CHICAGO P.D.: Gia-Rayne Harris on Sean and Upton's Showdown, Making Her Network TV Directorial Debut - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

CHICAGO P.D.: Gia-Rayne Harris on Sean and Upton’s Showdown, Making Her Network TV Directorial Debut

January 17, 2023 by  

Chicago PD Gia-Rayne Harris directing

CHICAGO P.D. — “I Can Let You Go” Episode 1012 — Pictured: (l-r) — (Photo by: Lori Allen/NBC)

When Gia-Rayne Harris completed AFI’s Directing Program, she was faced with a familiar decision for most graduates: What comes next?

“I am somebody who throws everything at the wall to see what sticks; I definitely was coming out of film school, like, ‘What the heck am I gonna do with my life?'” Harris tells Give Me My Remote. Enter NBCU LAUNCH’s Female Forward program, which “aims to discover multidimensional, visionary creators and empower them to tell their authentic stories, providing them the resources to enhance their craft and professional skills and supporting them throughout their careers.”

“This program is obviously a dream,” Harris acknowledges. “You get to shadow [the show as part of directing prep] and then you get to direct—so why not try? I applied and the interview process began. And somehow, some way, these people believed in me. And so then there I am. Now I’m forever a part of the Female Forward cohort. And I think there’s been 45 directors launched from it, which is insane.”

Harris praises her Female Forward mentors, including directors Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli, “who teach a course leading up to it,” she recalls. “I was in an interesting position because I was shadowing [CHICAGO P.D.]; I got put on the show immediately. So I was shadowing at the same time the course was happening, as well as doing my DGA training course. So a lot was happening. But those two, oh my God, you cannot beat the teaching that they offer. Read their book if you haven’t, ‘Directors Tell the Story.’ It’s too special to have them tell you exactly how they’ve been doing this for years and years and years, and to teach you how to prepare. That’s the one thing that nobody ever does—show you their preparation; that’s invaluable for directors. So I could not have done it without them. Truly.”

And now Harris’ work has come to fruition—her episode, “I Can Let You Go,” is airing Wednesday, January 18.

“CHICAGO P.D. and NBCU LAUNCH Female Forward Program gave me a chance to realize my dream of being a working professional TV director,” she says. “Thank you to everyone who made that happen—[CHICAGO P.D. director/executive producer] Chad Saxton for taking the biggest chance on me. My mother, who retired from police work just last year, was able to visit me onset—first time she’s been able to—and it sealed the deal on this being an experience I will never forget!”

Prior to officially starting, though, “I watched every episode of CHICAGO P.D. that there was to watch,” Harris says with a laugh. “I saw all of season 1 through 9 in a record amount of time—like I do wonder if it was a record. I’ve seen the show before, but I went from beginning to end [as prep]. And it’s funny, because before my first shadow, they were like, ‘You know, our style has changed pretty significantly. So focus on season 7 through 9.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I know everything that’s happened since day one.'”

Chicago PD Gia-Rayne Harris directing

CHICAGO P.D. — “I Can Let You Go” Episode 1012 — Pictured: (l-r) Jefferson White as Sean O’Neal, Tracy Spiridakos as Hailey Upton — (Photo by: Lori Allen/NBC)

Outside of just knowing what the show’s look was, Harris had a good reason for brushing up on all things CPD. “It was really important to me, because I didn’t know what my episode was going to be about, that I understand every single character’s arc and how they experienced it,” she notes. “So when I got whoever was going to lead up my episode, I know exactly what they’ve been through. And then, of course, the Sean of it all—Jefferson White is a dream. And so I wanted to understand how he worked. But thankfully I was there for his very first episode on the show, episode 5 [while shadowing], so I was able to see his character from beginning to end.”

With White still new to the CHICAGO P.D. world, “I was able to learn, just in general, how he might work differently,” Harris says. “Obviously I got to know the show pretty quickly, and those actors. But he’s on YELLOWSTONE; he’s been killing it all around, on different shows. So it was nice to see how different he operates, actually. And he was also kind of new to network [TV], as well, so we got to be new to CHICAGO P.D. together.”

And the hour will be a big one, as Sean—who viewers last saw on the verge of death—makes Upton (Tracy Spiridakos) an alarming offer.

“Get ready for a showdown,” Harris teases. “We have been building up to that, all season, between Sean and Upton. And there’s incredible chemistry there and danger to their relationship. So get ready for a showdown.”

CHICAGO P.D., Wednesdays, 10/9c, NBC


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