Tracy Spiridakos interview: Tackling Upton’s past and her future

CHICAGO P.D. -- "Payback" Episode 519 -- Pictured: Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC)
CHICAGO P.D. -- "Payback" Episode 519 -- Pictured: Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC) /

Chicago PD’s Tracy Spiridakos told One Chicago Center about Hailey Upton’s ‘intense’ backstory and reflected on her first season as a Chicago PD regular.

Tracy Spiridakos has been an excellent addition to Chicago PD. That was no more evident than in the show’s most recent episode, “Ghosts”, which finally explained her character Hailey Upton’s big secret.

Fans learned that Upton’s undercover operation had involved the death of her partner and her being nearly raped at the hands of an obsessive drug dealer. It was a difficult episode for Upton, and Tracy told us what it was like to film the installment where all the truth came out.

“It was intense, but it was really fun,” she said. “I’m a big fan of Titus [Welliver] and I was thrilled that he came onboard to play this character so brilliantly. And it was really fun playing with him.

“It was challenging, as far as the big fight scene and the physicality of all of that. But I was thrilled too, to get to see a little bit about her backstory, and get to know a little more about her. So it was really exciting.”

More from One Chicago Center

As we catch up with Upton in tonight’s new episode of Chicago PD, her new partner Jay Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer) now knows the skeletons in her closet. How much does Upton and Halstead’s partnership evolve after they’ve both helped each other through traumas close to home?

“They just continue to get a stronger bond between them,” Tracy told us. “They’ve got each other’s back, and there’s no doubt in that.”

“There’s information Halstead wouldn’t reveal [to Voight], and then when he found out everything, he was there and supported her. I think that was a really big deal. It brought them closer together.

“The fact that he came to be with her at the end so that she wasn’t alone—there was nothing in that, other than being a friend and being supportive, and being a partner. I thought that was really cool.”

With only a handful of episodes left in Chicago PD season 5, there’s not much time to learn more about Hailey Upton. Tracy confirmed that even though her character has just been through a huge event, she’s right back to business this week.

“What we see is what we get until next season,” she said. “We only have four episodes left of the season, and we don’t explore too much into that for the rest of the season. But it would be cool to see a little bit more of that going forward for next season, and see how she’s doing with all of that.”

Hailey Upton’s first full season of Chicago PD has been an exercise in moving forward. Aside from what happened with Booth, her previous big episode “Fallen” involved the death of another officer with whom she had worked. With so much of Upton’s past revealed, what would Tracy like to see in her character’s future?

“I see her as somebody who rides a dirt bike in her spare time, and is kind of edgy in a different way,” she explained. “It’d be cool to explore other sides of her.

“But as far as how she manages with her stress and everything that’s happened, I think all those things happened three years ago and she found a way to kind of deal with it in her way. Now it’s kind of come back up, but I think that over time she’s found a way to store that inside of her, somehow.”

The other half of the story is the journey of Tracy Spiridakos. Like Upton, she’s the new girl in the district, having been promoted to series regular in Chicago PD season 5 after recurring last season and we’ve seen her tackle the self-described “learning curve” and then some. She’s been one of the most engaging performers in all of One Chicago.

Has working with the high caliber of scene partners she’s had, like Titus Welliver and Wil Traval, helped her development of Upton’s character?

“Definitely. Getting to work with such talented actors can only make your work better. Titus elevated my work for sure,” she enthused, adding with a laugh, “I found myself watching him and forgetting my own cues, because I was watching him perform!

“I feel so very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to work with him and so many other wonderful guest actors that have come forward.”

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She has a lot to be proud of in Chicago PD season 5. Not only has Upton gotten some episodes that have allowed her to shine individually, the character has fit in perfectly with the Intelligence Unit. Which episodes would Tracy consider the highlights of her freshman season?

“This [most recent] episode was a big one for me. So many things came out of this episode that I was thrilled to explore.

“I liked working with Marina [Squerciati] a lot,” she added. “We did the CI episode [“Confidential”]. I really had a good time playing with her and having our different viewpoints of that scenario. And how we handled it and how she and I had a really nice bonding moment at the end of that episode. That was really great.”

Great is also a word that could describe Tracy Spiridakos on Chicago PD. She was intriguing last season, but getting to see her on a weekly basis and the added development and exposure that comes with it has proven how much she adds to the series and how watchable she is. She’s given a lot to make Hailey Upton work, and it shows.

Ultimately, how does she look back on this season of Chicago PD?

“It has been so much fun,” Tracy reflected. “I feel very fortunate to get to be a part of this really amazing group of people. I just feel like I’m a big part of this big family and I feel fortunate for that. And it’s just been a ton of fun. I love Chicago, I love the people I work with, and it’s been a very, very wonderful experience.”

Next: Which Chicago PD character could betray Voight?

Catch Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton in a new Chicago PD episode tonight on NBC, and let us know what you think about Upton’s first full season in the comments.

Chicago PD airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on NBC.