From Undrafted to Law&Order: Philip Winchester at the 58th Monte-Carlo Television Festival

We met Philip Winchester from Law & Order: SVU and we talked about tv series, baseball, music, and Undrafted: the movie based on Joe Mazzello‘s brother starring also Jay Hayden (who was in the room next to ours), Gossip Girl‘s Chace Crawford, Broadway star Aaron Tveit and his Graceland partner in crime Manny Montana.

C: Why did you decide to study and train in London?

P: I was young and my mum is English. My parents were very supportive of me being an actor but my mum said: if you want to be an actor you have to train in London because these are very important years in your life. My grandma runs a b&b there, she is 90-year-old, she is incredible, still running it. We celebrated her 90th birthday last weekend in London, I was able to spend some quality time with her and my 3-year-old daughter.

C: Peter, your character, is also in all the Chicago franchise…Chicago Med, Chicago PD, …How do you feel about working with a different cast on a different set every now and then?

P: I love the crossovers. It’s interesting because each of these shows has a different energy. So far, for example, PD is very dark, Med can be a little bit lighter but it can turn to dark very quickly. And then there was Justice. We did 13 episodes on Justice. For me, it was interesting because I was the lead of Chicago Justice so you swap trying to survive. It was the first season of the show, you were working eight hours a day, shooting all the time. And then I cross over Law and Order when Justice got canceled. Dick Wolf called me the next day asking me if I would like to go to Law and Order. I believed he was kidding…I could ever say no to him? So I walked over there and this amazing bunch of actors who were doing it for ages welcomed me with open arms. And ironically we started to deep in the character more than we were allowed on Justice because Justice was about the cases, the week to week problem. But with Law and Order, we were allowed to say: so this is the character, this is his present, let’s dig into his past and all the skeletons in his closet. Which is great as an actor. So it has been great.

C: So no pressure in walking into a family that was working side by side eight hours a day for years?

P: Like coming in like..Hi,…hello,…I’m the new guy…Yeah, I mean sometimes one of the things I learned over the years is that if the writing is good, and in this case it’s brilliant, you can lead on the writing. And all this Chicago world works also because tells about headline jobs we are used to reading about in newspapers finally offering an inside look to the audience. Here is how these people are on call and here is how they are at home. We invite them to our homes, we choose to let them in. They save lives but look they also deal with the same things we have to deal too. They are also people and that makes them real and interesting.

C: Did you have some sort of confrontation with a real PD officer, for example as happened for the cast of Chicago Fire with the local fire station during the first weeks of shooting?

P: Yeah, I know they had. Look, as actors, we have this amazing opportunity to learn things otherwise we would never know in our life. For example, I had the great pleasure to work with a former attorney and I learned that law isn’t always the same. Sometimes it’s political, sometimes is power, sometimes it is like it is on the paper, but most of the time it’s not. So for us, the show is successful if it makes the audience screaming at the screen.

C: Changing subject…how did you land in a movie like Undrafted?

P: Oh, right! My agent called me and said that he had a script on his desk by Joe Mazzello so I got on the phone and I had a video call with Joe, a Skype call and we talked baseball, and growing up and I said: hey man this is a great script. And he said: there are amazing people involved, do you wanna do it? And I said: of course I wanna do it! So was just one of those right place in the right time things. I wasn’t working as it was in between seasons. So it was a gift and everyone has that little project that becomes a turning point because involves amazing people. Jay (Hayden) is one of them. And I stayed in touch with Jay, and Mannie Montana, and every time I see them on TV I text them.

C: Your character doesn’t have a lot of lines but there is this wonderful speech with Aaron (Tveit) about life and what matters in life that is really amazing and inspiring and that worth 10,000 of lines actually…

P: Did you notice that most of the people here this year are connecting with Aaron by the way? It’s crazy! Thank you for the wonderful words about that speech. And yes, it is inspiring and I truly believe in what it is said. Bad things in life could turn into wonderful things. My character got injured and thanks to that horrible accident that put his career to an end he met his wonderful wife. Aaron is not here but Jay is in the next room, let’s go to him and let’s make him sing the motivation song from Undrafted!


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