By Paula Hendrickson
I recently had a long, interesting conversation with Matt Lauria, who plays Detective Caleb Evers on Fox’s new series, The Chicago Code. He was sharing the stories behind several on-set photos he provided for a photo spread in the February issue of Emmy, but we also discussed his experiences working in Chicago for former Rockfordian Shawn Ryan, creator and executive producer of The Chicago Code.
Lauria—perhaps best known as football player Luke Cafferty on Friday Night Lights, which shoots on location in Texas—was pulling double duty when working on the pilot episode.
“It overlapped with my Friday Night Lights schedule,” Lauria said. “I was filming the pilot while I was filming the first two episodes of the final season of Friday Night Lights, so I was making six, seven, eight trips back and forth in a period of two-and-a-half weeks or so. It was weird—in Chicago, we were having really cold weather for April at night, then I’d go to Texas where it was blistering hot.”
Lauria and the rest of the cast—including Jennifer Beals, Jason Clarke, Devin Kelly, Todd Williams, Billy Lush and Delroy Lindo—didn’t jump straight into production. Most of the cast went on ride-alongs with actual Chicago police officers and also endured rigorous tactical training prior to filming.
“We got rare experiences most civilians never have,” Lauria said. “We got to see them interacting with criminals and going through some really crime-infested areas. We witnessed some awesome and extreme things. We got really comprehensive training on how to use, hold and fire all the real weapons our characters carry.”
Given his lifelong dislike of guns, Lauria acknowledges the irony of being surrounded by guns at work, but appreciates the emphasis cast and crew place on firearm safety. The cops you see in the background or breaking down doors alongside the stars are actual Chicago police officers.
“Every time I’m on set with background actors who are real police, they’ve got real guns right there with us on set,” Lauria said. “Before we begin scenes where guns are going to be unholstered, we all stand in a circle and everybody takes out their magazines and pulls back the slides so we can look into the chambers and make sure none of the guns are actually loaded.”
Much of the show’s realism can be credited to John Folino, an active Chicago homicide detective who also serves as the show’s technical adviser.
“He’s the one who makes sure we’re holding our walkie-talkies right, holding our guns appropriately and have the correct tactical approach to doing raids or clearing rooms, throwing cuffs on, everything,” Lauria said. “He’s been a huge influence to Shawn; he gets his scripts in the first wave that goes out and makes notes on them for authenticity.”
The Chicago Code isn’t the only current series set in Chicago, but it is the only one filmed there. As expected, the show includes glamour shots of the city’s skyline and lakefront, but Lauria says it delves beyond surface charms.
“I think some of the real depth, beauty and richness of what we’re filming is found in those dusty pockets off the beaten path where you’re seeing a preserved, honest, blue-collar slice of what this great city stands for,” Lauria said. “There’s something in Chicago that’s determined and robust, and it’s beautiful in its unpolished state.”
The Chicago Code premieres at 8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 7, on Fox.
Friday Night Lights’ final season will air on NBC later this spring.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.