This story contains major spoilers from the Chicago Fire premiere.
Chicago Fire did not waste any time revealing who didn’t make it out of that burning building alive.
The third season picked up with Firehouse 51 in the immediate aftermath of the building explosion, but not everyone was able to get back on their feet. Sadly, paramedic Leslie Shay (Lauren German) died within the first few minutes of the premiere.
Jumping ahead six weeks, viewers learned that Shay’s death has severely impacted everyone. Severide (Taylor Kinnet) is missing in action, though he returns to the house by episode’s end thanks to some encouragement from Casey (Jesse Spencer). Also, Dawson (Monica Raymund) has stuck around Firehouse 51 as a fill-in paramedic in lieu of taking her firefighter assignment, likely out of guilt for switching places with Shay just moments before a beam fell on her. Dawson also has a new partner, runaway bride Sylvie Brett (Kara Kilmer). What’s next for the firefighters of 51? EW caught up with executive producer Matt Olmstead to get the scoop:
EW: Why did you decide to kill off Shay?
MATT OLMSTEAD: At the end of season two, we were in the room talking about finales, cliffhangers and what was going to come with season three. I’ve been through it before on other shows, on Prison Break, where you feel a little bit like you’ve exhausted some of the story lines and romances, enough people have slept with each other and you feel a little bit stuck. The conversation came up, “What about killing one of the characters?” Not too far-fetched, because it’s one of the most dangerous jobs in America, working as a firefighter. That started to gain traction because you invariably get a lot of material from the emotional ramifications. We started to map out what it would look like, who it would involve, and at a certain point we all looked around and said this is the way to go. Some people are going to be pissed off. Hopefully people are emotionally affected by the storyline. Having seen the episode after this, it’s pretty much what we had hoped for in terms of shaking things up and giving other characters story lines to play all because of this one event.
How will her death impact the firehouse this season?
The main one is Severide because they were best friends. They were talking about having a kid together. It’s the one person who got him, so to take that away from him, he’s dealing with not only the grief, but he’s imbalanced. He just becomes a little bit detached from people. Not so much a depression, but it’s a, “I don’t really care anymore because nothing lasts forever, nothing makes sense. I don’t really give a sh–. I’m just going to have a good time. I’m going to do my job. I don’t care about consequences. I don’t really care about anything.” It’s ostensibly a guy who’s gone back to his party boy behavior, but what he’s doing is trying to outpace and outdistance this grief that he’s not dealt with and it’s just a matter of when it’s going to catch up to him and what’s he going to do when he ultimately has to deal with that.
How does that impact his relationship with Chicago P.D.’s Lindsay?
It complicates it and temporarily frustrates it. She’s not the kind of girl—as she expresses in one of the episodes—to sit at a restaurant for 45 minutes waiting for a guy to show up because he’s out having a couple of beers with the guys. She’s there for him, that means a lot, and he’s able to express things to her that he wouldn’t to anybody else in terms of Shay’s loss. But it’s just not the right time for her, so she’s there as a friend, but certainly not as a romantic partner. She can tell he’s starting to go off on his own little journey.
You also have Graceland’s Serinda Swan coming on as a love interest for him. Can you say anything about that relationship? Is this someone he might be able to open himself up to?
That’s exactly it. We have it where they meet under crazy circumstances. It looks like another fly-by-night relationship he might have, and they jump into it very quickly. It’s one of those things where only after a couple episodes do they look back and realize what brought them together. They didn’t realize that at the time, but the secret story that we’re playing with her character is she also experienced a loss. She’s not dealing with it. He’s not dealing with it. Only through each other are they able to patch each other up, heal each other up, so that at least they can have both feet on the ground and move forward.
So far, Dawson has stayed at the firehouse because of her guilt over what happened. Will she stick around longer or finally take her new post as a firefighter?
It’s both. She is going to take a post. She wants to be a firefighter. She realized, “I can only hold that out for a while before I start to catch the reputation as someone who doesn’t want the job.” She wants to be a firefighter, but she also knows that she can’t leave her family. That’s why she holds off on her professional pursuits to stay on ambo and be around everybody. Complicating that even more is obviously wanting to be with Casey. She knows if she stays there that they can’t get married because it’s against regulations. There’s a lot being thrown at her, in addition to the loss of her best friend and the guilt that comes with that.
The camera paused on Casey’s face after he and Dawson discussed getting married. Is he having second thoughts?
The moment is that he wants to do it when the time is right. He doesn’t want the memory of proposing to be tied to anything else, including, “The day I proposed to your mom was the same day I almost punched a guy out.” He wants it to be independent and special. Right now, there’s too much going on, including still dealing with the death of Shay. His hesitation, it’s not reluctance.
Will we actually see their wedding this season?
Maybe down the road.
What else is in store for Casey this season?
He wants to do the right thing and marry Dawson. They’re planning a wedding, but one thing after another is getting in the way in terms of her career ambitions, which will run directly counter to their desire to be together as a married couple. Also, because of what happened to Shay, [Casey asks Severide to move in]. He and Dawson have a new apartment together. Keep in mind that in the pilot, there was the death of a friend of theirs and Casey and Severide each blame the other. They’ve been keeping their distance from each other. They were friends before the show and they’re starting to come back based on Casey insisting that Severide move in with them because he needs to be around people who care about him. It’s a cool, long-awaited friendship, a protective friendship that we see between Casey and Severide. It’s another thing that we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish unless we made the tough decision of killing off one of the characters, in this case, obviously Shay.
Is there any drama with the three of them living under one roof?
Absolutely. She’s trying to nest and also trying to be an engaged couple. She cares about Severide. She knows what he went through. She is the first one to get a little concerned about, “Is this the best thing that we’re doing? Are we enabling him to go out and get loaded every night and come back?” Casey will defend it by saying, “He does his job. As long as he comes home, we keep an eye on him. He went through something heavy and who are we to dictate what he’s going to do?”
What can you tell us about Shay’s replacement, Sylvie Brett?
Tonally, we made a conscious decision that when we brought someone else in, we wanted them to be unencumbered. So, when everybody else is sometimes walking around with ankle weights because of this grief, we wanted someone to come in at full sail, essentially. Though aware of what happened in this firehouse, she has a real enthusiasm, a real bounce in her steps. We constructed this backstory of someone who was from a small town in Indiana, she was homecoming queen and engaged to her high school sweetheart. It’s all preordained and set out for her. Ultimately, she doesn’t want that. She rejects that and wants to go experience her life and the engagement goes sour. So she comes to Chicago—bright lights, big city. It’s her first time in Chicago, first time around people like this. She’s doing what she loves to do so there’s a slight naiveté but a real enthusiasm for this, while her small town roots are going to be increasingly trying to pull her back there.
Mills was also injured in the explosion. How will that affect him this season?
He does experience an injury and that’s going to have ramifications for him in terms of his ability to stay on the squad. Will he be able to perform those duties, and then if not, what’s available to him? As Dawson is looking to move up to firefighter, is there a slot open on ambo? He looks at the end of his career, and all of the sudden potentially there’s this opportunity to go into ambo and in his mind would that be a step down? Potentially. He has to make a choice. “Do I go on Ambo and stay within this family and still do what I want to do, which is help people? But, is it swallowing my pride because I don’t have the glam job of being on squad?” On top of that, he gets to know a little bit more about his dad’s side of the family, and he realizes, “I was presented a fiction by my mom because she didn’t want me to get hurt.” As an adult, now he wants to know what’s going on. This is all in service of having that character grow as well, because when Mills’ character came on, he was the candidate. We want to peel away some of his innocence, willingly or otherwise for the character, and have him be on his own two feet as a man.
Boden also takes Shay’s death very hard just as he’s about to be a dad. What is he facing this season?
It’s interesting, because he’s experienced an extreme of two experiences as you can, which is the death of someone he cares about who he’s responsible for and the impending birth of his first child. His head is spinning. “Do I allow myself to really enjoy this or does the guilt creep in? Look, my wife needs me. I should allow myself to experience this joy.” He’s being pulled in two different directions, which is his story going forward. It’s definitely a guy in his 50s who all of the sudden is going to be a father. Because he’s going to be a dad, is he too baked into old habits? Can he change and adapt to be in a relationship?
What can you tease about the crossovers coming up this season with Chicago P.D. and SVU?
We’re planning one right now. It’s not official yet. We did an SVU crossover last year, which we were happy with. We want to do it again, if we can pull off the hat trick. We want to have all three shows involved. We want to really swing for the fences, which is what we’re thinking about doing it right now internally. It’s tough. I don’t have enough that I can present, but we’re definitely in the lab right now trying to figure it out.
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.