Michael Brant and Derek Haas have scripted some of cinemas’ most adrenaline-pumping action films (Wanted, 2 Fast 2 Furious) and nail-biting dramas (3:10 To Yuma), so when it came time for the duo to tackle television, they created a project that allowed them to perfectly marry those two genres. The result was Chicago Fire, and in advance of tonight’s second episode, ETonline chatted with Brant and Haas to find out what you can expect from NBC’s smokin’ new series.
ETonline: In transitioning from film to television, what was the greatest hurdle you faced?
Derek Haas: Having so many characters. Most of the movies we’ve written have been from one specific characters point of view. With this, we have 10 characters, 13 episodes, on-going storylines and arcs that last from five episodes to the entire season. So we set up the white boards; put the characters on one axis, the episodes on the other and started mapping out the entire journey. It wasn’t hard to find great action within there, but we wanted the action to inform the characters and tried to find some interesting, frightening or heartbreaking stories from our consultants about calls they went on that would accomplish that.
ETonline: How integral has your time with actual Chicago firefighters been to crafting this story?
Michael Brant: Incredibly. Spending time in firehouses is the only way to get firefighters to talk to you. And when you get to know them, you realize how close they are. It really is a dysfunctional family that becomes functional when the rubber hits the road. When someone gets killed on duty, it can be fracturing but ultimately bring them together. We thought it was interesting to see how that plays out [with the death of the Darden character] and we’ll see that over the course of almost the entire first season. It doesn’t just go away.
ETonline: What else can you tease about tonight’s episode and beyond?
Haas: Tonight’s episode is more Severide-centric as he deals with a construction worker who has his foot trapped in a building that’s about to go. What does he do? Episode three is back on Casey, who is dealing with a crooked cop who is trying to get his alcoholic son off the hook after causing a major accident. Later on, there’s a Dawson-centric episode where she’s dealing with a girl who might have been abused. For us, it’s fun because we can bounce around from interesting character to interesting character.
ETonline: Last week’s premiere ratings weren’t as big as anyone would have hoped — what have you heard from NBC in terms of their commitment to the show?
Brant: NBC [told us], they’re not in this for a sprint, they’re in it for a marathon. They’re totally behind the show. Of course we’re disappointed more people didn’t show up to watch it, but those who did tune in, didn’t leave.
Haas: This was going to be a tough year for NBC, and if we were going to help them bounce back, it would be a slow climb. It’s tough to compete with a show like Nashville, which had a full hour of Modern Family leading into it. But this is a show NBC is sticking behind for a while. Chicago Fire is going nowhere.
Chicago Fire airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.