David Eigenberg talks Herrmann’s ‘really tough’ storyline

CHICAGO FIRE -- "The Strongest Among Us" Episode 620 -- Pictured: David Eigenberg as Christopher Herrmann -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC)
CHICAGO FIRE -- "The Strongest Among Us" Episode 620 -- Pictured: David Eigenberg as Christopher Herrmann -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/NBC) /

Chicago Fire’s Christopher Herrmann is still mourning in tonight’s season finale, and David Eigenberg told us about his character’s difficult storyline.

The Chicago Fire season finale will be a tough time for Christopher Herrmann, as the fan favorite is still struggling with the death of a fellow firefighter and friend.

Not only did Herrmann lose Lt. Colannino in last week’s auto shop fire, but he blames himself for the other man’s death as Colannino went back into the fire looking for Herrmann.

There’s a lot of weight on his shoulders at the end of Chicago Fire season 6, and before tonight’s two-hour event, One Chicago Center checked in with David Eigenberg to discuss Herrmann and how difficult this moving storyline was for him to portray.

“It was written really well and when that happens, it’s an organic kind of movement that occurs,” he explained when we asked him about shooting the last episode, in which Colannino (Andy John Kalkounos) dies helping Herrmann with a rescue.

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“It was tough because it kind of gets into me with all the real firefighters we work with, from people that I care about, and we’ve had some occurrences with the real firefighters that we know and friends of theirs that they’re close to,” David reflected.

“They lost a firefighter friend when we first got there, [in the] first year, and I’ve had a couple friends that have gotten beat up in some fires and burnt pretty bad.

“When you engage that into the work, it becomes visceral for you, when you worry about people—the thought of losing somebody.

“It was really tough,” he added, “but I was really grateful to be working with Chris [Stolte], who plays Mouch. We had that kind of meltdown scene and it’s pretty amazing because he and I are kind of veterans, the older guys on the show.

“I’m really lucky to work with the people I work with.”

Herrmann’s grief is part of tonight’s Chicago Fire season finale, as he continues to process the tragedy. “There’s some residual [effects] of it that the writers have played with, that is really nice without making it too much of it,” David told us.

“But I think there’s a heaviness that hangs on a lot of firefighters which I hope we get to explore later on. It’s kind of like PTSD, and he’s got to reach out and find aid amongst his friends, his colleagues. His brothers and sisters he works with.”

The loss of a colleague and friend is one big change, but Herrmann is also watching as Chief Boden (Eamonn Walker) starts his run for fire commissioner. We saw last season how Herrmann tried to move up the ranks and it didn’t go well, but as other characters move up in and around Firehouse 51, would he ever revisit the idea? Maybe and maybe not.

“I think it’s a mixed bag for him,” David said. “There’s always this thing if you become a white shirt, then a lot of times it’s easier to drink the Kool-Aid and he’s afraid of that. Sometimes you’ll get power and go everyone’s been doing this wrong for so long and now I’m going to straighten it out.

“They haven’t really dealt with that,” he continued, “and it’s a little bit ambiguous of what’s going to happen in the next season. I’m always ready to ride wherever they take Herrmann, because he’s not a dull character. He gets himself into pickles and he’s got to deal with stuff, so he has a full plate of emotions he goes through, which I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to explore.”

Which brings us to what makes Christopher Herrmann such a great character, because he’s a real piece of work. Chicago Fire has gotten a lot of comedic mileage out of Herrmann’s short fuse and his continual frustration, while also showing us his softer side particularly with kids and how he’s wickedly funny and incredibly smart.

After six seasons and more than 120 episodes, what has it been like for David Eigenberg to live in this complicated man’s head for so long?

“I really like it,” he enthused. “I think he’s very close to where the average guy is at. He gets really pissed off at stuff and he reacts to stuff and it may be inappropriately. Or he’s got ideas and he wants to run with them and they may not be the best thought out. But I think he kind of grabs a good chunk of the American dream.

“I have fun playing him because I love people and I’m respectful,” he laughed, “and I’ve got issues and I make mistakes all the time.”

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But another big plus of his job is representing firefighters by playing one on TV. As Chicago Fire season 6 wraps up, David Eigenberg is optimistic about Chicago Fire season 7 and what the show means for real-life first responders.

“There’s still a lot of love on our show,” he told us. “There’s a lot of love and respect and I hope we get to go a little deeper into some subjects.  I hope we get a chance to keep going and go forward the lives of first responders and what they go through because I don’t think it’s been fully explored yet.

“You know a lot about cop shows and a lot about ERs and I think it’s great,” he concluded. “But first responders are some of the most interesting, amazing people I’ve been around. I think there’s a lot more stories to tell about them and I’m excited we get a chance to do it.”

Next: More Chicago Fire finale talk with Derek Haas

Don’t miss David Eigenberg as Christopher Herrmann in tonight’s two-hour Chicago Fire. For more interviews and more on the series, follow the Chicago Fire category at One Chicago Center.