‘Chicago Fire’ about faces, not flames, says ‘Law & Order’ boss
By Lori Rackl firstname.lastname@example.org July 24, 2012 9:23PM
CHICAGO FIRE -- Season: Pilot -- Pictured: (l-r) Teri Reeves as Hallie, David Eigenberg as Christopher Hermann, Charlie Barnett as Peter Mills, Lauren German as Leslie Shay, Monica Raymund as Gabriella Dawson, Taylor Kinney as Kelly Severide, Jesse Spencer as Matthew Casey, Eamonn Walker as Battalion Chief Walter Boden, Merle Dandridge as Kay Fitori -- (Photo by: Sandro/NBC)
“Chicago Fire” and “The Mob Doctor”: Both plan to be in the area shooting episodes until mid-December, and may stay into March if ratings are good and more episodes are ordered.
“Underemployed”: The MTV dramedy is expected to wrap its first season of taping Aug. 12.
“Chicagolicious”: Style Network cameras remain rolling at AJ’s salon.
Past and future
“Shameless”: The Showtime series is expected to return for “seasonal” exterior shooting at the end of August, and for similar filming in the fall and early winter.
“Boss”: Recently wrapped its second season, debuting on Starz Aug. 17. Could be back if a third season is ordered.
“Mob Wives Chicago”: Recently wrapped and awaiting word on renewal.
“Three”: The reality show about three single women — two from Chicago — has wrapped its first season and debuts Thursday on CBS.
Updated: August 26, 2012 6:17AM
LOS ANGELES — As flames lap at a River North building, Mayor Rahm Emanuel emerges to survey the scene in the pilot for the new NBC drama “Chicago Fire.”
Executive producer Dick Wolf — the force behind the “Law & Order” franchise — personally asked Emanuel to make that cameo.
“I called him up and he said, ‘I don’t know, is that good for the city?’ ” Wolf recalled. “I said, ‘Well, every mayor since [New York’s David] Dinkins has been on the ‘Law & Orders’ and it sure hasn’t hurt New York.”
Wolf’s dramas have played out on the streets on New York for more than 20 years. He told TV critics gathered in Los Angeles on Tuesday that it was time to shake things up with his latest venture.
“I wanted the opportunity to show another great city,” Wolf said.
“Chicago has been fabulous,” he added. “This show would be impossible to produce the way it’s being produced without the cooperation of both the city and the fire department.”
“Chicago Fire” follows the drama both inside and outside Chicago Firehouse 51, home to the sometimes clashing clans of firefighters, rescue squad members and paramedics.
The ensemble cast includes Jesse Spencer (“House”), Taylor Kinney (“The Vampire Diaries”), Eamonn Walker (“Oz”), Monica Raymund (“The Good Wife”), Lauren German (“Hawaii Five-O”) and Naperville native David Eigenberg (“Sex and the City”), playing a salt-of-the-earth, veteran firefighter.
While shooting the pilot earlier this year in Chicago, the actors spent time training and going on ride-alongs with bona fide first responders. One drill had them entering a sweltering, smoke-filled room wearing 50-some pounds of gear.
“You really can’t see 4 feet in front of you,” Kinney said. “That was the most shocking thing that I’ve gone through so far in training.”
Being a firefighter is a lot like being a Marine, Eigenberg said. He should know. The Naperville Central grad was in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years in the’80s. The first day he arrived in Chicago to start filming, one of the city’s firefighters — a Marine — had just returned from active duty in Afghanistan.
“They’re can-do people; no hesitation with these guys,” said Eigenberg, who met Mayor Emanuel on the set.
“I said, ‘I’m an actor. I’m not a real firefighter,’ ” Eigenberg recalled. “He said, ‘I can tell.’ ”
Keeping viewers from being able to tell will be key. That’s why Wolf and series’ creators Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, the writing team behind the film “3:10 to Yuma,” brought on Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Steve Chikerotis as a consultant. A lot of the extras are off-duty firefighters, too.
“They’re the only ones who know how to wear the equipment, carry the stuff,” Wolf said. “Hopefully over the course of the show we’re going to give a lot of firefighters some overtime.”
Chicago itself has had a busier than usual work schedule when it comes to TV series. Programs being shot here run the gamut from reality (“Chicagolicious”) to drama (“The Mob Doctor”).
The “Chicago Fire” cast didn’t stick around long after Tuesday’s meeting with TV critics; they had to fly back to Chicago to start filming episode two at 6 a.m. Wednesday. The show premieres Oct. 10.
With a title like “Chicago Fire,” it’s no surprise that battling flames will be an integral part of the show. (It could also be about soccer, although Wolf said he had no idea that was the name of a Chicago team.) But Wolf made it clear this won’t be a fire-of-the-week procedural.
“It’s a character study,” he said. “What we’re trying to do here is a classic, adult, NBC platinum drama.”
What he’s not trying to do: Replicate “Rescue Me,” the critically acclaimed FX series that centered on a New York firefighter (Denis Leary) struggling to cope with the loss of his best friend who died in the 9/11 attacks. That series ended its seven-year run last fall.
“Chicago Fire” also features a death and the subsequent fallout, but Wolf insists that’s where the similarities end.
“Nobody is talking to ghosts” in “Chicago Fire,” he said. “ ‘Rescue Me’ was a brilliant show but it was completely an internal vision. This is really an internal and external vision. It’s a true ensemble as opposed to a single-lead show.”
Might the ensemble have another encounter with Mayor Emanuel, post-pilot?
“He can come back anytime he wants,” Wolf said.