Chicago Fire’s Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney Talk Filming in Chicago, Firefighter Training & More

Chicago Fire - Season Pilot

TV Equals was excited to be a part of the Chicago Fire conference call featuring actors Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney–who portray Matthew Casey and Kelly Severide, respectively– and one of the executive producers of the show, Danielle Gelber. During the call, TV Equals learned more about the preparation that went into the show, the camaraderie the actors feel with their real-life firefighting cast members and more.

Filming in Chicago

All three said how wonderful it is to feature Chicago as a backdrop for the show and its characters.

“I don’t think we could have asked for a better reception,” said Spencer. “I’ve never lived here–this is my first time living here–but I love the city. I think it’s the perfect setting for our show. It feels like the people of this city are really supportive of this show. Chicago is a whole other character of this show…I think throughout the season we’re going to give…a good feel for what Chicago is like. And the history of Chicago and fires plays into the show as well. I think it’s the perfect backdrop for us.”

“Like Jesse was saying, the city has been really receptive,” said Kinney. “The firefighters have been really open and helpful about advising and we’ve been…doing simulation fire stunts at the academy,”  he said.

“Mayor Emmanuel and the state of Illinois were incredibly welcoming right from the start during the pilot and that only increased during the production of the show,” said Gelber. “Chicago’s such a visually singular city that we feel really lucky to be able to bring that into people’s living rooms every week, and that’s very special for us.”

Real life informing Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire is a Dick Wolf production, and like other Wolf shows such as Law and Order, real events will inform the procedural elements of the show.

“We really want to mine stories–real pandemic situations–[from] Chicago,” said Gelber. “We’re constantly working with our consultants and our own awareness as to what kind of stories we can tell. We really want this show to feel very authentic to this city so we’ll always try to incorporate things that happened in the past and dramatize them [for] today or take things that are just happening now and…speak to them.”

Mental and physical training

Kinney and Spencer opened up about how much they learned about the physical and mental elements that go into the world of firefighting.

“During the pilot–I think we all got here during early March and we had two weeks of rehearsals, preps and ride-alongs with respective companies–my characters on the rescue squad so I got to meet up with some guys in Sqad Five down in Inglewood,” said Kinney. “I spent a day with them doing ride-alongs and [with] Squad 3 in the city and we went through a training regimen at the fire academy with Steve Chikerotis who serves as an advisor on our show…I want to say he’s the batallion chief here in Chicago…his experience has been invaluable. ”

“I think one of the best things is that [the firemen] always on set as well,” said Spencer. “You know, they play the…engine company…and just having those guys all around–around all the time sort of really helps with the overall vibe of the cast because they’re always there and we’re always mingling with them.”

Spencer also said the simulations–generally with the full, heavy firefighting gear on–as well as spending time with the real firefighters on and off set helped the actors get into the heads of most firefighters. “It puts it in perspective. You realize it’s not just a physical job but mentally…you have to really be able to control your fear and your emotions. And that’s what these guys do well; that’s the stuff you don’t really see,” he said.

Firefighting and emotions

Knowing from personal experience that one of a  firefighter’s biggest asset is the ability to turn emotions on and off when dealing with crises, we asked if that reality affected how they related to their characters.

Kinney, who has played a paramedic before on another show, said one of the questions he had about his character, if any, was why he supressed his emotions. “…I think the more time I spend with firefighters and the more questions you ask, you learn that more,” he said. “And I’m a lot more settled in…my choices as Severide regarding his work and emotional issues.”

“There’s a fine line because they want our characters to care in the show, but once we’re getting down and doing the business…our characters really just get down to work and that’s what they’re good at, you know, they’ve switched that stuff off,” added Spencer. “But obviously they want the characters to deal with the emotional ramification after a scene or sometimes during a scene as well because that stuff happens, you know? They see things and things happen….That’s going to pop up again all throughout the show.”

Catch the season premiere of Chicago Fire Wednesday, October 10 at 10/9c on NBC.

  • Mac

     As an EMT, I knew there would be a few inaccuracies, but they were definitely nothing I couldn’t get over to truly enjoy the show. It did bug me a little that Jesse Spencer’s accent was sometimes Chicago, but sometimes Australian. Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed his acting and now was no different. I can’t complain about the shirtlessness. I do want to point out that they mentioned that Herman had more internal injuries than just the tension pneumothorax, which is why they had to rush him into surgery and everyone was waiting around worried.

    Also, last thought: Third Watch used to be my favorite show back in the day, and when it ended there was nothing to fill the void that they left. I think this show will make me miss Third Watch much less.