First Responders Live producer goes inside Dick Wolf’s newest series

FIRST RESPONDERS LIVE: Host Josh Elliott in the “Episode 104” of FIRST RESPONDERS LIVE airing Wednesday, July 10 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Ray Mickshaw/ FOX.
FIRST RESPONDERS LIVE: Host Josh Elliott in the “Episode 104” of FIRST RESPONDERS LIVE airing Wednesday, July 10 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Ray Mickshaw/ FOX. /

What goes into Dick Wolf’s reality series First Responders Live? Executive producer Rasha Drachkovitch gives viewers an inside look at the FOX show.

This summer Dick Wolf debuted First Responders Live, where FOX viewers follow police officers, firefighters and paramedics around the country while they’re in action.

The series gives fans an up close and personal look at these heroes, but it also takes a lot to make—so we spoke to Rasha Drachkovitch, one of the show’s executive producers, to get the inside scoop on production.

Rasha discussed working with Dick Wolf, if the producers had ever considered following units in New York or Chicago as a tie-in to the Law & Order and One Chicago franchises, and answered the question about if the show is legitimately live.

Learn more in our interview below, then don’t miss a new First Responders Live episode tonight at 9 p.m. ET live on FOX!

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One Chicago Center: Can you explain the genesis of First Responders Live?

Rasha Drachkovitch: The appeal was being a fan of live TV and sharing real, non-scripted stories about real heroes. Shows that have followed law enforcement agencies across the country, like Live PD, kind of pioneered the format. We’re doing it on a larger level for the first time, including fire and EMS in a live model, which is super-exciting for us. To partner with Dick Wolf, who is a legend and all about building up heroes, was a perfect match.

How involved is Dick Wolf with the series?

He’s very involved considering his schedule and that his programming makes up a substantial portion of network television. The notion of “heroes” is in his DNA and the theme of most of the shows he’s done.

When he first visited the set of First Responders Live and we showed him all the monitors and the live feeds, he was fascinated with the technology part of the live process and that viewers would be able to see, in real time, the first responders that inspire the show. He just thought it was spectacular. Dick’s very engaged, very involved and it’s been a huge positive.

He’s given us notes on some of the episodes, including recognizing stories surrounding some of the featured first responders. We created the “Hero Package” [features] to supplement the series so it has depth and not just action. The packages highlight individual responders up close and personal and share their backstories; Dick loves those. These packages show what’s behind the badge, and why an individual first responder chose this profession.

Was there any talk of First Responders Live following people in Chicago to tie in with his One Chicago series, or New York as a tie-in to Law & Order?

Totally. Dick Wolf has such a footprint in those cities. But what it comes down to with First Responders Live is access. The natural thought would be that there is more action in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and while they would be great for filming in some ways, the challenge is that they’re too big.

We chose American cities that are manageable in size and represent the country as a whole, yet they still have the same volume of calls as the larger cities. We’re covering the country from the West Coast all the way to Charleston and Yonkers on the East Coast, with Baton Rouge, Charleston, Lake County [and] Austin in between.

First Responders Livie
First Responders Live EP Rasha Drachkovitch. Photo Credit: FOX/Courtesy of Beck Media /

What’s your experience working with the cities featured on First Responders Live? We’ve seen with Live PD how there can be difficulties.

It’s been really great. These cities see the value of First Responders Live because it gives their first responders a chance to shine. We’re in seven cities with eight agencies now and those cities can’t wait for Tuesday night because they’re on stage for the world to see.

A nice bonus is getting a dozen calls from other agencies across the country saying, “Hey, can we be featured in the future, because we see the benefits of a show like this,” so it’s been really a great ride. The response from the first responders community has been fantastic and it’s great to have other groups wanting to come aboard.

Yours is the only series airing on broadcast TV. Has being on FOX given you a larger platform?

We were so excited when we started talking with FOX because it’s home to landmark shows in this genre. With Cops and America’s Most Wanted, FOX has hosted pretty legendary television, so the fact that First Responders Live is the next incarnation really got us excited.

With the scheduling we have right now, we lead into news across the country, so that’s been a really nice hemisphere of having a show that has a lot of stories. Just having the weight of such a huge network and their promotion team to believe in a series like this; FOX really wanted to do a show that honors first responders. It’s a huge bar for us to hit each week, but at the same time, it’s a fantastic relationship and great to be with a major network.

There’s been some speculation on how much of First Responders Live is live. Can you talk about the balance of live versus those pre-taped packages, and how the format works?

A large percentage of the show is live, and that’s what makes it exciting. You never know what you’re going to get each night. We have 40-50 monitors streaming live footage from across the country. We can tap into that footage, get it cleared by the agencies, and then it ends up on the show, and that’s pretty spectacular when you’re working without a net.

The action and approval is happening while we’re watching it. We take privacy issues and careful considerations seriously to make sure nothing gets on air that hasn’t been scrutinized or looked at. We live on the adrenaline of it while being responsible with the content.

What’s been your biggest takeaway from producing First Responders Live?

I’ve been doing this for so long, three decades now. It’s rare to come across a show that gets you going in the mornings—the adrenaline and the unknown, all of that. It’s hard in this business. Everything is kind of a copycat or “been there and done that.” So to have an opportunity to do a show like First Responders Live and partner with real American heroes, that’s the best part.

I can’t tell you how fortunate I am to be working on this show and hopefully, with the continued success, we can be on for a long time. As Dick likes to say, this show will be on for the next 20 seasons, and I think the same. I’m really proud of First Responders Live and grateful that we have such a wonderful platform to show it on.

Next. Wolf Entertainment hires new executive. dark

For the latest First Responders Live news, plus more on all of Dick Wolf’s other series, follow the Dick Wolf category at One Chicago Center.