston and another franchise icon in Mariska Hargitay.

Is that as unbelievably awesome as it sounds?

“[Sam] came in, he knew his lines cold. He walked in that courtroom like he owned it, because he does,” Philip said. “The same with Raul [Esparza]. I was standing there like, what am I doing here? I keep having those moments in my career and in my journey through all the characters I’ve been fortunate enough to play.

“I had some great scenes with Raul and Sam. It was all crammed in that first episode. This first episode gets through a lot of material.

“Mariska is, I’ve never worked with anyone like her,” he continued. “She’s phenomenal. She just brings it every single scene, like it was the first year. Like it was the first time she was doing it. Its so incredible to watch the energy she has and the care for the show and the character; it’s why it’s on its 19th year.”

But let’s not discount the new kid on the block. Philip Winchester is the best actor on television, and the work he did as Peter Stone on Chicago Justice proved that he could take a pitch totally out of his wheelhouse and hit a home run with it.

That’s essentially what’s happening again on Law & Order: SVU, as he’s bringing this phenomenal character that was so well-written and that he made so dynamic, and now having to adjust to the idea of him in a completely new role and a new world.

What we’re about to watch is the second chapter of Peter Stone, and maybe even a new chapter for Philip Winchester, and that’s something worth getting excited about. One of TV’s best heroes is back, and he’s not going to be sitting on the sidelines.

“I think for Chicago Justice fans, we know who Peter Stone is and this gives us an opportunity to dive into him personally a bit more,” Philip reflected. “There was some stuff that we were going to head down the road to and now we get to.

“And this year on SVU, everyone’s going to be happy with the writing. Michael and his staff are doing the show phenomenal justice. For me it’s great to jump on it and say what do you want to do with Peter Stone, and they’re doing a great justice to him too.”

Next: Why you need to watch Chicago Justice again

Don’t miss Philip Winchester’s first Law & Order: SVU episode tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC. For more on Chicago Justice, follow the Chicago Justice category at One Chicago Center.