We’re taking you behind the scenes to show you how Tracy Spiridakos and stunt double Kelli Victoria Scarangello pulled off Chicago P.D.’s most challenging scene of the season.
Chicago P.D. is making a splash with their upcoming Episode 9.13 Still Water. The episode begins with Hailey Upton (Tracy Spiridakos) chatting with Atwater (LaRoyce Hawkins) as she prepares for a jog, embracing a new fitness regime, which Atwater playfully heckles.
It is a chilly January evening as Upton finds her pace. As she crosses the Columbus bridge, a car squeals out of control and heads straight for her. Narrowly missing her, it flies off the bridge and plunges into the frigid water of the Chicago River.
Upton calls in the accident but with no time to spare, she takes it upon herself to jump into the icy water in an attempt to rescue the occupants of the vehicle. As the car sinks into the freezing river, Upton dives under and desperately struggles to open the driver’s door. Freezing and almost out of air, Upton pulls the unconscious driver out of the car. A woman in the passenger seat frantically reaches for her but Upton has no choice but to head to the surface with the driver.
The sequence has a real cinematic feel and LaRoyce Hawkins told Marisa Roffman at Give Me My Remote, “Oh my God, watching that is gonna be like watching one of those old Tomb Raider, Lara Croft films. Tracy goes in—I think it’s going to be dope to watch her, along with the help of stunts and special effects, and Chad Saxton who directed it.”
Chicago P.D. showrunner Gwen Sigan told TV Line in January, “I’m incredibly excited about an upcoming Upton episode. It’s been one of the most ambitious episodes we’ve done on the show so far, especially from a production standpoint. I can’t wait to see what our director Chad and our crew pull off, and to see Tracy in this one.”
The scene took two days to film but countless weeks to prep. Wolf Entertainment shared this youtube video explaining exactly how this scene evolved from an idea to one of the most incredible scenes the show has produced.
They were only able to launch the car off the bridge in one take, so it had to be perfect. Chicago P.D. was not allowed to launch the car through the guardrail of the actual bridge, so they constructed a ramp and platform that looked like the bridge itself. They had to prepare the car so it would not negatively impact the environment, by removing the engine and any trace of gas, oil and other pollutants.
The Chicago River is freezing in January when the scene was filmed. On the day of filming there were chunks of ice floating in the water making it unsafe for the stuntwoman, Kelli Scarangello to jump into water. A barge had to come in and push all the ice away from the area.
Spiridakos shared with us in the video, that Still Water is one of her favorite episodes and said that they had a really great time filming. While Spiridakos and the rest of the cast, and co-executive producer/director Chad Saxton were excited about the scene, stunt coordinator Tom Lowell had to take on the difficult task of making the scene a reality. He knew that parts of the scene would need to be filmed on the Columbus Bridge, while the underwater scenes would need to be filmed in a tank on stage at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, and stuntwoman Kelli Scarangello would have to jump into the Chicago river.
Special effects coordinator David Green was the one who made sure all guidelines from the city of Chicago were followed. He had to make sure the car was environmentally friendly and coordinate the crane used on the bridge. Because the car had been stripped down to basically a shell, without an engine, or gas, oil and fluids, it had to be catapulted off the bridge, on a ramp and stage they created, and they had to be certain not to damage the bridge. Plus they had to make the car look good as it hit the water on camera.
Chicago PD takes the safety of their actors and stunt people very seriously and it was important for everyone involved that Kelli Scarangello not be put in any real danger of hypothermia. They determined that she should not be in the water any longer than 25 seconds.
Scarangello was absolutely thrilled to be able to film this scene and said that “you’re not an official midwest stunt person until you go into the Chicago River.” She went on to say that “jumping into the Chicago River in January in freezing temperatures was exhilarating.”
For the underwater sequence, it was necessary for them to use a tank where Upton could dive down at least 20 feet. The tank itself was heated, so it was much easier for both Scarangello and Spiridakos to film their parts. Spiridakos not only had to dive deep in the water, but she also had to act and react at the same time. Scarangello was filmed from behind as Upton dove towards the car and struggled with the door. The different cuts were edited together seamlessly to make Upton look like an incredible hero.
When a Chicago P.D. fan stumbled across Chicago P.D. filming the upcoming episode Still Water, he snapped a pic and tweeted, “Please tell me I just ran into the recording of Chicago P.D.,” tagging Marina Squerciati, Jesse Lee Soffer, Tracy Spiridakos, and LaRoyce Hawkins. Squerciati confirmed the filming location and said, “I think you did! Just Tracy tonight though. I think I’m what will be our best episode ever”
Spiridakos seemed to be in great spirits in this short clip by the river’s edge.
She shared her adoration for her stunt double in this instagram post:
“This was a very cold day. This was the day the incredible @mzkelli_ (Kelli Victoria Scarangello) jumped into the river 🥶 for our 9.13 Still Water episode on #ChicagoPD She is a total badass and I want to make sure credit for the freezing cold jump goes to the right person. I never went into the cold water, that was all Kelli. Love this woman! ❤️”
Kelli Victoria Scarangello is a professional stunt driver, stuntwoman, and certified open water diver who was born and raised in Southern California and has appeared as a stuntwoman in 10 episodes of Chicago P.D. so far, as well as a stunt driver in 1 episode. She is known for her work on Rampage, Captive State and Pale Frenzy.
The episode airs on NBC Wednesday, February 23 at 9pm CT.
Chicago P.D. is produced by Wolf Entertainment and Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group.
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In addition to Dick Wolf, executive producers include Rick Eid, Peter Jankowski, Arthur W. Forney, Derek Haas and Eriq La Salle.