[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season four premiere of Chicago Fire, “Let It Burn.”]
When one door closes, another one opens on Chicago Fire. Early in the episode, Severide (Taylor Kinney) officially got demoted and sent to leadership training, where he met a beautiful woman (Rachel Nichols) whom he wasted no time getting close to. Although Dawson (Monica Raymund) prepared to hang up her firefighting uniform for the foreseeable future, it was because she finally found Casey (Jesse Spencer) and revealed to him she is expecting their first child.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Chicago Fire showrunner Matt Olmstead about the “pressure” of Dawson’s new gig, why Severide’s romance will lead to a “huge betrayal down the road” and scoop on January’s big and “personal” three-show crossover with Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med.
A note was to sent to press with the season premiere screener in which Dick Wolf said that every episode of every Chicago show will end at Molly’s. Where did that mandate come from and what do you think it adds to the show?
We always keep an eye on that in the room on all the shows: how can we find storylines that bring together characters that normally don’t hang out? That’s what gave us Molly’s which really, as you might imagine, has worked out for us. Then, when we were seeing other characters at Molly’s, it only reinforced how valuable it is in terms of this watering hole for what was then one show, Fire, then the two shows in P.D. and Fire, so it was working for us. Then with bringing Med in, it’s a bit of an Easter egg moment to see the doctor or the cop or whatever it is. … We want to end it at Molly’s. When there are big cliffhangers, we’re not going to obviously but it’s a great note on the end of every show that connects all the shows.
What kind of changes will we see in Dawson and Casey now that they know they’re going to be parents?
It impacts their decision of, are they going to tie the knot? Are they going to make a go of it? Or is this enough right now as it is to deal with? There’s the personal, obviously, but immediately there’s the professional [aspect]. Her goal and her dream was to be a firefighter, she got that and now, at least for the time being, she can’t do it because they just won’t allow it.
What will we see from her new assignment in arson investigation and the new people she’s working with?
As it’s been reinforced to her and other firefighters many times, arson is very different to prove, so as a result, she’s cautioned when she gets there by the guy who’s running arson to be slow and steady, do your job, don’t sandbag anything, but manage your expectations. It’s a slower pace than she’s used to. She likes the people she works with, but what we’ve designed is one of the calls that her former colleagues go on turns into an arson investigation and, since she knows the particulars, she’s more than happy to scoop that file up and look into it. That turns into a bigger deal than she expected, than anybody expected. Here she is investigating and trying to, hopefully, exonerate 51 because an arson goes bad and they’re looked at for being negligent in their response to the fire.
How does that affect 51 when they’re under scrutiny like that?
They’re relieved that she’s the one looking into it, but there’s the pressure of, ‘I hope you can help us out here.’ She’s feeling the pressure to clear their name, really, at 51, but experiencing head-on what she was warned when she first got there. It’s very hard to prove and it takes awhile, and 51 may not have awhile to wait for a year’s long investigation to go through.
Severide is also under scrutiny at 51, and he really wants to leave after his demotion. What will his ongoing struggle look like? What ends up keeping him at 51?
His knee-jerk reaction, initially, is, ‘Well, screw it. I’ll just go onto the next gig, the next town, the next girl,’ which has been his m.o. I think that at this point in his life, maybe getting a little bit older, having learned some things and also, without even realizing it, he knows that he really does have ties to these people he works with at 51 even though he doesn’t show it all the time. He’s not sentimental about it. He has to make a choice: take off – which he’s done plenty of times before in all phases of his life – or do I suck it up and stay her and do the work to get my job back? There’s a part which he later articulates to Casey which is, ‘Maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m a little aloof as a leader. Maybe I have gone too easy on the guys.’ There’s a little bit of embarrassment in admitting the truth of the assessment that Chief Riddle lays on him.
We might this new love interest for him in the premiere. How long will she be sticking around for and what kind of relationship will they have?
It starts off as free and easy, which is the kind that Severide prefers. Then, there’s a turn down the road which I really can’t divulge, in which she becomes adversarial unexpectedly but unequivocally. Severide, all of a sudden, realizes that the woman I thought I knew I really didn’t. … There’s a huge betrayal down the road, which he can’t just walk away from wholesale. He needs to find a way to see: can I still finesse this? I really have some strong feelings towards her, but I can’t blow it because I may need to actually play the game that she’s played on me.
Treat Williams tweeted that he will be returning. What brings Severide’s dad back to town and what will we see from father and son?
He’s in it for an episode and it’s a very pivotal episode in that when Severide is really on the cliff in terms of, do I play by old-style Chicago rules to keep my job? Do I bring the ballgame to the people who are bringing it to me? Or do I just walk away because that’s not my style? As he’s really struggling with that, here comes Benny Severide, who finds out his kid’s in trouble and that there are people who are gunning for him and he lays out the practical aspects of, sometimes you have to play dirty pool. You’ll get over it, but either you can be an old firefighter with creaky knees going up and down the ladder still, or if you want to ascend in Chicago, sometimes you need to have sharp elbows. So he lays out the scenario for his son, a blueprint for survival on the job, and Severide struggles with that. Can I live with myself and play the game they’re playing on me or is this not who I am? It’s a great return for the Benny character.
Another relationship that was hinted at was between Chili (Dora Madison) and Jimmy (Steven R. McQueen). What can you say about their dynamic?
We’re exploring that. We don’t go for it right away. But it’s two characters with vastly different backgrounds. You have Jimmy who has family on the job, born and raised in Chicago, salt of the Earth kid and Chili who is really an outsider. Not only is it different backgrounds, but different outlooks on life based on those backgrounds. Chili is more live for the moment, slightly distrustful of people because she’s been burned too many times. So there’s a physical attraction there but it’s also two people circling each other trying to figure the other person out, and also [thinking,] ‘Can I really commit to and connect with this person?’ For Chili, she’s never really trusted anybody in her life. Jimmy is thinking, ‘Is she damaged goods? If I help her out, will she bring me down to the bottom?’ There’s an attraction, but it’s not like they complete each other.
Roman (Chicago P.D.‘s Brian Geraghty) and Brett (Kara Kilmer) hooked up in the season three finale, but there hasn’t been any mention of that. Is that something that’s still going on?
No, that was basically a one-off thing. They cross later on in a Fire episode and there’s goodwill there but it’s just like, they’ll always have Paris.
Executive producer Derek Haas said on Twitter there will be a Fire-P.D.-Med crossover in January. What can you say brings the shows together?
We’re still working on that. It does bring all three shows together. The one personal piece of storytelling it unearths is Voight’s backstory with his late wife. We’ve established that she died years prior to when he appeared on Fire, but not the circumstances of her death and what Voight has to deal with in terms of dealing with that memory. Also, it affects Lindsay because, as stated in the script, as much as her mom Bunny was unreliable, not there, problematic, Voight’s wife was the perfect model for who she wanted to be as a woman. It really hits them both hard and it’s a nice window into Voight’s relationship with his late wife. That was so meaningful and profound that when she died, we don’t establish him dating. He had the little flirtatious crosses with Mariska [Hargitay]’s character on SVU, but that was his one love, true love, only love.
Back in August at TCA, Dick Wolf teased a “jumbo” four-show crossover in February. That’s a bit close to do those two crossover events together. Is that a concern?
It is, and I think we are in the process of dialing that down to just a Chicago P.D.-SVU crossover. With how ambitious we’re being with this three-way crossover, we might just downsize it to what’s worked in the past with the crossover between the two cop shows. There’s a great chemistry there.
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.Chicago P.D. airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.