NBC’s Chicago Law is going forward, and has found its leading man. Philip Winchester, who gave a gangbusters performance in NBC’s The Player this fall, is the first star cast in the latest series in Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchise. Deadline Hollywood reported the news on Friday.
We don’t know any details on what character Winchester will be playing, or even about the show at all, as it hasn’t been formally announced by NBC yet but seemed to be a near-certainty anyway (a recent press release describing Wolf’s recent new deal with the network called Chicago Law “in active development” and the subject was on the table at January’s Television Critics Association press tour).
But it’s a safe bet to assume Chicago Law will first launch as a back-door pilot during this season of Chicago PD before becoming its own show sometime in the 2016-2017 TV season. That’s the route NBC took with Chicago Med, which premiered this fall alongside The Player and Blindspot.
This has to be a vote of confidence for the actor, who delivered one of the best performances of the season in his short-lived role as Alex Kane. That NBC would want to retain him, and that they’d offer him the closest thing they have to a “sure thing” in becoming part of the network’s massive Chicago franchise, means that they obviously value his talent.
It also means a huge amount of exposure, as the Wolf series are heavily promoted and all pull in consistently solid numbers. This week’s episode of Chicago PD did more than 7 million viewers, while Med had 6.6 and Fire 7.5 million in live viewing.
It’ll be a change of pace, too, as none of his major roles have required him to play attorneys in the past. He’s spent the last several years of his career in action mode (see: The Player, Strike Back, Camelot) so fans might find it a bit jarring to see Winchester behind a desk, in a courtroom or generally not punching someone in the face. But that’s why they call it acting – so we can enjoy people in a variety of different roles.
Fellow action star Mark Valley, for example, followed up his fight-heavy role on FOX’s Human Target with a one-season run on NBC’s Kathy Bates-led legal comedy Harry’s Law.
The move means that both Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton will stay in the NBC family, as Stapleton’s series Blindspot returns to the air on Monday, Feb. 29 at 10 p.m. on NBC. Most importantly, though, it gets the best actor on television back on television.