'Chicago Fire' Boss Talks Season 6 Cast Shake-Up, Time Jump and Timeslot Move

Co-creator and showrunner Derek Haas confirms to THR there will be at least one cast departure this season. "You're going to get all of the answers that you were looking for," he says.
Courtesy of NBC

Chicago Fire delivered one of the biggest cliff-hangers in series history when the season-five finale left the fates of several major characters in question (in particular Casey, Severide, Mouch, Herrmann, Otis and Kidd).

After making viewers wait several long months to find out just what happened to the Firehouse 51 team, co-creator and showrunner Derek Haas promises not to waste time getting down to business when NBC drama returns for season six on Sept. 28.

"You're going to get all of the answers that you were looking for. We don't gloss over anything," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. "All of what happened, happened and the results are going to be earned."

While the jaw-dropping ender has spawned some strong reaction on social media "mostly mad at me," Haas says with a laugh, the frequent Twitter user says he relishes the feedback. "As a writer, you love surprise and you love suspense and nothing is better than when the audience has the reaction that you designed," he says. "I love eliciting those emotions."

With production on season six underway, THR jumped on the phone with Haas to discuss the departures ahead, the premiere time jump, the show's surprise time slot move and more.

What can you say about that opening episode and where we come back with the team?

We're going to pick up with the events that closed out season five. We're going to start just moments after what you saw. After fade out, we're going to fade back in on the same scene and we're going to play out the event. I don't give away spoilers because there's a lot of things happening and a lot of people in jeopardy. Those events will play out over the teaser and then when we come back, we are going to do a time jump of a couple of months to (a) to line us more up with summer and (b) to get into…the way I always pitch it is, we're not doing the 23rd episode of season five, we're launching season six and hopefully launching it out of a canon so then we're going to go right into season six.

Can you confirm that there are causalities? If so, how many?

Not all characters are coming back for season six, but I won't specifically say how come they're not coming back.

The season-six premiere is titled "It Wasn't Enough." So what is the meaning behind the title?

I love to pick titles from dialogue. All of our titles over six seasons have come out of dialogue. The actors always laugh or call me and say when they're happy that it's their character that got to say the dialogue. Me telling you who gets to say that dialogue would be a spoiler in and of itself, but "It Wasn’t Enough" alludes to a lot of things, mainly…you think that you have all the time in the world and you don't, so that's where that's coming from.

We've seen tragedy hit the firehouse before but how will these latest departures be different and impact the firehouse going forward?

As writers, it's hard because I wrote episode 301, which was the aftermath of Shay dying and it's a depressing episode. It was really fun to write because we messed around with time and we showed Shay's arrival at the firehouse but ultimately, we're not a depressing show, I don't think. I think we're an uplifting show or an inspiring show, and so I didn’t want all of episode 601 to be a downer so I think artistically we achieved that and we don't shy away from what happens in the events of the teaser, but the whole episode's not about the aftermath of the teaser.

At the end of season five you said there would be "internal firehouse family conflicts" in season six. What more can you say now?

Yeah, that's been the theme of season six so far: How does your external family affect and influence your behavior or events within the firehouse family? How does your off-shift family affect your on-shift family? So you're going to see that right from the start in episode one where Donna Boden, played by Melissa Ponzio, comes in. Last we saw, she was teaching fourth grade. She's now teaching at a public high school in Chicago and that school is on fire in the first episode, and of course you can imagine what happens to Boden when he finds out there's a fire at his wife's school. He's not going to be standing out being the incident commander, he's throwing on his mask and going in. Donna's reaction to all of this and what she knows about the fire fills the first couple of episodes.

And then we're going to see other family members in the firehouse this year. Leon, who was Cruz's brother, played by Jeff Lima, is going to come back. Last we saw him, he was having to abscond to Florida because of gang violence in Chicago so that will be an interesting one. Ramon, who as Gaby's father figured prominently in the second half of season five and had moved in with Dawson and Casey as kind of an unwanted guest, he will be back. An exciting new character is Brett's friend from Fowlerton, Ind., who has come to Chicago in episode one named Hope. She is played by Eloise Mumford, who has been great. She stirs things up, she's a little Bright Lights, Big City country girl come to Chicago. She sees what Brett has and what she's earned and achieved over the four years she's been on our show, and decides, "Oh, maybe that's something that I could do," but isn't the type of personality who would put in the work to do that. She wants to manipulate things to get that. So she has her sights set, affecting a few of our characters.

Given those departures you'll have this season, what characters will you bring in to fill that void?

Right now, we're more shrinking and focusing on the cast we have. Eloise Mumford is probably the biggest [new] person we have as she's looking for a place to land and really likes Firehouse 51. We will have a guest chief coming in for a little bit, for two episodes. A younger guy. We usually bring in chiefs that are the opposite of Boden so he's not going to be an exception. It's not like we're bringing in a young, new firefighter to come in and fill anybody's spot.

The show is moving to Thursdays this fall, which wasn't announced until after the upfront when NBC decided not to move This Is Us to Thursdays. How are you feeling about the new night?

I always feel like we've been the underdog since we started. I remember when we got picked up and we got put on and it was Wednesday nights and I didn't even remember who we were up against but I was nervous. I'm always nervous! I always look at the ratings but I don't know what it is. We've been the underdog but I feel like we always find our spot, hit our stride, leapfrog over whoever was blocking us and I don't know why we wouldn't [now]. I don't look enough to know what's coming in front of us or who we're up against on Thursday night. I know we have football the first six weeks only because that's why we're only on six weeks and then we're off for a while. What I like about that is usually we go 10 episodes until we have our winter finale, but this year's only six and that as a storyteller gives us an awesome opportunity to do a six-episode arc with a beginning, middle and an end that's really hard to do over 10 or 12 or 14 episodes, much less 22. Six is manageable and gives us a chance to get an extra cliff-hanger in there.

What talk has there been about crossovers this season whether it be a two-show or three-show event?

Because we're only doing six right off the bat and Med's not on during that time, we were kind of trying to figure out where is the right spot to do it so I think not until the spring. Trust me when I say Dick Wolf loves the crossovers and inevitably that call's coming. It might come tomorrow or as soon as he reads this article, then [Chicago P.D. showrunner] Rick [Eid] and [Chicago Med showrunners] Andy [Schneider] and Diane [Frolov] and I will get in a room and get the writers together and figure out what the best way to handle it is.

The other thing is we're in new spots this year in terms of how that storytelling would flow. Fire's a great way to kick off a crossover because naturally you go from a big accident to the hospital to the police figuring it out, which has served us well in the past. This time, we would be the Thursday night show so unless we can manipulate the schedule — which we've done in the past — to put Fire first, we'd have to get into the nuts and bolts of how to do that. That said, we were so delighted when Jon Seda got picked up back on Chicago P.D. because we had plans for him on Chicago Fire and you know not only is he Gabby's brother, but he and Brett had a great relationship that went down in flames last season and we would like to stoke the ashes of that one this year. We were thrilled that he's going to be in Chicago so we can do that. We'll have some P.D. [stars] showing up on Fire, but not a big major crossover until the new year.

What else can you say about that Brett-Antonio relationship? That was a pairing that drew a lot of interest from viewers.

I think there's a phoenix to rise from the ashes of last season's Brett and Antonio romance. I think they'll be brought together under — no spoilers — but difficult circumstances bring them together. I think that Brett is in a different place than when she entered that relationship the last time and Antonio is, too, so we're going to have fun with it. I say "fun" with my devious hat on. (Laughs.)

Finally, you've been teasing this character Mr. Sprinkles on Twitter extensively. What more can you say about that character?

Mr. Sprinkles is going to be coming in episode four. Mr. Sprinkles is, to me, going to be a fan favorite. We wouldn't be Chicago Fire if we didn’t surprise you with Mr. Sprinkles' appearance down the road after episode four. But probably around the time you've forgotten about Mr. Sprinkles, you might see Mr. Sprinkles again. That's all I'm going to tell you.

Season six of Chicago Fire premieres Thursday, Sept. 28, at 10 p.m. on NBC.