Firehouse 51 has been quite the revolving door since Chicago Fire began. The number of personnel changes due to death (Andy Darden, Rebecca Jones, Leslie Shay) or departures (Peter Mills, Scott Rice) have been numerous.
However, the most recent onscreen exit still took many off guard when Chili (Dora Madison) was unceremoniously fired by Boden (Eamonn Walker). Disciplinary action had been a long time coming as Chili started coming in late and drinking heavily following the sudden death of her sister. But offscreen, the decision to boot Chili was surprising given Madison’s promotion to series regular at the beginning of the season after joining the team as Brett’s new paramedic partner at the end of season three.
“[There are] no plans for Chili to come back right now,” Chicago Fire showrunner Matt Olmstead tells The Hollywood Reporter.
He says the decision behind the mid-season exit was meant to keep viewers on their toes.
“You can’t just save up the big moments and departures and entrances for characters at episode one and episode 22,” says Olmstead. “It almost conditions the audience to be like ‘OK, we’ll tune in for the first episode and tune in for the finale because not much is going to happen in between because the writers are too timid to make any kind of moves.’ So you can threaten people leaving and you can kind of rattle your saber here and there, but unless you follow through on it, no one is going to believe you.”
Chili’s downfall, which also came at the expense of her romantic relationship with fellow newcomer Jimmy (Steven R. McQueen), was discouraging for the entire house. Among those who tried to help her were her partner Brett (Kara Kilmer) and Dawson (Monica Raymund).
“You think you could have helped her out, but she’s on this path of self-destruction,” says Olmstead. “It got us some good stuff midway through the season as opposed as to waiting for a finale to have the character exit.”
The firehouse has since reconfigured to fill the void left by Chili. Her former beau Jimmy is now a paramedic, and the firehouse has welcomed a new female firefighter in the form of Stella Kidd (Miranda Rae Mayo). However, Olmstead says it wasn’t an easy decision to write Chili out.
“It’s hard,” he says. “We liked the actress a lot and she did a great job.”
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.