‘Chicago P.D.’ Season 11 Finale: How Tracy Spiridakos Got Written Off and That Fan-Favorite Surprise Return Came About

SPOILER ALERT: This story includes storylines from “More,” the May 22 Season 11 finale of “Chicago P.D.”

Hailey Upton is no longer a Chicago resident. The Season 11 “Chicago P.D.” finale served as the final episode for Tracy Spiridakos, who joined the show midway through Season 4 and has been a series regular since Season 5.

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The episode was one of the most emotional of the season, with the squad searching for Voight (Jason Beghe), who was being tortured by serial killer Frank Matson (Dennis Flanagan). Matson’s MO is forcing his first victim to call the person they love most, convince them to come rescue them — and then kill them both. Since Voight’s closest (and really only) friend is Hailey, that’s who Matson wanted him to call. In true Voight fashion, he refused to call and would rather be stabbed over and over again.

After that happened, in a delirious state, Voight saw Alvin Olinsky. Elias Koteas, whose character died in prison at the end of Season 5, returned for a brief moment, asking Voight what he got himself into this time. After Voight tells his old friend he’s ready to go out, Al tells him that Hailey’s not ready for him to leave — and it’s not his time yet.

Eventually, Hailey was able to get to Voight in time. After referring to himself as her father while in a near-death blur, he and Hailey were able to attack Matson. Although she was shot in the process, both survived — and Voight killed Matson with his own two hands.

Later, after they both got out of the hospital, Hailey broke down in tears to her boss, revealing that she needed to start over, but was scared to leave behind the team and scared she didn’t deserve something more. He reassured her that she could never lose him or the team — and that she does deserve more. In the final moments of the episode, she looked through different websites — FBI, FEMA, DEA — before getting into a cab and heading to the airport.

In a conversation with Variety, showrunner Gwen Sigan and Spiridakos break down Hailey’s emotional ending, how Al’s return came about and what this all means for Voight’s future.

Gwen, starting with you, when Tracy came to you about wanting to leave, did you immediately start figuring out how you’d write her off?

Gwen Sigan: Yeah, I was very sad but so rarely do you know that much in advance, so I was very grateful for that we had a whole season. It opened up all of the opportunities and in the room, we went through all the options and I’m really happy with what we settled on. It felt like the most fulfilling for that character.

Well, if this episode showed anything, it’s that no one is really gone in One Chicago world; the door is always open. Would you pop back in Tracy, if asked?

Tracy Spiridakos: Yes, I would love that — that would be amazing. It would be a dream.

So Hailey says she’s starting over. What do you think it looks like for her to start over?

Spiridakos: You know what, I haven’t filled in the blank for her as to what that ending is or what the answer is to where she’s going on her way to the airport. What I really loved about this ending is that we finally get to see her be happy. We get to see her find herself and do something that’s for her. It’s something completely different than we’ve seen as far as departures go for characters and for her, she’s been through a lot. I love that it’s in a place where she just gets to discover herself and see what else is out there for her.

Gwen, have you filled in the blanks of where Hailey is headed?

Sigan: I have my own version of where she went and what she did, but we wanted that ending to represent hope, opportunity and possibility. And so, the more open-ended it was, the more you get that feeling.

Personally, and I’m sure I’ll get flack for saying it, I’m happy it wasn’t about Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer). But, fans do want that — was that ever a conversation about including him in that plan of why she’s leaving?

Sigan: Honestly, we went through all the options just to do due diligence and see if there was something interesting in all of them. In the room, how it shook out, was we wanted it to be about her — her story, her thing, empowering for her and a transformation for her.

CHICAGO P.D. -- "Debts of the Past" Episode 304 -- Pictured: Elias Koteas as Alvin Olinsky -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC)
Elias Koteas as Alvin Olinsky in Season 3 of “Chicago P.D.”

Okay, let’s talk about Al — the return of one of the best characters to ever be in the One Chicago universe. Gwen, how did this come about?

Sigan: Jason Beghe has had this idea for a little bit and we’ve talked about how we could do it. This was his brainchild. We finally found the perfect way to do it once we knew what the serialized story was going to be and how low he was going to get — how vulnerable. Just the logistics of it makes sense that he could see Al in this moment.

What was it about this storyline that made it important to have Al come in and talk to Voight?

Sigan: Voight is not someone who is introspective, who thinks about himself or about his choices and his decisions very often. So the fact that we were able to use Al to get him to a place where he could have this wonderful, vulnerable conversation with Hailey and see Hailey in this different light and be supportive and be all these things that she needed in that moment, it really made sense. Kudos to Elias for being down. He was excited too, and I think he and Jason have really wanted that moment again together. It was the most special day on set. We had the best time and I couldn’t be more grateful to him for doing that.

Tracy, that final scene with Hailey and Voight is, I think, the most emotional we’ve seen you on the show. What was it like to film that?

Spiridakos: It was honestly the scene I was the most intimidated to do but also the most excited for. Jason and I have so much fun working together. It’s such a well-written scene that we just had to be present, show up and say the words. All of our emotions came out. There’s so much of it that for me, Tracy, that’s personal. It was like [he said], “It’s okay to go!” I was like, okay! I didn’t feel like I needed to do too much to it other than just show up, be present and be there with Jason.

Sigan: I was there when they shot that one and it was so emotional. I was crying. They got me to cry! I think it was probably one of the first scenes I wrote of that script just because it was one of those that you just love writing because it has so much in it.

Voight has lost all of his closest allies — his son, Justin (‎Josh Segarra), his daughter-like figure Lindsay (Sophia Bush), Al, Halstead and now, Hailey. Is he capable of holding onto someone and how will Hailey’s exit affect him moving forward?

Sigan: It’s such an interesting, emotional place for a person where everyone he’s loved and everyone he’s connected to, has left him in some way. So I think next season, it provides a lot of opportunity for us. What will he do? We’ve seen him open up. We’ve seen him get more vulnerable. We’ve seen him become more intimate with people over the past few seasons. And now, does he harden again? Is it “I’m never doing it again?” Or does he keep going with that journey? I’m excited to get into all of that.

So, I assume you’ll have to hire some new detectives and beef up Intelligence next season. We’ve gotten quite a backstory with Jo Petrovic (Bojana Novakovic). Does that mean she’ll be joining the squad in Season 12?

I couldn’t tell you anything yet, we don’t know any of the answers. Petrovic has been amazing on the show. I think have so much opportunity. They’re operating at a very small number count, which in reality for a unit like this, it’s too small. It would be a bigger unit in the real world. So we’ve got some space to bring in people and to shake things up a little bit and have some new dynamics, new characters, new stories.

Have you started talking about ideas for next season at all yet?

Sigan: We start back up on the 28th in the room — next week!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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