‘Chicago Fire,’ ‘P.D.’ showrunner tackles fans’ burning questions

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Is there hope for Dawsey?

Is a Casey-Voight confrontation in the offing?

Why didn’t Detective Lindsay and Lt. Severide — a k a Linseride — pan out?

Fans of “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” had no shortage of questions for showrunner Matt Olmstead, who oversees the writing rooms for both of the NBC first-responder dramas. Olmstead’s answers are below.

I apologize for not being able to pepper him with all of your queries, some of which sparked responses I’ll be writing about in separate stories in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

In case you missed the recent Q & As with “Fire” star Jesse Spencer and “P.D.’s” Linstead, click on the hyperlinks to check those out.

On to Olmstead:

“I’ll be honest with you, the tail that wagged that dog ultimately was actor availability,” Olmstead said, referring to “P.D.” star Sophia Bush (Erin Lindsay) and “Fire” star Taylor Kinney (Kelly Severide). “There’s a certain point where you’re trying to bring two leads on two different shows together that it becomes complicated. As opposed to this thing kind of atrophying, where we see them every three episodes and we’re trying to sustain a relationship like that, we said let’s just admit that we got great stuff out of it.”

Ending Linseride also meant the beginning of Linstead.

“It freed them up to have other relationships,” he added. “For Lindsay in particular it doubled back toward Halstead (Jesse Lee Soffer), who is perfectly in her wheelhouse … and we can access much more freely than we can a character on another show.”

Something much scarier than aliens is responsible for Newhouse’s (Edwin Hodge) vanishing act: Chicago weather.

“As we see in a future episode, there’s a polar vortex episode which I’m sure the readers of your article will relate to. Cruz (Joe Minoso) is at the breaking point. He can’t handle another Chicago winter. He’s looking into vacation rentals. One of the things that sends him off the edge is when he asks where Newhouse is. It’s mentioned that he had some furlough built up and he went with his daughter to San Diego. As is the case with firefighters, you can chalk up some time, you can take off, you can go to another house. We don’t know if he’ll be back.”

Newhouse’s absence makes room for another character, which brings us to our next question:

The bad boy from Austin resurfaces next month for at least three episodes, and he’ll be rubbing elbows with some enemies at Firehouse 51. That’s because Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker) will be taking some personal time, opening the door for a relief chief who can call the staffing shots.

“That guy can bring in whoever he wants,” Olmstead said. “It just so happens that guy knows Welch (Kenny Johnson). Welch got knocked down a few pegs after the whole engine-truck collision. His arc is pretty rich in that here’s a guy who comes back and he’s looking for a home, essentially. He can’t be too choosey. Here he’s coming back to 51 fully aware there’s probably going to be some hostility. In his mind, ‘Hey, if they walk up and say no hard feelings, shake my hand, I’m ready to go to work.’ But it turns out that’s not their reaction. He’s got to defend himself. He can’t show weakness. He can’t roll over. It becomes contentious.”

“Maybe one day,” he said. “There’s still a real connection between the two, but they both know this isn’t the time for them. For now, they’re definitely seeing other people.”

“We’ve been holding off on that,” Olmstead said, adding that he’s not sure if that thread will get pulled by the end of the season. “We want to do it right. As much as Voight (Jason Beghe) has been rehabilitated and changed on ‘P.D.’ and as much as Casey (Jesse Spencer) has moved forward and gone to other storylines on ‘Fire’ — and as much as other characters who were tangentially affected by the whole Voight-Casey conflict have made their peace provisionally with Voight, Casey hasn’t. Nor can he. What happened, happened. There’s no way Casey’s ever going to forget it. Voight has apologized, admitted wrong but Casey’s not going to go for it. Ultimately there’s a story out there where Casey’s going to need his help. Do you go to the guy who was your tormentor for help or not? We haven’t broken that story yet. We’re holding off on that until we do it right.”

“We’ve talked about Erin’s father but we don’t have any immediate plans to get into that,” Olmstead said.

As for Linstead, a coupling that sent the hashtag #SKINstead trending on twitter last week: “There’s a lot of pent up, let’s say enthusiasm, and they act on it. Ultimately, she’s got to make a decision whether she’s going to stay on task force or come back to Intelligence down the road. If that’s the case, will Voight (Jason Beghe) look the other way like he did with Burgess (Marina Squerciati) and Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger)? They get to enjoy being a couple for a while. How long I can’t say.”

“I have not thought of that to be honest, though that would be interesting,” Olmstead said. “We’re always looking for either interesting cross from a show like that or familiar Chicago faces we can rotate through.”

By the way, Firehouse 51 is a wink to Station 51 in “Emergency!” Click here to see what the other numbers in “Fire” mean: ChicagoFireByTheNumbers

“That’s about 10 hurdles away from where I am right now,” Olmstead said about a potential spinoff centered on Chicago Med, which will be the focus of a “Chicago Fire” episode later this season. “It kind of fell in our lap in that we knew we were going to a hospital a lot in storytelling for both ‘Fire’ and ‘P.D.,’ so it was just a natural extension to name it and populate it with some familiar faces so that there was some familiarity there. When it came to talking about a possible spinoff – and that’s way down the road, it’s not even official — we’re just going toward it organically. If one day they want to make a show out of it, I’m sure we’ll be taking that phone call.”

“The actress was fantastic,” he said about Brittany Curran. “We were able to pull so many different emotions from her and she really centered it. Whenever we’re in the room tossing ideas around, invariably her name comes up. I’m confident we’ll see her again.”

“We know it’s obviously one of the signatures of the show,” he said. “The production and the effects department — it’s unbelievable what they’re able to accomplish week in and week out. There’s been no downshifting in terms of the amount of fire we show — not that we feel, anyway.”

A bit of Kim Burgess’ (Marina Squerciati) past was addressed in the early days of “Chicago P.D.,” when we learned the beat cop used to be a flight attendant.

“We’ve had some stories we’ve tossed about in the room about her sister,” Olmstead said. “Right now, in terms of pecking order for her, we’ve been servicing this romance with Ruzek (Patrick John Flueger) which we’ll continue to do. But we definitely have some things lined up for Burgess in terms of turning some cards, as we say, on her backstory.”

The writers’ room in Los Angeles contains a big board that lists the names of the characters and a general outline of what they’ll be doing in each episode. Specific episodes get assigned to different writers, who have to come up with an outline for their installment.

“That takes about a week and a half, two weeks max to get that outline,” he said. “It goes on for approval from Dick [Wolf] and then it goes off for approval from the network. While it’s off in the approval process the writer goes right to script. You don’t wait around for approval. You need to start writing. You figure a week and a half, two weeks to get the script. Once the script is delivered to production, there’s an eight day prep. That’s followed by an eight day shoot.”

All told, it takes about six weeks.

“It’s complicated for him because he’s bonded with and likes working with the Sylvie Brett (Kara Killmer) character,” Olmstead said. “It’s rewarding what he does. But he put all that time in, he trained for it, his dad was in Squad, so there’s a legacy aspect to it. His hope definitely is to one day return to Squad. Whether or not that’s going to be available to him remains to be seen.”


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