‘Chicago P.D.’ cast, producers pitch in to help show’s lowest-paid crew members during strikes


A group of production assistants who worked on the set of “Chicago P.D.” — before the writers’ and actors’ strikes put the show on ice earlier this year — received a huge moral and financial boost earlier this month.

Each received $1,500 from a pool of money that was collected from cast and crew members of the long-running NBC show.

Production assistants are notoriously underpaid and overworked non-union workers whose duties include everything from coffee runs to being to maintaining walkie-talkies.

If anyone would be entitled to say “Take this job and shove it!” — they would.

But, for the most part, they don’t. They’re young, mostly in their 20s and 30s, and eager to work a gig seen as a cut-your-teeth entry point into the industry.

A group chat that’s kept the 14 PAs from feeling isolated in recent weeks blew up Aug. 12 when they each received an email from a former colleague informing them of the gift.

“I’m weeping on my couch right now,” read one message sent by a PA who’s staying afloat by working at a grocery store.

“I was incredibly surprised and very humbled,” said Jeff Sweeney, 26, of Wicker Park. “I’ve been collecting and trying to pick up odd jobs by working television commercials, but that work is pretty slim.”

Richard White, the guy who organized the effort and collected the money, knows this better than most.

White, 45, who served as first assistant director on the show until leaving last year for family reasons, was once a PA, too, and knows their grunt work well.

In an email informing his old PA crew of the cash that would be heading their way, White wrote: “If anyone really gets in a bind as this thing goes on, don’t hesitate to reach out. It will end; don’t give up on your dreams.”

The message resonated with Ang Gardner, 22, who said the money was a shock but in line with White’s generous character.

White would always include PAs in coffee orders, and did things to recognize their work, like presenting them with Christmas gifts — gestures that allowed them to know someone had their backs and made standing in the rain on a long day of shooting more bearable, Gardner said.

“The money, it’s a lighthouse in a dark night, and just to know people are thinking of us, it is hard but we’ll get through it,” said Gardner, who lives in Ravenswood and has been working as a bubble tea barista at catering events to help with expenses as her partner attends law school.

“I just felt warmth,” said Lucille Edlund, 27, who lives downtown and assists with makeup and wardrobe.

White said he remembers struggling through a similar strike in 2007 and felt compelled to act.

“I was trying to think of a way I could help — this is a real good group of PAs, lots of camaraderie, this is kind of my team — and I thought, ‘Hell, I’ll reach out to the biggest beneficiaries of everyone’s work: the cast, writers and producers.’ So I emailed them,” White told the Sun-Times. “And the response was heartening and overwhelming. Everyone gave what they could.”

White said the PAs became kind of a family after working 16-hour days for nine months of the year.

“And then … this. It can get lonely and insular and they’re just starting out and I don’t want them to give up because they feel like they have to get a more steady job,” he said.

“Chicago P.D.” actors including Tracy Spiridakos (from left), Patrick Flueger and Amy Morton pitched in to help the show’s production assistants.

“Chicago P.D.” actors including Tracy Spiridakos (from left), Patrick Flueger and Amy Morton pitched in to help the show’s production assistants.

Actor Amy Morton — who grew up in Oak Park, remains a local and plays Desk Sgt. Trudy Platt on the show — pitched in money without a second thought. 

“I’m going to last the strike OK because I’ve been doing this job for 10 years now and got paid pretty darn well, so why not? They have such great attitudes and work such hideous hours, first there and last to leave,” she said.

“It is extremely easy to take them for granted and overlook them because they are young and starting out. I’ve been on a lot of sets where people can order them around and forget they are people. That’s not our set. Thank God Richard had this brilliant idea.” 

Other ‘Chicago P.D.’ actors who kicked in include Patrick Flueger, Marina Squerciati, Tracy Spiridakos, and guest star Jefferson White. Executive producers Gwen Sigan, Chad Saxton, Gavin Harris and Scott Gold also contributed.

“It was easy and something that needed to happen. All I had to do was press send,” said Flueger, who plays Officer Adam Ruzek. “I wish I had the idea myself. The PAs are the ones who make everything flow.”

White said he’s expecting a few more donations that will fund a second, smaller amount of money that will be sent to the PAs.

“I hope to inspire other shows to do something similar,” he said.


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