Chicago Fire EP Derek Haas discusses Stella’s next big challenge

CHICAGO FIRE -- "Don't Hang Up" Episode 913 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jesse Spencer as Matthew Casey, Miranda Rae Mayo as Stella Kidd -- (Photo by: Adrian S. Burrows Sr./NBC)
CHICAGO FIRE -- "Don't Hang Up" Episode 913 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jesse Spencer as Matthew Casey, Miranda Rae Mayo as Stella Kidd -- (Photo by: Adrian S. Burrows Sr./NBC) /

When Chicago Fire returns tonight, it’s with some big developments for Stella Kidd. Showrunner Derek Haas dropped by One Chicago Center to talk about the episode, why the writers love Stella-centric installments, and the origin of one absurdly awesome scene.

Check out what the executive producer had to tell us about “Don’t Hang Up” and then tune into the episode tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

One Chicago Center: The characters of Firehouse 51 have become known for their investigative skills as much as their firefighting skills. Using this episode as an example, how do you write a story like this where it’s not about the firefighting?

Derek Haas: They spin out of character, and on this one in particular, Stella made a connection with someone she didn’t even realize that she made. It had us thinking about all the encounters you have in your life. You don’t realize that you [had] a big impact on someone else’s life even though to you it was just another day. To someone else, it made such an impact that when they were in danger, they reached out to you because of what you meant to them in terms of being a strong, courageous character.

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So while it’s not a typical Chicago Fire [where] the bells go off and we go to an incident, it still comes out of things that the audience has seen. It doesn’t come out of left field.

OCC: Stella is particularly good for these types of stories. What is it about her or about Miranda Rae Mayo that you think makes them work so well for her?

DH: Miranda’s really good at anything that we throw at her and always has been, going back to her entrance to the show. When you as a writer realize that you have an actor or actress who can definitely move from comedy to drama, to romance, to suspense, to action and have the physicality to pull off the action, then you feel that you can pull out any tool in the toolbox and throw it at her and you’re going to get the best performance. It’s very easy for writers to pitch Stella Kidd stories, because everyone wants to write for Miranda.

OCC: She mentioned in our interview that she sees some similarities between Stella and Blake Gallo (Alberto Rosende), but they’re treated completely differently. What do you think is the big difference between how Stella is perceived and how Gallo is perceived?

DH: I think the big differences is that Kidd doesn’t do crazy things impetuously or on the spur of the moment. When she does something crazy, it’s thought out or it’s to save one of her own. She’s not just climbing the outside of buildings for no reason, which you’re going to get to see Gallo do again this season. Well, not for no reason, but you are going to get to see him climb the outside of a building again. Stella’s in a different place in her career. Gallo is still learning and she’s on the cusp of leadership.

OCC: Chicago Fire season 9 as a whole feels like a season of change, whether it’s Stella being possibly promoted or Cruz expecting his first child, to name but two things. Did you envision this season as sort of turning the page or is that just how the stories have unfolded?

DH: We definitely looked at it like, where can we take characters forward? As opposed to sideways. There are definitely seasons where you don’t want, for whatever reason, a relationship to come together, or you don’t want a life-changing situation because it’s the unknown for you as writers. There always has to be extra thought and consideration put into those kinds of big moves because the ripple effects are great.

But then this year was one of those years where it was, let’s do it. I think being in the front end of a three-year renewal really helped us say we can throw a few more haymakers.

OCC: There’s a scene in this episode with Stella in a tree helping a guy who’s been impaled. It’s absurd and yet also scary. How did that scene come together?

DH: It was based on a real story where a guy got hit by a car and then skewered by a tree. When I saw that, I knew there’d be a place for it this season…This episode is the run-up to Stella taking the lieutenant’s test. To see her be physically exhausted right before she’s going to be mentally exhausted and throw everything we could at her in this episode—that shows the audience, forget the test, do you think this woman should be a leader in the CFD? Here’s an hour to share you why she should be.

Next. Miranda Rae Mayo's thoughts on this episode. dark

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.