Chicago Fire interview: Derek Haas teases two-hour event, possible pregnancy, shooting storyline

Chicago Fire is airing a very special event on NBC Thursday night. Starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, you’re going to have a chance to see what is an action-packed and intense two hours of content that could effectively feel like a movie. There will be action, romance, a possible pregnancy, and by the end there may be lives on the line.

Also, it just so happens that these two hours are airing directly against the Grey’s Anatomy firefighter spin-off Station 19, which is having its own two-hour premiere. Was that intentional? In response that question, Chicago Fire showrunner Derek Haas told us (jokingly) “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” From here, we spoke with him about the impetus for this crossover plus also some of the major plot points that are set to unravel.

CarterMatt – NBC is billing these two episodes as almost a movie. Is that an accurate depiction of what this is?

Derek Haas – Yeah. We were on for six episodes [in the fall] and then we were off because of football. Then, we were on for five episodes and then off because of the Olympics. When we were planning the second half of the season and talking with [executive producers] Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski along with the other head writers Michael Gilvary and Andrea Newman, we realized that we had to come back and just blow out the first few episodes back. We had done this start-and-stop and we just thought ‘let’s go big and get some fires going. Let’s remind people why this show is called Chicago Fire. We had to resolve our cliffhanger and that took up episode 12, and with 13 we knew we wanted to do this crossover with PD. From there, we just decided ‘why don’t we do a two-hour [episode] with 14 and 15? We’ll get some big fires in there and some big character swings.’

Is it similar to the crossover in that you have one story interwoven across two different episodes?

No, there’s multiple stories going on. It’s as big as a crossover can be in scope and probably has some of our biggest sets and interiors we’ve done this year, but there’s kind of a first-half story and a second-half story with some big character things that cross.

Jon Seda is going to be a part of these episodes. How is Antonio going to factor into the story overall?

He’s brought in because there is some suspicion that there is a domestic abuser on one of the accident calls that the firehouse goes on. But, he’s also taking advantage of the opportunity to rekindle things with Brett and that’s going to be burning hot again. We’re in the burning-hot stage of Brettonio.

Speaking of burning hot, what can you say about the fires themselves in this episode?

We have a couple of different ones. One of them is going to be an extension of [the domestic abuser story], and it’s going to get harrowing because you’ve got a really violent guy inside of the house. There’s already been suspicions of violence and he made a direct threat to one of our firefighters. That’s going on.

Then, there is a second call later on in the two hours where we respond to another fire and there’s a shooter inside. We really went for as big of a scope as we could in the crossover. Thankfully, NBC was like ‘let’s go for it.’

I know one of the challenges for the show is trying to find a way to create different sorts of danger for the firefighters. Why something like this and why now?

A lot of our calls come from either stories that firefighters have told us or us calling newspapers from all over the world for different stories. We need to get our firefighters in dangerous situations, and it’s a real thing that they go into some of these calls and don’t know what’s on the other side of the door. That doesn’t stop them from racing in and trying to save people. It’s what makes our show interesting — when the bells go off and they say ‘there’s a fire’ we could be stumbling in on a minor fire, a raging fire, some chemicals about to go off, or maniac people inside. This is something that firefighters have to deal with.

For us, as writers we’re always trying to surprise the viewer and say ‘you thought it was this, but it’s that.’ Any time that we can heighten the suspense and the action and the romance, we don’t hesitate to do that.

How serious is the shooting going to be?

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It’s a pretty serious one this time. You can only pull your punches so many times before the audience decides that you’re never going to show the real effects of some of these things. I think we’ve been better than most shows at not exactly resetting. We’ve had characters die on the show, characters get disabled and not come back, people threaten to move and then they do. We’ve had people have serious emotional and physical problems and not be able to continue. I hope we keep our audiences on the edge.

The only way that we can keep the audience seriously surprised is if what happens actually has real consequences.

Stella and Severide are both now single and seem to be cognizant of some of the feelings that are there between them. Is there something that is going to build from here?

I think we slow-build some relationships and others go from zero to sixty. This has been a slow build for really two seasons. They were together fast, but Severide has a history of not getting too emotionally attached to the women in his life. This one has been more slowly building and she’s always been the one character who holds her own with Severide — in a lot of ways she is a female Severide and has been since she came on the show. We love their chemistry together and they bring something to each scene that wasn’t on the page.

Now, we gotta talk about the pregnancy test from the promo. Why bring that up at this point?

I always think it’s interesting. There’s a bunch of romance that comes on our show — pregnancies can come out of nowhere. Sometimes you plan for them and sometimes you don’t, and I think people can relate to that. Sometimes they hit you at a point in your life when you weren’t expecting it or wanting it or worried about it.

The scenes aren’t played for humor, but I do think that there is some humor involved in the entire [story].

I know you have a new character coming up on the other side of Thursday’s episode. Is there anything that you can say about him?

There’s going to be a new firefighter in the house played by Damon Dayoub named Cordova, and he’s kind of a presence we haven’t had on the show before — he’s a big guy, he’s probably 6’4” in real life, and he comes in as a replacement and there’s going to be some resentment there for a little bit.

I really like the actor a lot. I think he’s playing the part really well. I also just like his physicality and he’s giving us something different than what we’ve had before.

From a writing standpoint, are things like the crossover or this two-hour episode aspects that you’re trying to push to do more often? I have to imagine that after six years, chances to do something like this is exciting.

That’s exactly right. Any chance to do something that doesn’t fit to the ‘formula’ is exciting for us as writers. We keep trying to push the boundaries of what our show is and make big swings from an emotional standpoint and from a comedy standpoint. We love [these episodes] — they end up being challenging for various reasons, but not from a writing standpoint.

We have another episode coming up later this season following these where the challenge was ‘can we do an episode that takes place almost entirely within the Firehouse?’ We did one of those last year and it ended up being one of our best episodes. We were like ‘let’s try it again and for different reasons.’ I just watched [the episode] last night and it turned out great. The challenge in those is can you do that and have nobody, when they finish watching, even think ‘oh, that’s what they were doing.’ This episode feels as big as some of the ones where we have a giant burning building.


CarterMatt Exclusive sneak peek

If you look below, you can see arguably one of Casey’s greatest stunts yet — a deliberate move to ensure that Dawson and Brett are able to bring a woman in need of medical care to Chicago Med. How does he do that? By distracting a husband who tries to block her access to the ambulance. (For more TV news and discussions, subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube.)

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