'Chicago Fire' Boss on 'Big Surprises' in Landmark Season 10 and Huge Ramifications (Exclusive)

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Chicago Fire
Art Streiber/NBC

Chicago Fire isn't beating around the bush when its 10th season begins.

Following a worrisome cliffhanger in the season 9 finale that left the fates of Severide, Cruz, Capp and Tony up in the air, Wednesday's premiere, titled "Mayday," picks up immediately where things left off. And for the rest of the squad, it's a race against the clock to save their fellow team members before the foursome -- stuck underneath the boat running out of air and the water rising above their heads -- face dire, potentially fatal results.

"We pick up right where we left off, not even one second later, right back onto that boat that's sinking in Lake Michigan, with the rest of our characters on the shore watching," executive producer and showrunner Derek Haas told ET. "It's really harrowing and it looks like there's not going to be any way out for all of our friends and squad, and I do think we're going to shock some people like we do occasionally on this show... When the [Chicago Fire] logo comes up, people are going to be like, 'Oh my god, did they just do what I think they did?'"

With the the lives of Severide and Co. unclear, Fire is reaching a monumental landmark early in the season: reaching rarefied air with the series' 200th episode. Haas hinted that because of the special nature of No. 200, viewers should expect several old characters coming back one way or another -- and not just for that one episode. "We have characters coming back that you haven't seen since the early days of the show in this season and we'll continue to do that," he promised. 

Ahead of the new season, ET hopped on the phone with Haas to get the lowdown on plans for the milestone episode, whether familiar faces from the past will pop on by and if a wedding may (finally) happen in the not-so-distant future for Severide (if he survives the premiere, that is) and Kidd.

ET: Chicago Fire is reaching several milestones this year: It's the 10th season and it will hit 200 episodes. What special things are you planning for the season since you'll be reaching 200 early in the season?

Derek Haas: The 200th episode is the fifth episode. Usually we break seasons gearing a storyline towards the winter finale, but we called NBC back in June and we said, "Our fifth episode is going to be our 200th. Why don't we make that a really, really special, big, show-altering episode with huge, sweep-worthy stakes and surprises?" So they got on board on that, which makes it easier for us to rev something up to a fifth episode, as opposed to stretching it out over nine or 10 episodes. We have some pretty intense storylines right from the jump that go right into the 200th.

Last time we spoke, you said that it was going to be "one to remember" and you even alluded to episode 100, which featured Casey and Gabby's wedding. Is there potentially another wedding in the works for No. 200?

We're not going towards wedding. Wedding, I think, is a season sort of thing. But there are going to be huge life-changing and show-changing surprises coming in that 200th episode. So I wouldn't get out your bridesmaid's dress or groomsmen tuxedos just yet, but yeah, there are some huge things going on.

Is there a possibility people from the past may be popping in for that episode since it is so special? 

Yeah. We have characters coming back that you haven't seen since the early days of the show in this season and we'll continue to do that. That's, to me, one of the great pleasures of having a show that runs this long is you have all this history to call from and the longtime fans get rewarded. The newer fans, you have to write it in such a way so that they get brought into the fold. I think it's great. The fact that we're streaming and we're on TV -- it seems like 24 hours a day -- brought in a lot of new people who the immediacy of some of these characters is fresh in their mind, and I think that's unique to this time in the world, as opposed to if you tried to do something like this 10 or 15 years ago.

As the architect of the show, what is the broad theme you're going for this year? Season 9 obviously left on a pretty major cliffhanger with the fates of a couple members of the squad up in the air. How you are approaching this season as a whole?

And when you say architect, I have to give a lot of credit to Michael Gilvary and Andrea Newman, who are the two head writers on the show. The three of us, I don't think there's a five-hour period we aren't texting or talking or Zooming with each other. We haven't had a break since the pandemic started just because so much was in flux at all times. It's really not just me, it's the three of us from a creative standpoint [and] of course the Wolf family in general. But when we look at any season, including this one, you go back to what's been happening in real firehouses, first and foremost, pulling stories from real firehouses around the country and then you look at these unique characters who have been with us for so long and think of how can we shake things up, move things around, explore new relationships, put different people together. Not romantically, necessarily. I'm saying just onscreen together. Those are always fun to do and then introduce some conflict. What's unique about Chicago Fire and why I think we've connected with so many viewers over the years is that you don't tune in and watch a procedural or you don't tune in and watch a straight-up drama. It's got comedy, drama, action, suspense, romance, thriller. On any given five minutes of the show, there's so much going on. It really makes it fun writing.

Where do things pick up in the season 10 premiere? What can you preview?

We pick up right where we left off, not even one second later, right back onto that boat that's sinking in Lake Michigan, with the rest of our characters on the shore watching. It's really harrowing and it looks like there's not going to be any way out for all of our friends and squad, and I do think we're going to shock some people like we do occasionally on this show. You know how we do five minutes [for the opening scene] and then the Chicago Fire logo comes up? I think when the logo comes up, people are going to be like, "Oh my god, did they just do what I think they did?" It should be a fun teaser.

Can you elaborate on that? It doesn't look good at the moment for Severide, Cruz, Capp...

All I'll elaborate on is... it's not going to be the, "Oh, we faked out the audience and everyone's happy and there are no ramifications." There are ramifications that play out for quite a few episodes. Get your oxygen tanks, settle in and watch.

On the relationship side, Brett and Casey are now exploring a relationship officially and fully. What does their dynamic look like now that they're trying to figure out what a relationship looks like?

That was the slowest burn ever, so now I think it'll get hotter. But I always say this; we're Chicago Fire, so it's never sunshine and roses. We'll find something new to affect this happy couple as they're going forward. Here's a little something, is that Brett gets inspired to start a new program within the CFP and that takes up some of her energy in the first part of this season. We were doing some research on how fire departments have handled themselves during the pandemic and one of the factors that has affected firehouses across the country is what they consider non-emergency 911 calls. Because of that, when there's a real emergency, they've had delays on response times. So Brett tackles that problem head-on and it becomes a big part of the first half of the season.

Is there anything that you're specifically looking to put this couple through now that they're together?

The couple's going to be solid, strong, but it's always outside circumstances that affect this couple rather than internal conflict. Their feelings aren't going to just suddenly evaporate, but sometimes the world doesn't honor your plans. Life is full of surprises and there's a big surprise coming for them.

Obviously, Severide's in a bit of a pickle right now, but assuming he survives, what is his outlook with Kidd now that they're engaged?

Assuming he survives, I think there is a future. They got engaged last season, so I don't think we're going to go a full season without seeing some sort of union going forward, but don't quote me on that because... Well, you can quote me on it, but then also add the caveat that things don't always work out the way we think they're going to work out on the show.

It seems like this might be the season where they do walk down the aisle, or is that something you're actively working toward?

I think we're working towards that. This couple's been solid. I hate to see them hit the skids. They've been through so much together and we've already done so many ups and downs that it's really nice to have him be loyal, and for them supporting each other as she progresses in her career and he has been committed to her. I don't see that changing as we go forward, as long as everything's OK following this [situation Severide's in], first of all.

What are you most excited for viewers to experience on this season of Chicago Fire?

We're very stoked about what we've been writing so far. Different parts of each episode make us laugh or smile or tear up, and we're going to bring a lot of emotion. What we've had so much fun with in the last couple of years has been the younger generation rising up in the firehouse, and so now we have Violet, who joined us last year and is a series regular this year. The Violet, Gallo, Ritter triumvirate, as they decided at the end of last season they were going to go into business together, that really cracked us up and inspired us this season to explore what that shift would be and how Ritter might be regretting joining forces with Gallo and Violet, who seem to be pretty volatile themselves. Pairing different people up in scenes is going to be fun again. There might be a resurrection of the Mouch-Brett duo that created She's on Fire back in the day. They decide to do some stuff together. And then of course, Casey and Severide and Brett and Kidd are such a central part of all storytelling on this show. And then the old guys, Boden, Herrmann, Mouch, we're going to showcase them... We love it when the two generations teach each other something, so we've got an episode planned where the old dogs and the young dogs learn from each other for lack of a better word.

Chicago Fire returns Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. For more, watch below.

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