'Chicago Med' Bosses on Colin Donnell's Goodbye and a 'New Reality' in Season 5 (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Wednesday's season five premiere of Chicago Med.
Chicago Med officially said goodbye to Colin Donnell.
On Wednesday's season five premiere, titled "Never Going Back to Normal," the NBC medical drama closed the books for good on Donnell's cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr. Connor Rhodes and Norma Kuling's trauma surgeon Dr. Ava Bekker. After Connor turned down Ava's request to give their romance another go, the heart doctor accused her of killing his father, which led to a confluence of dramatic events in the season opener that came to a traumatic end.
Admitting that she was responsible for the death of Connor's father, Ava shockingly slit her own throat, bleeding out on the operating table as Connor and the other Gaffney Chicago Medical Center doctors attempted to save her life. Her unexpected death ultimately served as the catalyst for Connor's decision to leave Chicago and the hospital.
But that wasn't the only drama happening on Chicago Med: Natalie (Torrey DeVitto) suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) following her accident, resulting in memory loss, and discovered she was engaged to Philip (Ian Harding); Maggie (Marlyne Barrett) was diagnosed with cancer and keeping it a secret; and April (Yaya DaCosta) and Ethan (Brian Tee) learned they weren't pregnant.
Following the premiere, ET spoke with co-showrunners Diane Frolov and Andy Schneider about wrapping up Donnell's storyline, the consequences of Natalie's TBI and what's next.
ET: You're saying goodbye to two series regulars, Colin Donnell and Norma Kuling, in tonight's premiere. Can you speak to your approach in wrapping up their stories while also introducing the season's new arcs?
Diane Frolov: We really wanted to close Ava-Connor story, to wrap that up in a satisfying way and to say goodbye to Connor.
Andy Schneider: And to make it really understandable, emotionally, why he would leave.
Frolov: And we wanted to give Ava her ultimate revenge.
Schneider: Of the man who rejected her.
Frolov: We wanted to pursue the Natalie-Will relationship that's complicated further.
Schneider: With Maggie, we want to do a year-long arc about her cancer treatment to show the possibilities of cancer treatment and new technology.
How much back and forth did you have in the writers' room about how best to put a bow on Connor's storyline? Why did you land on Ava's suicide as the catalyst for him to leave?
Frolov: We all kind of envisioned something like this happening at the end of it. We weren't planning that it would happen so quickly, but that was always on our minds.
Schneider: It was a tragic inevitability to her story.
Frolov: Because of her personality and the things that she had. We did entertain that she would survive this, but we just felt there would be more closure to the story if she passed away and more trauma on Connor. You would really understand why he's got to get out of there.
Is there a chance that Colin could come back at some point?
Schneider: It's not an immediate concern or decision we're making, but Colin, he's a wonderful actor. Everyone thinks the world of Colin and so that door is open.
Frolov: I'm sure you've seen it in the Dick Wolf world here. People come back.
Let's talk about Natalie and Philip. What is next for them now that they're sort of engaged?
Frolov: Phillip appears to be the perfect guy. You see that he's very helpful to her and he's very attentive and she's going to be struggling with this TBI. The fact that it also affects one's emotions... When you don't remember things, you also don't remember your feelings. She's not quite sure what's real, what's not real and Will [Halstead] is sensitive to that. He reinforces his feelings and there's still hope here.
Schneider: He will not let go. It does form a triangle with Natalie dealing with the loss of memory and struggling with not having feelings for Philip that she thinks she did and ought to have.
There is incredible manipulation on Philip's part to have Natalie believe they are really engaged. How does that cause problems moving forward?
Schneider: The question is, will Natalie's memory come back and if so, when and what will she do?
Frolov: It brings out in Will this protectiveness. You know he wants Natalie back. That can be very irritating to her as we've seen in the past, so it comes up like it always does. It comes up in the medicine. What is she doing with medicine? How is he perceiving her? In other words, people are wondering, "Hey, does this affect her judgment?" So we're playing it on a lot of different levels.
Maggie is keeping her cancer diagnosis a secret from everybody else. What are you looking to explore in telling her journey this season?
Frolov: Her first struggle is allowing people into this secret, to face her cancer. She struggles with, "Should I reveal this to my friends or not?" So we're doing the different stages of her dealing with cancer and this is one of them.
Schneider: She also has to deal with the physical effects of the chemotherapy.
Frolov: And then the challenge of trying to keep something like that secret and be able to physically function.
We thought April and Ethan would be expecting a baby, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Is that still something that's on the table for them? Could we expect a pregnancy this season?
Frolov: Should we have a baby? Should we not have a baby? Yes, that's a big issue.
Schneider: It's a season-long arc with them.
How is the hospital different now without Connor and Ava around?
Frolov: The character of Crockett, the doctor that you met in this episode, is going to be brought into daytime because they are down a couple of docs. He's a trauma surgeon, so he'll be doing surgeries both in the hybrid room where Connor used to and upstairs in the OR. We won't be doing as many heart surgeries initially because don't have a heart surgeon. We're still keeping Dr. Latham, who's there.
What can you preview for next week's episode?
Schneider: The second episode is Natalie's first day back at work. A lot of it has to do with Natalie's return -- and the question is, is she up to snub? Is she ready to come back to work?
Frolov: It's about four to six weeks later and it's the first day of the new med students, so we're restarting everything on the second episode.
Overall, how would you describe the season?
Frolov: We start the year with all of these life-altering events so that's going to be playing out. What is the new situation for all of these characters?