“Chicago Fire” returns for its second season Tuesday night with a series of fires set by an arsonist who is targeting Lt. Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney); Lt. Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) returns to work following the death of his former fiancée; Firehouse 51 is on the short list to be shut down due to budget cuts; and Shay (Lauren German) has trouble accepting the fact that Severide is having a baby with Renée Royce (Sarah Shahi).
“We’re starting off with a bang,” says executive producer Michael Brandt. “The first three episodes, I feel like we’re throwing everything at the audience. There are four or five storylines going on, a lot of conflicts, there’s an outside threat to the firehouse — more than one, actually. One is physical and one is mental, and it’s going to jump off from the teaser of the first episode.”
A lot of television series tend to sag in their sophomore seasons, but from the chat that xfinityTV had with several cast members and the producers, it sounds as if Season 2 of “Chicago Fire” is heating up! Here are five things you need to know before tuning in for the second-season premiere of “Chicago Fire” on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 10/9c on NBC:
1. At the end of Season 1, Severide had just agreed to be a sperm donor so that Shay could become a mother, when the lieutenant’s ex-girlfriend Renée returns with the news that she is pregnant — and he is the baby daddy.
“We love the storyline,” Brandt tells xfinityTV. “It’s funny how much we love the storyline and we hate spoilers. Because we really feel as storytellers that there’s a way to unfold the story to keep surprises going. So that storyline is going to stay fraught for a few more episodes at least.”
The one clue that Brandt did give was the confirmation that Shahi, who is now a series regular on “Person of Interest,” will be able to finish playing out her role on “Chicago Fire.” So, if you tune in to the season premiere and hear what Shay has to say about the pregnancy, it gives a clue as to what that conclusion just might be.
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2. New characters. Michelle Forbes is joining the cast in a recurring role as Gail McLeod, a high-ranking consultant with the State Marshal’s office who keeps a sharp eye on budgets and performance at the city’s firehouses — and has 51 under her microscope as one that could face the prospect of being shut down. What with the drug abuse and sexual harassment charges from Season 1, she is keeping a close watch on the goings-on — and isn’t above a little blackmail to get what she wants.
“Michelle has mastered the art of playing a certain type of character, the tough woman,” says executive producer Derek Haas. “When we first met her, you spend ten seconds with her, and you’re like, ‘Wow, you’re not at all the kind of character you play.’
“But she came on and she said, ‘What are you thinking about the character?’ And we said, ‘We don’t want you to play the tough b*tch that you always play,’ wondering if we were going to get push-back from that. She goes, ‘Oh, thank God. I don’t want to do that either.’ So the common ground for us and her was: She’s a woman who believes she’s doing the right thing, 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.”
Also new to the cast will be Jeff Clarke (Jeff Hephner) as a new addition to the Rescue Squad, while Lt. Spellman, played by John Hoogenakker, will be joining Engine. Both men are transfers from one of the shuttered firehouses, with Clarke immediately showing his value when he discovers there is an arsonist targeting Severide. But Clarke also runs into problems later on with McLeod.
3. Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett) had a rough Season 1. He thought he was on the fast track to move from Engine to Squad, but he was passed over. He found out that his father may not have been the hero he thought him to be. Then he found out that his girlfriend Gabby Dawson (Monica Raymund) still had feelings for Casey. So what does he do? He makes a knee-jerk reaction and puts in an application for the Chicago Police Department.
“For me, at least — a lot of my father’s situation being brought to light kind of affected the whole situation of leaving the firehouse,” Barnett tells xfinityTV. “Having this image of my father being the hero and then kind of figuring out that he could’ve not been as heroic as I had always imagined… So I think that fed into it, as well the fact that I wanted to escape being around Gabby and was being a little bit childish… But there’s a lot that fed into it. It wasn’t just,’F this, I’m leaving because I didn’t get it,’ you know?”
When we return, Mills still has his application in — “Chicago PD,” the spinoff series doesn’t begin until midseason — and Detective Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda), Gabby’s brother, lets viewers know that it the application is still in the works.
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4. Christopher Herrmann (David Eigenberg) and his wife keep popping out babies, so Hermann is always looking for get-rich-quick schemes so he can support his family. He had really bad luck last year when he had to move in with his in-laws, and then more bad luck when what he felt what were sure-fire ways to raise cash, failed. Then, when he convinced Gabby and Otis (Yuri Sardarov) to be partners with him in Molly’s, it looked as if his luck had changed. But it was short-lived. In the season premiere, Game Day, the new sports bar down the street opens and provides some serious competition.
“We loved the idea when we first talked about it in the writer’s room of: This poor guy finally gets something going in his life, what should we do in that finale to mess with him?,” Brant says. “So we thought, ‘What if a newer, hipper, cooler sports bar was opening up down the street?’ So we’re going to play that out of what poor Molly’s has to do now to compete with a place that’s got 400 screens going on. It fits in great with our characters, who are just blue-collar guys trying to put food on the table.”
Haas adds, “Monica, Dave and Yuri have such a funny chemistry that I don’t think we ever expected it would work quite so well, but they are, like, weirdly, these three great actors who are so dramatically gifted. We put them in this car and they become the Three Stooges.”
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5. When Firehouse 51 goes out to fight a fire, of course, there are the usual technical advisors, but interestingly, many of the extras helping to fight the fires onscreen are real firefighters off-screen.
“They work for the very nominal daily fee that we pay, and they bring their own turnout gear, they bring their own equipment and they jump on and off the engine and they pull the hoses, and they’ll do it all day long for us,” Haas says. “It’s really hard to be a producer or an actor on a show and act like an a**hole when you’re watching these guys, who just came off a 24-hour shift, come and work for their $90 or $100 a day, or whatever it is, and stand in the heat. And we realize we’re representing them. Anybody who isn’t moved by that isn’t on our show anymore.”
“Chicago Fire” returns for its second season on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 10/9c on NBC.