Interview with Chicago Fire star Eamonn Walker and executive producer Derek Haas
What has filming in Chicago been like?
Eamonn Walker: Chicago is like home to us. To give you an example, last night I took my son to Buddy Guy’s. I didn’t book, I just said let’s go and see if we can get in and literally we walked through the door and it was like, “Oh my God, Chicago Fire’s in the house.” I said, “We didn’t book.” He was like, “We’re going to make space for you. We love what you do, we love Chicago Fire.” And the doors just opened up. And I reckon that’s just a metaphor for all of Chicago. That’s my experience with Chicago. We’ve been welcome.
Derek Haas: It’s been a dream to shoot there. The city has let us in at some many places and we actually shot at the top of the Willis Tower, formally known as the Sears Tower. Any locations we’ve wanted they’ve just rolled out the red carpet. It’s been great.
Did you have to do a lot of training to get ready for this character, Eamonn?
Steve Chikerotus took us to the academy when we first did the pilot and we were in the gym because we knew it was going to be quite hard work, but we had no idea really what it was. So yes, under his tutelage we’ve learned everything you’ve seen us do. So there was a certain amount of training which is ongoing for any given episode if there’s something specific that needs to be known.
Derek, how different is working on a show like Chicago Fire to working on a film? It is a more rigorous creative process or is it more fluid?
It’s more rigorous and more fluid. When you work on a movie you write your script, you go on set and you always know there’s an end and you’re working towards a premier date and then it’s over. Writing a television show is really like writing chapters in a book. You have some of the same goals because you’re closing storylines and opening new ones, but the anxiety level of having to try to do something equal to what you did the week before is an awesome challenge.
And Eamonn, is the show as physically demanding as it looks?
Sometimes we literally are playing with fire. But the thing that you should take on board if there’s a corridor fire, on the other side of that corridor firemen and safety people and the special effects guys all sit in waiting, having done all the safety checks. So in actual fact we’re not in any danger at all, but sometimes it’s arduous.
The other day we did a scene on the lakefront in freezing weather. That’s hard to do. You can’t stop the cold. And running up and down those stairs, carrying the axes – they’re real axes – is really, really hard work. Me being the chief, fortunately, I don’t have to do as much running as everybody else. It’s a pretty good place to be. Now I’m sure
Derek’s going to do something about that. Aren’t you Derek?
Derek Haas: We’re always laughing when we write these scenes because we just think, “How in the hell are they going to shoot this?” And most of them are based on stories that we’ve heard firemen tell us either directly or from Steve Chikerotus who is our technical advisor. When we write we never think about the budget or how they’re going to figure it out because we have a great crew and these actors get in there and do it and it always astounds us.
Eamonn Walker: It’s exciting. If the truth be known, when we read the script and we all have to sit down with the read-through and we see the fire or the accident or we’re cutting somebody out of the car, because we’ve all been trained to use all the equipment now, we get really excited. And that’s also a good balance away from just the acting.
Eamonn, has playing his role changed your perception of firefighters?
The amount of knowledge that is needed to be a fireman, you know there’s a degree you can get in fire science, which I had never taken on-board in any shape or form before playing this role, is massive. They have to know basic engineering, how buildings are put together, to be able to calculate how much stress a floor can take before it gives
away after it’s been burning for a certain amount of time. So everything that I thought I knew has changed and when I hear a siren I’m forever changed…Sometimes there’s a comedy at the end of it but most of the time it’s not.
What one aspect do you most want to get about firefighters right when you’re creating this show or portraying a character in it? What do you hope people take away from it?
Derek Haas: For me, and we saw this in the very first firehouse we walked into, was that these guys who work on this shift are a family. And when we first conceived the show we thought, “Oh we’ll just follow one character’s journey in a firehouse” and then we walked into a house in Chicago and watched these guys interact and in five minutes you’ll be laughing so hard you’ll fall out of your chair and then they’ll tell another story and you’ll be wiping tears out of your eyes. And we thought, “Okay that’s our show.”
What’s coming up for Severide in the rest of this season?
Derek Haas: You’re going to meet his father and Treat Williams is playing the part. His father is going to provide a glimpse of what Severide’s future might be.
Chief Boden is always looking after everybody else, what we want to know who’s going to start looking after Chief Boden? Are there going to be any romantic storylines? Jesse Spencer’s got them, Taylor Kinney’s got them, we’ve already got a glimpse of Chief Boden’s sexy scars, are we going to get anymore?
Eamonn Walker: I think I need to get some. You’re totally right man.
Does being the Chief translate off set too? Is everyone a little bit obedient around you and on the best behavior?
Eamonn Walker: Nobody’s obedient around me and Mr Haas will vouch for that. That’s what’s great about this cast. Everybody knows their roles just like any fire station they’re having a laugh, they’re having a joke but when that bell goes, everybody knows their job and they go to it. It’s not really about giving out orders. Everybody knows what their job is and we come, we do it and we go away and we enjoy each other.
Derek Haas: I’ve never seen a cast and crew as generous with each other as on this production. And I mean, I’ve been on productions where crew members are looking at their watch when an actor asks for another take and saying, “We’ve got to get to lunch.” I’ve never seen these guys give each other so much room and attention and growth. It’s really exciting for us to watch.
And Eamonn may not think he’s a leader but I definitely look up to him and a lot of the cast and crew look up to him because he’s got such a wealth of experience and he brings his A game on every take. It’s great to have a guy like that in the position of chief on the show and on the set.
Series 1 returns to Sky Living on Wednesday, 20th February at 8pm on Sky Living HD