The folks at Firehouse 51 will be fighting more than fires on Season 2 of NBC's "Chicago Fire."
"There's an outside threat to the firehouse—more than one actually. One is physical and one is mental," executive producer Derek Haas said during a Wednesday conference call with reporters.
Chief Wallace Boden (Eamonn Walker) must fight to keep his fire station open in the face of budget cuts, while one of his men is targeted by an arsonist—as in "want-you-dead" targeted. The arsonist storyline allows Haas and his co-exec producer, Michael Brandt, to weave new and exciting fire and rescue calls into the character storylines.
According to Brandt, those fire and rescue scenes are plucked from real-life Chicago calls that their technical advisors, CFD Chief Steve Chifarotis and paramedic Michelle Martinez, have told them about.
"Every week it's something new and crazy when the bells go off, so we have not hurt at all for storylines or for action or escapes," Brandt told me during the same call. "If anything, it's such an abundance of material we have to figure out thematically how do we tie some of these really crazy events and response calls to what's going on storywise."
"These [real] firefighters, if you spend just 24 hours in a house, you will laugh and you will cry in the same 24 hours," he added. "These men and women just run into buildings that rats and roaches are running out of and so we just try to find the best stories."
Here are 10 teases about the new season, culled from the conference call and interviews during my Aug. 20 visit to the show's Chicago set. Watch the videos shot and edited by RedEye freelancer Luis Rodriguez to get a feel for the camaraderie amongst the cast. (If you can't view the videos here, go to my YouTube page.)
"Chicago Fire" begins Season 2 at 9 p.m. CT Tuesday, Sept. 24, on NBC.
Michelle Forbes joins the cast as Gail McLeod, a consultant with the state fire marshal's office who must evaluate the city's firehouses and recommend which should be closed. Firehouse 51 is on her shortlist.
"She's a woman who believes she's doing the right thing," Haas said of Gail. "She's been given a job to do and she thinks she's helping the city of Chicago by the way she goes about her business."
When another firehouse is shut down, Firehouse 51 gets two new firefighters: Lt. Spellman (John Hoogenakker) and rescue squad member Jeff Clarke (Jeff Hephner). With so many alpha males in the house, the new guys don't immediately fit in. Clarke comes to 51 with "a bit of a mystery behind him," Hephner teased. "In a tight-knit family like this, it's gonna bubble up some trust issues and loyalty issues." Read more and watch a video with Jeff Hephner here.
Disillusioned with his boss, his girl and his job, rookie firefighter Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett) picked up an application for the Chicago P.D. at the end of last season. "I told Michael and Derek that I thought it was, honestly—sorry for my language—but a bitch move," Barnett said, laughing.
Mills will continue to struggle with his feelings about Chief Boden, whom he learned may have had something to do with his father's death years earlier. But, Barnett said, Mills is still a dedicated firefighter. "All the emotional BS that gets in the way starts to diminish because you find yourself in situations relying on those people you may not trust when you're standing around the firehouse," he said.
Mills and Dawson
Mills and Gabriel Dawson (Monica Raymund) broke up last season, but their story isn't over yet. "We're going to see a little bit of the ‘Millson' love come back in terms of how they navigate their new relationship in Season 2," Raymund said.
But will they get together?! "You'll have to wait and see," Barnett said. "We brush up against each other a couple times."
Baby plans on hold
Season 1 ended with Renée Royce (guest star Sarah Shahi, who will return) throwing a baby bump into EMT Leslie Shay's (Lauren German) plans to have a baby with her roomie, Lt. Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney). Renee is pregnant with Severide's baby, and he wants to make a relationship with her work, Kinney said. Shay is "pretending she's OK, but she's not really," German said. "I tell him something about Renee and he doesn't want to hear it."
Shay and Dawson
Shay's not having an easy time of it early in Season 2. Not only are her and Severide squabbling, but she has a falling out of sorts with best buds/EMT partner Dawson, too.
"Dawson has her ways of dealing with things and Shay has her ways," German said. "Shay tries to take control and fix the situation and it doesn't quite workout for her so it creates tension in the friendship."
The rift affects their work relationship and friendship, Raymund said, but she hopes things will work out. "I think Shay and Gaby are soulmates in terms of friends. It's kind of like that college buddy you might have from 15 years ago and no matter what, if he calls and needs you, you'll get on a plane. ... We could be really pissed at each other, but I don't think we'll ever stop loving each other."
Severide takes a dive
Kinney became a certified scuba diver in order to film a rescue scene filmed near Lower Wacker Drive in which Severide and the squad dive into the Chicago River. "I think they were just covering the bases in the event that I die so they could say, 'Well it's not our fault. He was certified,'" Kinney joked.
Molly's is in trouble
Dawson, Chris Herrmann (David Eigenberg) and Otis (Yuri Sardarov) opened Molly's bar last season. A fancy new bar across the street is stealing all their customers.
"Otis has to dig in and use his ingenuity to sort of destroy them," Sardarov said, "and he will eventually—without Herrmann's help, because Herrmann's hardly ever any help."
Eigenberg said Herrmann still hasn't solved his financial problems. "Nothing ever goes really well for [him]," the actor said. "The bar is going to have a few issues and [he] won't handle it well ... [He] continues with his screwed-upness."
Cruz in love
Firefighter Cruz (Joe Minoso) won't be able to stay away from Molly's. "It seems that I've taken a liking to Otis' cousin," Minoso said. Fans might remember Zoya (Larisa Polonsky), the Russian bartender whose English was so poor she couldn't understand what patrons were ordering.
Mouch finds a cause
Mouch (Christian Stolte), who didn't seem to get excited about anything but his Japanese girlfriend in Season 1, has aspirations for office. "I'm going to be running for union president," Stolte said.
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