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redeyechicago.com

'Chicago Fire' renewed, just like Jesse Spencer expected

Luis Gomez

About Last Night

9:29 AM CDT, April 29, 2013

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It's difficult to tell who should be more excited NBC officially picked up “Chicago Fire” for a second season Friday: The cast and crew of the firefighter drama or the Illinois Film Office.

The good news allows the Dick Wolf-produced show to concentrate on developing cliffhangers that will bring viewers back for Season 2 and provides the cast and crew, including stars Taylor Kinney and Jesse Spencer, with job security.

“It was really unnerving,” Danielle Gelber, executive producer of “Chicago Fire,” said Saturday by phone. “It felt like we were really doing well for the network. I figured we had a good chance to come back, but you never want to assume anything. That waiting period was tough, but we hung in there.”

Spencer, on the other hand, claimed he wasn't too nervous about the show's future.

“I knew we'd get picked up and didn't worry about it,” Spencer said by phone Sunday. “I already booked my apartment for next (season) without having the official word. That shows how confident I was, like ‘We'll get it.' Our show has been very steady for NBC and done well in its time slot. We've built up a core audience over the past year.”

For the film office, the news marks the first time a network series filmed entirely in-state will be picked up for a second season since Fox's “Prison Break” in 2006 (ironically, “Prison Break” moved production to the Dallas area the next season). Fox's “The Chicago Code” was canceled after one season, while NBC's “The Playboy Club” was canceled after three episodes in 2011.

“It means a lot for us — most importantly, jobs,” said Illinois Film Office managing director Betsy Steinberg on Saturday by email. “The spending a show like this does in just one season usually exceeds even a large motion picture. So economically speaking, the news of Season two is downright excellent.”

“We never had the benefit of a really strong, impactful lead-in like ‘The Voice,'” Gelber said. “We did have ‘Law & Order: SVU' lead us in, but for the first few weeks, it was really touch and go. I think it was the third week when ratings really jumped. And the ratings never dropped in the second half-hour. (Viewers would) stay until the end, which was encouraging.”

As has been reported in the Tribune, “Chicago Fire” could have a spinoff next season. The show would revolve around police officers introduced at the end of this season and would star Tania Raymonde (I saw Raymonde on set when “Chicago Fire” filmed at Lottie's Pub in Bucktown on April 12), Scott Eastwood (son of Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood) and Melissa Sagemiller. Gelber said they should know by mid-May if the show will be picked up.

“Divergent” update: Navy Pier closed early Friday because the sci-fi movie “Divergent,” which stars Shailene Woodley, was filming. The shoot involved Navy Pier's Ferris wheel, which was made to look significantly rustier to reflect the film's post-apocalyptic setting — or, as the sign alerting guests of filming explained, “Portions of Pier Park are being altered and distressed for a movie production.” Speaking of “Divergent,” cast member Christian Madsen dined Tuesday at Michael Jordan's Steak House.

Thanks, but no thanks: The fourth “Transformers” film, part of which is scheduled to shoot in Chicago this year, will star Mark Wahlberg, but apparently director Michael Bay had his eye on Wahlberg’s “Pain & Gain” co-star first. “Michael Bay offered me Transformers, but I was unavailable due to Hercules,” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tweeted Friday in response to a fan’s question. “Then Wahlberg was offered the role.” According to michaelbay.com, Nicola Peltz (“The Last Airbender”) will co-star in the follow-up to 2011’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which also filmed in Chicago and made $1.1 billion at the world wide box office.

Heads-up: Actress Jessica Alba (“Machete”) will sign copies of her book, “The Honest Life,” on May 8 at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville. … The Bears' Charles Tillman will host his second annual Celebrity Pro Bowler Tournament on June 5 at Kings Lanes, Lounge & Sports in Rosemont.

Sightings: Tim Robbins (“The Shawshank Redemption”) dined Tuesday at Chicago Cut Steakhouse while in town for his appearances at DePaul with Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote the book that his 1995 film “Dead Man Walking” was based on. … Vince Vaughn (“Wedding Crashers”) — who will announce Monday on “The Ellen Degeneres Show” that he and his wife are having their second child — dined with family April 21 at Lou Malnati's Pizzeria in the Gold Coast. … Singer Jimmy Buffett dined Tuesday at Sunda and took in the musical “Big Fish,” for which he is a producer, at the Oriental Theatre. The Brooklyn Nets' Kris Humphries (aka Kim Kardashian's ex-husband) dined Thursday at Sunda before hanging out at Cuvee until the early hours of Friday. ... Comedian Jim Gaffigan stayed at The Wit April 19 and 20 while in town for his shows at the Chicago Theatre. … Natalie Dormer (“Game of Thrones”) had dinner Friday at Nellcote while in town for the C2E2 convention at McCormick Place.

lgomez@tribune.com