[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season three premiere of Chicago Med, “Speak Your Truth.”]
Chicago Med came back Tuesday for its third season, but it wasn’t exactly business as usual for the Dick Wolf medical drama. Rather than a normal September return date, the series returned in late November with a slightly shorter 20-episode season order.
“It took some logistical maneuvering because we have to be in sync chronologically with the other Chicago shows,” co-showrunner Andrew Schneider tells The Hollywood Reporter in reference to Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.
“We just had to adjust because we had originally planned that our first show was going to pick up immediately after the final episode,” adds his wife, co-showrunner Diane Frolov. “We couldn’t do that having a later start.”
The upside is Chicago Med returns in a new time slot, airing directly behind the hit family drama This Is Us. “We think it’s a good matchup so we’re very excited about that,” Frolov says.
There were also several major developments on screen in the season opener: Dr. Charles (Oliver Platt) survived the gun wound he sustained in the season two finale, but helped free the man who shot him. Robin (Mekia Cox) was able to return home after her surgery but she continued exhibiting worrisome side effects to Connor (Colin Donnell). And finally, after Natalie (Torrey DeVitto) and Will (Nick Gehlfuss) finally admitted their feelings for each other and shared a passionate kiss, putting to end at least two seasons of will-they-or-won’t-they tension.
THR spoke with Schneider and Frolov about those big moves and what’s next.
What were your big goals into the writers room for season three?
Andrew Schneider: We set up a number of things in the finale that would generate stories for the coming season. We had Charles being shot and the emotional and physical effects of that, both to him and his colleagues…
Diane Frolov: …and particularly Sarah. That really kicks off a lot of stories for us for this season, with the Sarah-Charles relationship and again how that shooting affects her.
Schneider: We also have some new romances that are always tough to navigate in a work situation. Especially with Ethan and April, there’s a power differential because he’s a doctor and she’s a nurse, and there’s always going to be a power difference between them in the workplace while they’re trying to build a romantic relationship.
Frolov: It’s similar to Will and Natalie. Although they’re both doctors, they can be very opinionated at times and have opposing opinions in their relationship as well. How’s that going to play out?
Schneider: And there’s plenty of medical and ethical questions related to medicine where two doctors can be on opposite sides, but both are right because it’s a gray area. But it doesn’t make having a romantic relationship any easier.
Frolov: I think our big challenge, and it’s always our challenge, is that we look for medical stories that we can play out these relationships in.
Talking specifically about Will and Natalie, why was now the right time to pair them together and move beyond the will-they-or-won’t-they element of their relationship?
Frolov: We just felt that they had earned that. We had watched that back and forth and we’ve seen them with other people and at this point, there weren’t other people between them so it just felt like the moment that they would give it a try. There didn’t seem to be an organic obstacle.
What other personal obstacles will they face as they pursue a romantic relationship?
Frolov: If you look back on their relationship, Will had always put Natalie on a pedestal and been protective of her and we’ll see friction around that. He’ll want to take care of her but sometimes that crosses into paternalism or at least it can be interpreted as a paternalism from her point of view.
Schneider: They have very different life experiences. She’s a single mom and he’s never been married, doesn’t have children. He comes from a working-class Irish catholic family in Chicago and she’s an upper middle-class girl from Seattle. Their world views are a little different and he has to really learn who she is other than just the romantic fantasy of Natalie.
Can you elaborate about the effects of Dr. Charles being shot, not only on him but the rest of the hospital?
Schneider: Anybody who is shot is going to suffer some form of PTSD and it also has a ripple effect to close ones. For Sarah, Charles is kind of a surrogate dad. Her own dad abandoned her when she was a little girl and Charles was the one who brought her into psychiatry and has kind of a fatherly relationship with her. For her, almost losing him is emotionally devastating.
Frolov: You see that in the first episode. Her reaction to what Charles is doing, it really comes from this terror that she felt about losing him.
Schneider: It also brings this question in her mind about the safety of being a psychiatrist in emergency situations and she’ll have to deal with increased anxiety and fears about treating the patients.
Frolov: Those fears are really born from this traumatic situation with Charles.
Another big storyline is Charles’ daughter, Robin, who is still dealing with this major medical issue. Mekia Cox is now a series regular on Once Upon a Time so how did you figure out where to take that character given her limited availability? How much will we see of that storyline?
Schneider: [She’s in] five episodes so quite a bit. It’s very trying for her relationship with Connor because he’s always trying to assess: Is she suffering residual effects of the illness or is this who she is? What’s creating her personality? And the pressure of that is very hard on Robin.
Frolov: One of the themes we’ll be dealing with is nature versus nurture. And Robin is a perfect example of that because she has something going on that affects her behavior and so it’s where does that end and where does that begin? It’s really hard for her to know that as well.
You also have this recurring character in Dr. Bekkar (Norma Kuhling). What do you think she adds to the ensemble that wasn’t there before last season?
Schneider: A couple things: one, from our research, it turns out that surgical fellows are incredibly competitive and all surgeons have kind of a big ego and we thought it would be interesting to explore Connor’s competitive nature…
Frolov: …with a colleague. What we’ve seen him with is mentors or superiors so we wanted to see him with a colleague, with an equal, who’s really tough. We could just see different colors of Connor in that way.
We’ve touched on a lot of the characters but what can you say about what is coming up for Sharon (S. Epatha Merkerson)?
Schneider: We actually have a lot for her because what we’re going to deal with are the pressures on administrators to rein in costs at hospitals.
Frolov: How do you balance patient care with the bottom line? Is that possible?
Schneider: She gets a lot of pressure to improve the bottom line and it puts her in a very different situation a number of times.
Frolov: Right now, there are a lot of emergency departments closing because they just can’t make it financially. In a lot of cases, the emergency department is the money loser in a hospital so it becomes out-sourced.
What other big issues or cases are you excited to tell? Anything pulled from the headlines?
Frolov: A number. One is a woman has emergency surgery for cancer which Medicaid will pay for but she has complications past that and when she needs serious long-term care that’s not paid for. …We have someone who dies in the waiting room and the family gets the bill for $16,000.
Schneider: These are real stories.
Frolov: We’re doing a lot of that this season.
Schneider: This is a little past the midway part of the season, but we have an episode where a baby goes missing in the hospital and they lock the hospital down. Nobody comes in or out while the search for this baby is going on. So that’s kind of an umbrella episode where all the stories take place in the context of the hospital being locked down.
Chicago Med airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.