No one wants to be on the wrong side of Chicago PD's Hank Voight. The head of the Chicago Police Department's Intelligence Unit doesn't mess around and there's nothing he won't do to catch a bad guy. But what's it like to play him?
TV Fanatic had the opportunity to visit the set of Chicago PD recently as part of NBC's One Chicago Day festivities, and sat down with Jason Beghe to discuss how he sees his character – and how that colors his performances every Wednesday.
Read the interview below to hear from Beghe, and catch Chicago PD Season 4 Episode 6 tonight at 10/9c on NBC. You can also catch up on all of Season 4's episodes so far when you watch Chicago PD online.
Voight comes across as this sort of big bad wolf with a badge. But how do you perceive him?
Jason Beghe: One of the things about Voight, I think it's a very integral part, is that's he very present. He's in this moment, which is what makes him very extroverted. He's interested, he's not interesting. He does not take a lot of time thinking about his feelings and stuff, he's just here right now, and that's what makes him so intimidating. It's about you, it's not about him.
More than anyone I've ever come across, and it was a conscious choice with him, to make him a guy who doesn't introspect hardly at all. He might realize he made a mistake but he's not going to pull his hair out about it.
Does that mean you're similarly going on instinct when you're playing him?
JB: Not always. Creating a character, especially when you're doing something that's this much time, it's like I'm living with somebody so I want to make sure that it's a healthy relationship. There's things I learn from Voight, there's things Voight learns from me.
It's always a battle because sometimes I get a little too much Voight into Jason. So it's a learning process and like any healthy relationship, sometimes we fight but we love each other and we learn from each other and we're trying to make each other better.
It has to be amazingly fun to go to work every day, though. Playing the guy who can sneak up behind a bad guy or intimidate a suspect without batting an eyelash.
JB: Acting is fun. Particularly when you have a good scene and a good character and a good scene partner. That's fun. For me an exaggerated example would be like, imagine being a rock star. I thought about this, I don't have a drug problem or anything, but you know like a lot of rock stars have drug problems?
I was like, imagine going on stage and doing this creative thing and people throwing this energy back to you. Then you go back to real life after that two and a half hours and it's got to be a let down. it's like nothing's as exciting. They might just need to start snort some drug just to try and bounce back.
So to a lesser degree, acting can be a pain in the ass for whatever reason – you don't understand the scene or someone's unprepared - but generally speaking it's a heightened moment in life. It's an honor and it's exciting.
When was the last time Voight had a moment that took you to that next level?
JB: I did a scene, I just saw it, I think it was the last episode that was on. I was doing a couple of takes, very good scene interrogating a guy and it's a day where we had to hurry up and I nailed it. I'm pretty good, I get it first, second time and move on and time is money. It was great and the director said why don't you do one more, do what you want.
I figured I got it so I threw away everything and I'm in a interrogation scene where I'm really tough on the guy and I just found myself feeling amused. I start to laugh and I pat the guy on the head and it was even more scary. I shocked myself and learned something.
What do you love most about the character or the series?
JB: One of the things that excites me most about my job is I get to meet a lot of young actors. When somebody comes and they've done all their work and their prepared and it's their first time on TV and they're trying to get a career going and they're really good, there's nothing more exciting than working with a person like that and trying to help them. I'm good at helping and it's just one of my biggest turn ons is to be useful to those kind of guys.
I remember there's one kid that did a show and he's just fantastic. I stayed in touch with him and out of the blue he sent me a gift which is this big baseball bat. He was antiquing in Georgia or Florida, he found this huge softball bat, and he said this thing just reminded me of Voight and he sent it to me because I helped him with a lot of stuff. I kept the bat; it's in the corner of Voight's office.
Is there anything in particular that you're excited for fans to see in the rest of Season 4?
JB: There's three universes in my line of work. There's mine, there's the one with my scene partner and then there's the universe of the director and the audience. They don't always coincide. So I might have thought a scene was great, we might have thought that our thing was great or we may have thought it was s--tty.
But the one that matters is that [third] one. I have fun or I don't. It's all degrees of enjoyment or satisfaction but what matters is what you think, not what I think and that's really the way I look at the whole thing. Hopefully you guys have that moment. I get it all the time.
Voight is back in action when Chicago PD Season 4 Episode 6 airs tonight at 10/9c on NBC. Come back to TV Fanatic afterward for our recap and review, and stay tuned for more of our interviews from the set of Chicago PD!
Brittany Frederick is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.