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Back when Chicago Fire first launched in 2012, series co-creators Derek Haas and Michael Brandt were navigating unchartered waters on multiple fronts. The firefighter drama marked the first foray into television for the writing team behind big-screen blockbusters like 2 Fast 2 Furious, 3:10 to Yuma and Wanted.
They also didn’t know all that much about firefighters. “We didn’t even know the difference between engine and truck,” Haas tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Now, four years later, Fire is gearing up for its 100th episode set to air later this fall. The two also now have their feet firmly planted in television, as exec producers of the ever-expanding Chicago franchise that also includes P.D., Med and the forthcoming Justice.
“It is really hard to believe,” Brandt says. “We’re ready for another 100 – just bring it.”
Ahead of the drama’s fifth season return, Haas and Brandt talked with THR about plans for the 100th episode, “more resolution” ahead for Dawson (Monica Raymund) and Casey (Jesse Spencer), the next step for Severide (Taylor Kinney) and Stella (Miranda Rae Mayo) coming out of that finale cliffhanger and more.
The season four finale ended with some resolution for Casey and Dawson, so what do we see when we pick back up with them?
Derek Haas: We’re going to pick up with them with the new foster son Louie, and Dawson and Casey together as a couple going forward, but the woman who played Susan who was the political consultant, she is not quite done with Casey. She’s the one who kissed Casey at the end and gave him her hotel number. She is going to be a complication at the beginning of the season.
Becoming foster parents overnight has to be a big challenge. What obstacles will they face in that arena?
Michael Brandt: We’ve had so much fun with Casey and Dawson over the last four years of will-they-won’t-they-when-will-they and they are a couple I think everyone wants to see be together. We want to see them be together, but as always, we want to make it as difficult as possible on them. So while they try and build their family, there will definitely be some things that come along that get in the way of that. But as always, Dawsey is strong, so I think the fans can look forward to some more resolution on their relationship and their family status.
Now that they’re back together, they have Louie, what can you say about making it a more permanent relationship in terms of marriage specifically? What are your thoughts on taking that step?
Haas: We’ve had them be engaged before and it fell apart, so this year — without giving anything away — we’re going to really solidify them as a couple. One of the first gestures in the first episode is Severide comes to them and says, “You guys took me in when I was on my ass. Why don’t you guys take the apartment back?” So they’re going to be a family in what was formerly Casey and Severide’s apartment and that’s a nice symbol of where they’re going this season.
Dawson really struggled with the dangers of being a firefighter at the end of last season and now she is a foster parent. Jesse Spencer mentioned that Dawson is going to switch back to ambulance so what can you tease about that?
Haas: We’re super conscious of the character we’ve created in Dawson, which is a very strong-willed, very motivated female navigating male waters in the Chicago Fire Department. So when we thought about pairing her with Brett on the ambulance, we just knew that that had to be a Dawson-originated decision and not something that’s forced upon her because she’s the kind of woman that does not allow things to be forced upon her. So, as writers, the challenge was, how can we accomplish this but make it all Dawson’s choice? You’ll see that play out in the first episode.
But why, as writers, did you want to move her back to that position at this point?
Brandt: It’s kind of been the rotating chair in that position on ambo. We’ve had different people there who it hasn’t worked out for. So Dawson as a paramedic is such a strong character. Dawson and Shay, our duo as we called them, were strong in the first couple of seasons of the show. While not wanting to give anything away, we really would like to try and find that dynamic again and Dawson as paramedic is interesting and if the fans want to read into this — there’s actually a rule in the Chicago Fire Department that two people that are married cannot be on the same truck together. So I’m not saying they’re getting married, but that is a rule.
Obviously it also gets complicated for her because Brett starts dating Antonio so how does that impact their working relationship and their friendship?
Haas: It’s so funny because when we get asked about relationships going forward, Brandt and I were really coy about discussing this new relationship between Brett and Antonio and then our colleague Matt Olmstead just blurted it out to the Chicago P.D. press so then it’s like, “OK, I guess that cat’s out of the bag.” (Laughs.)
For us, I think its going to be a very fun relationship because you’re going to have Dawson sitting next to Brett in the ambulance and Brett dating Dawson’s brother. And all Dawsons are very strong-willed and Brett is a good girl. She’s a small-town girl from Indiana. So as writers, it’s a fun thing to write about on both shows and keep it alive. We’ve tried to do some inter-show relationships before. When it’s the big leads doing it, it’s hard because schedule-wise, you’ve got your own commitments to your own show. It was more successful when we did it with Mouch and Platt because they’re not in every single scene in their shows so we’re trying to go for that.
Derek, you tweeted that Dawson’s parents will be introduced. What can we expect from them?
Brandt: Well, Dawson comes from a very strong and a big family, and her parents have a party every year where they renew their vows and let’s just say things don’t go off quite as everybody expects. It sends the family into a fun version of turmoil which affects everybody in the house, but that’s later on down the line of the first half of the season.
Also, the finale ended with a big cliffhanger for Severide and the Kidd character. Miranda Rae Mayo has since promoted to series regular for season five, so what can you say about their relationship coming out of this ordeal?
Brandt: Yeah, we’re picking up kind of where we left off last year. We’re not jumping ahead so we’re going to have to deal with Grant being out of the hospital and a little unhinged and not happy about Severide and Kidd’s relationship. So that’s going to play heavy the first couple of episodes. Some strong actions are going to be taken by Severide and it’s going to play a big part of the first chunk of the season.
Viewers are used to seeing Severide bounce from woman to woman but Kidd seems, so far, to be a good match. How does that possibly change him and his romantic outlook going forward?
Haas: I think Kidd’s going to bring up exactly what you said to Severide, and Severide’s going to be at a bit of a crossroads. Is he going to be the bar-hopping, girl-hopping Severide that we’ve seen for four years? Is he going to settle down? Those are some questions that will be asked and answered in the first half of the season.
Kidd is still a relatively new character. What else will we learn about her this season?
Haas: We’ve done some episodes along the course of the first four seasons where we focus on one character in particular and we sort of dove deeper into them; what they’ve gone through prior to being on our show and that’s coming up for Kidd in the third episode. We’re going to do a big storyline that involves her and you’ll get some more glimpses into her past. We just love her as an actress and think she’s very interesting on screen. She is kind of the female Severide on truck and so you’ll see that.
The end of last season saw the death of Jimmy’s brother and his grief caused a lot of tension with Boden. What can you say going forward about the state of their relationship?
Brandt: It’s going to be a big issue the first two episodes. Jimmy’s history with his brother, Jimmy’s history with Boden — they’re not just going to go away. Boden does not take lightly to someone disrupting the house and Jimmy is certainly doing that, so Boden will take action and you’ll have to see how it plays out.
Matt Olmstead had hinted last year there would be a big firehouse exit coming in the first half of this season. Is this related to that?
Brandt: He’s right, something is going down in terms of, there will be an exiting character on the show, but we’re not going to give that away here.
What can you say about possibly replacing that exiting character? How will the change the dynamic of the firehouse at large?
Haas: Our firehouse family, I don’t think we’re going to expand it in season five. We love the cast that we have. Even if there is a departure, we’re not going to immediately fill that spot. One thing we’ve had a lot of success doing is bringing in people, even for short runs, to Firehouse 51 and either they’re disruptors or they’re additions to the good family feeling that we have going. There’ll probably more of that but we don’t have our sights set on a new character introduction like we did last season.
Are there any other new pairings you’re trying out or other storylines you’re particularly excited about?
Brandt: We are going to spend a little time early on too with Boden’s stepson who we met in season one. He’s going to come back and he’s going to announce that he wants to be a firefighter as soon as he graduates high school so that’s going to be a nice relationship for Boden to play. It’s a complicated relationship for sure.
You have the 100th episode coming up. What plans do you have or what ideas do you have of what you’ve liked to do?
Haas: We’re very excited about that. The 100th episode happens to be the winter finale so Brandt and I are going to write that episode. The one thing I’ll say is that Otis discovers that Molly’s, prior to being Molly’s bar, was incorporated in December 1916 so it is also the 100th anniversary of Molly’s so there’s going to be a 100-year party in the finale.
Has there been talk of bringing anyone back? You’ve had a few people leave over the last few seasons.
Haas: No, we’ve got some awesome storylines going into that episode, but I like that idea now that you mention it. Maybe Brandt and I can dig deep and find out what some of the other characters are doing.
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.
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