Chicago Fire showrunner Derek Haas previews return of season 9

Derek Haas teases this week’s Chicago Fire season 9 return.

As Chicago Fire comes back on NBC tonight, fans are excited for the first episode of 2021 and to find out what happens next in Chicago Fire season 9. Luckily, we’ve got co-creator, showrunner and executive producer Derek Haas on hand to give us a few clues!

One Chicago Center spoke to Derek ahead of this week’s midseason premiere to discuss what’s coming up in several of your favorite storylines (do Brett and Casey have a future?) as well as talk about how the show has adapted to the schedule changes and production challenges posed by current events.

Find out what he had to say in our interview below before the next Chicago Fire episode airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. SPOILER ALERT: There are spoilers for the two Chicago Fire season 9 episodes that have already aired; if you’re not caught up, do so here.

One Chicago Center: Fans were upset that Chicago Fire took its usual winter break this season. Were you planning for that? Did you know that season 9 was going to pause after just two episodes?

Derek Haas: It was pretty up in the air of when we were going to start shooting because of COVID and all that stuff. And so when we originally wrote the first half of the season back in June, we thought the break was going to come after episode six. We originally had kind of scheduled in our minds [episode] six as the winter break. in terms of we usually have some big cliffhanger.

And then [NBC] told us it was only going to be two, which we had already shot the first two, or maybe we were halfway through the second one. Then we were like okay, it’s too late to try to make that into a cliffhanger, but let’s just keep going.

OCC: You sort of ended on a cliffhanger anyway, because things are unresolved between Brett and Casey. What was it like for you as writers to get to that big moment when it’s been seasons in the making?

DH: We just wanted it to be honest, really. And by honest, I mean what would the reactions be of these two characters who have this history and a shared history with Gabby [Dawson]? In that moment, what would really happen? That was the premise we started with. And it was like, of course they have to talk about it. [They] can’t pretend that this history didn’t happen, that the audience has watched and these two characters were a part of.

So when she asked him if Gabby walked in here, would you leave with her, we were thinking about that last season. And Gabby showed up halfway through the season and Casey did go to the charity ball with her and then spent the night with her. This isn’t a three-year-old relationship. This is something that happened six months ago. So we thought that made for interesting television.

OCC: On the professional side, there’s a storyline for Mouch this week. What’s coming up for some of the other characters, like him and Herrmann?

DH: Herrmann has a gigantic episode coming up in episode five, which is almost written like it’s a play. Herrmann and Cruz are trapped in a service elevator with two other people for most of that. It’s going to be a lot of reveals, a lot of new information, really touching scenes, and [David] Eigenberg just crushed it as far as acting goes.

We’re going to have in the fourth episode, I would say our most epic prank battle with another firehouse that we’ve ever shown on the show. Firefighters love pranks and we went crazy, as you’ll see.

OCC: Stella is continuing to move up in her career. That’s a storyline that you previously did in season 8, so why revisit it in season 9 and presumably she’ll learn from how things didn’t work out last season?

DH: We just have always thought the idea of her being a great firefighter, moving up in the firehouse and in the Chicago Fire Department, made sense to us. There is a lot of life under her belt since last midseason, and the idea of her taking the lieutenant’s test seems realistic at this point.

And I don’t think Boden’s pressing her in the way he was pressing her before, where he was really making her burn candles at both ends. Now Stella’s arrived and she’s got the support of the firehouse behind her. And of course we’re Chicago Fire, so we’re not going to make it that easy.

OCC: Speaking of big, you’ve had a big challenge in front of you with COVID-19, but the show doesn’t feel any less massive because of it. How have you adjusted so well this season, and is this the hardest season you’ve had to shoot? Because there was also the season Fire was on and off with the Olympics and NFL football.

DH: I forgot about that. (laughs) Once it’s behind you in the rear view mirror, you forget about what the challenges were. With this year and all of the requirements behind the camera it was going to take just to get a frame of film shot, we thought, we want audience members watching at home not to realize what was happening behind the camera to get you the same show that you’ve been watching for eight seasons. We didn’t want you to tune in, in season 9 and go, oh, they’ve really scaled things back. Or it’s a step down.

So things like when there’s a fire at the photography studio—if you’re watching the show, you don’t realize that we’re shooting those on two different days, where Truck is going in through the front door and Squad’s going in through the back door. That was by design, so that we don’t have as many people there on set on the same day. But when you’re watching the show, because it all intersects together, it seems like you’ve got this big [scene].

OCC: What does that mean for the One Chicago crossovers? Those normally happen around now, and Chicago Fire in particular usually has characters from both shows visiting anyway.

DH: We’re not going to do a big one until we can get back to a regular production schedule, in terms of how big these episodes are from a shooting standpoint. It would just be too hard to do multi-cross casts and cross production scheduling. But we’ve already had Burgess [from Chicago PD] on an episode. Platt’s coming up in an episode. I’m not shying away from scheduling crossover characters onto the show, but we just have to be conservative in our approach to that.

For the latest Chicago Fire season 9 spoilers and news, plus more on the entire series, follow the Chicago Fire category at One Chicago Center.