8:30am PT by Kate Stanhope
'Chicago Fire' Boss Previews Casey's Foray into Politics, Chili's "Offscreen Tragedy"
Now that Herrmann (David Eigenberg) is out of harm's way, there is just one burning question left from the first half of Chicago Fire's fourth season: What is going on with Chili (Dora Madison)?
After a relatively drama-free transition into becoming Brett's new partner, the EMT's erratic behavior has become apparent not only to her colleague (Kara Killmer) but her new flame Jimmy (Steven McQueen). In addition to showing up late for work, Chili most recently was seen sobbing by herself while everyone waited to get the latest news on Herrmann.
Showrunner Matt Olmstead tells The Hollywood Reporter her dilemma will hit a "crescendo" in upcoming episodes.
"Inside the house, she's been a free spirit character in the show," he says. "Then we really wanted to pursue a storyline of what happens when someone starts to go off the rails, especially in a job like the one they're in because it's such a unique position in that you live with people for 24 hours. It's not eight hours and then you leave. You're completely in each other's business. You're forced to be. You have to work stuff out."
However, there's more to it than just Chili's inability to emotionally grapple with the long hours and life-and-death stakes of their demanding profession. She's also experienced an "off-screen tragedy" that will be uncovered soon. "She's too prideful and has never really trusted anybody to share so she starts to show some behavior that is not good for her, not good for a paramedic," Olmstead says. "It tests the initial concept of the show, which is it's a group of people who are forced to be a family and how do you do that? When you have a family member who starts to hit a banana peel, what do you do?"
He promises fans won't be disappointed with how the ongoing story wraps. "We're definitely not being timid about her storyline and the conflict that we're throwing at her and the consequences of that conflict," Olmstead says.
With the exception of Chili and Herrmann's ordeals, the fall finale of Chicago Fire put out several fires — pun intended — at Firehouse 51 with the exoneration of Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker) and the reinstating of Severide (Taylor Kinney). With those ongoing storylines resolved, the spotlight will turn to Casey's professional future in the second half of season four.
"He's approached about possibly being more than just a firefighter," Olmstead says, "and by that I mean, in Chicago politics."
Specifically, Casey (Jesse Spencer) will soon be asked about becoming an alderman. In Chicago, an alderman is elected by their constituency to represent their district for a four-year term. In addition to representing the interests of their residents, the 50 elected alderman comprise the Chicago City Council. The position is in many similar ways to a city councilman, but more "powerful" and "autonomous," according to Olmstead. "He's identified as someone who could actually get something done," Olmstead says. "He hits his breaking point in terms of seeing mistreatment for people that he saved. Possibly, he could do something else other than or in combination with being a firefighter for a greater good and complications ensue."
Some of those complications, naturally, will be with Casey's better half, Dawson (Monica Raymund).
"She's there to hold a mirror up to him, in a way saying, 'You are capable. You are needed. You're in a position to help people.' Everything that she loves about him lends itself to helping people out. She's instrumental in talking him into potentially going for this office," Olmstead says. "But there's a residual effect she didn’t really anticipate, which is being the person that you love and that you've encouraged to attain a certain goal now is being pulled by other people in an opposite direction so there's two sides of it, certainly, for Dawson."
Although it will cause some bumps in the road for the on-again, off-again (and on-again) couple, Olmstead says the writers specifically crafted the storyline to explore Casey outside of his love life. "When we were looking at Jesse, we realized there were a lot of storylines that were will-they-won't-they with Dawson and we felt we had explored it thoroughly at that point," he says.
"We were looking for another story that was good for his character, organic to his character and could also really give Jesse something to sink his teeth into that was specific to him that wasn't about his relationship or him wagging his finger at people under him and telling them to do a better job. To continue doing that would be a huge missed opportunity for us and would be a huge underutilization of Jesse's talents."
Although Olmstead anticipates some fans might be weary of the political diversion, he promises it will pay off.
"When you first hear it, you're like, 'This isn’t the show. It's not politics,' but that storyline isn't about politics. It's about him as a character and the people who come to him and the temptations and the threats and how it affects people that he works with," Olmstead says. "Now having gone through a couple episodes, I'm very very happy with it."
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.