Dawsey’s back on. Severide and April were a one-and-done — at least for now. And some fresh faces are shaking things up at Firehouse 51.
“Chicago Fire” showrunner Matt Olmstead elaborated on all this and more when he sat down with me at the TV critics press tour after the panel for “Chicago Med,” the upcoming spinoff he co-executive produces. The 13-episode freshman season premieres Nov. 17 on NBC.
I asked you guys on Twitter to send me your questions for the always candid Olmstead. You did that — and then some. Even “Chicago Fire” star Jesse Spencer (Lt. Matt Casey) chimed in with a query. It got a lot of fans’ knickers in a twist because it implies that Casey breaks Dawson’s heart. Judging by Olmstead’s reaction (lots of laughing), it appears that Spencer was just yanking our chain.
You guys shot me so many questions — lots of good ones, I might add — we didn’t have time to get to them all. But we covered a lot of ground. So let’s get to it. (The Q&A below revolves mostly around “Fire,” which returns for its fourth season Oct. 13. I’ll be posting a “P.D.”-related Q&A soon. Same goes for more deets on “Chicago Med.”)
— Jesse Spencer (@Jesse_Spencer) August 13, 2015
Olmstead (who got a good laugh about Spencer coming out of social-media hibernation to tweet the above): “I don’t know if Casey’s going to break Dawson’s heart just yet. If and when he does, I think that’s a very good idea. And I’m going to go ahead and say Antonio is going to win that fight. Jon Seda was a Golden Gloves fighter when he was younger. I like Jon Seda’s chances in that fight.”
Olmstead: “We’re through episode seven right now with the scripts and there’s some really great stuff for those two. We start the season with her running over to his place to let him know she’s pregnant, but he’s missing and there’s a dead dancer in his apartment. The first three episodes are his preoccupation with that case and what happened. She’s realizing this probably isn’t the best time to tell him, ‘I’m pregnant.’ It has major ramifications because they’re back together as a couple. We made the decision, here in year four, we’re at a fork in the road. Are they going to either break up and date new people or do we keep going forward, and the only way to do that is to have realistic things that a couple goes through: being pregnant, potentially having a baby, potentially getting married. Our sense is the audience really likes them as individual characters and really likes them as a couple. So we’re keeping them together – for the near future.”
@lorirackl Any chance for a Dawsey wedding ?We’ve been waiting 3 seasons for it…😔
— Katrien Vermeiren (@katriendanvers) August 12, 2015
Keep waiting. Olmstead: “No plans for that yet.”
(Another person asked if she’ll be working out of Firehouse 51 when she goes to Arson.)
Olmstead: “She goes over to work for arson investigation, which has its own set of complications. It’s a separate office. It’s a very nice, soft landing for her. But as soon as she gets there she has to investigate an arson that 51 responded to, one that they’re being suspected of not reacting to in a timely fashion. If she can crack the case she can help out 51. So right away, her job is tied to 51’s well being.”
(Actor Brian White was hired over the summer to play the new squad captain; he even takes over Severide’s old office. Ouch.)
Olmstead: “At the beginning of the season, Severide is just looking for some stability in his life once and for all. He doesn’t get it. There’s a new chief above Boden who’s doing an audit of all the houses. He tells Boden and Severide you’ve had, like, six guys rotate through squad. Vargas, Hadley and Mills and culminating in the Scott Rice character who he went to bat for when the guy wasn’t ready to come back and it almost broke the house apart. So they strip him of his lieutenantship. His bugle is taken from him and he has to move down one slot at squad. Brian White (“Scandal,” “Mistresses”) comes in as a captain to run squad. You have Severide completely knocked sideways, having to make a decision. Do I suck it up, stay here, work for somebody else and work my way back into the good graces of CFD brass or just pull the pin and go work for another house? That’s a decision he has to make in the first episode.”
Lots of folks wanted to know if Severide and “Chicago Med” nurse April Sexton (Yaya DaCosta) — a couple of high school pals who had a sexy romp before she took off to see the world — would take their relationship to the next level.
Olmstead: “That was kind of a one time thing, partly because romances between two characters on different shows are tough to do. Hookups are easy to do, romances are tough. You’ve got actors’ schedules. And they’re kind of orphaned on their own shows if they’re dating somebody on a different show.”
Olmstead: “In his mind, he knows she’s kind of a good girl. Why ruin that interaction? In her mind, she knows he’s the bad boy, essentially. That’s not what she’s looking for. There are other romances with other people we’ll explore. Not to say they’re excluded from that ever happening, but right now, he has the good sense not to pursue that.”
Olmstead: “That was kind of a one-off thing on the heels of some traumatic events they went through. They interact later on ‘Fire’ and it’s a sweet little interaction. No one’s carrying a torch or feeling like why didn’t you call me?”
(“The Vampire Diaries” alum Steven R. McQueen is joining Firehouse 51 as promising young candidate Jimmy Borelli.)
Olmstead: “He has an older brother who’s a firefighter at a different house who’s a complete prick. He kind of torments his younger brother; we all know those types. He’s been living in the shadow of his older brother. There’s other things going on in his life, including his family and his older brother, who are trying to keep him tethered. That’s his journey going forward. Casey fairly quickly realizes this guy could be a star in the fire department and I’ll put extra time in grooming him because I really believe he’s going to succeed.”
Added Olmstead: “Having seen the first episode, Steve McQueen is going to be a super star. Big time.”
Olmstead: “Thankfully the news that Dawson’s going to provide him — that she’s pregnant — pulls him out of the muck. If it wasn’t for that he probably wouldn’t be dealing with it well. He had to do some pretty heavy-duty things to survive the ordeal, enough to where that would probably haunt somebody else. The news from Dawson is like a lifeline to him.”
Olmstead: “They’re back in it. Certain things put other things in perspective. When Casey goes through what he goes through, Severide immediately drops everything and is there as a friend.”
Olmstead: “Him moving over 30 feet from truck table to squad table has all these ramifications. In particular, Otis feels betrayed. He takes it the hardest. Otis decides, ‘You know what? Everyone’s fulfilling their dreams. I might as well fulfill mine.’ So he goes off on a little journey of his own. Cruz has to assimilate at squad. When Severide gets dinged … he’s one of the reasons that Cruz came over to squad to begin with. He plays a big factor in telling Severide, ‘You can’t go anywhere. I did all this to learn from you.’ That’s really a linchpin for Severide.”
Olmstead: “When Severide gets demoted he has to go to a seminar he doesn’t want to go to but it’s something you have to do to prove you want to get back. He meets a character there played by Rachel Nichols (“Rush,” “Continuum”) who’s also there because she’s a problem at her law firm. There’s a nice arc with them that turns into a complication for sure.”
(Mouch’s daughter was played by his actual daughter.) Olmstead: “We have it on the board to revisit it. To what extent I’m not quite sure but we do want to revisit that storyline.”
Olmstead: “Not right away.”
I asked Dick Wolf the same question. All he’d say: “Not in the first episode.” Sorry, guys.
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