When I arrived at Cinespace Chicago Film Studios on the Westside of Chicago, there were so many city blocks of studio lots -- a total of 17 stages composed of more than 1.5 million indoor square feet of space on 60 land acres -- I wasn't sure that I was at the Chicago Fire lot. A woman smoking a cigarette let me in a side door and as I walked past the equipment, men building props, backdrops of city streets and big lights, I found an office and waited for PR person. So I thought! It turned out that I wasn't in an actual office at all! I was accidentally sitting on the set of Chicago Fire, in the Bullpen, the office where the firefighters work when there isn't a fire. This staged office was so real, so detailed, so accurate, that I was on the set of Chicago Fire and didn't even know it.
The show, which airs Tuesday nights on NBC at 9 p.m. CST, prides itself on being authentic. They have created exact replicas of the kitchen/common area, and the bedrooms of Firehouse 18 in Chicago on 14th Street and Blue Island. They have also created a picture-perfect replica of the good-time, old-time bar Lottie's. The stage Lottie's was so real, I thought my feet would stick to the floor. Stemming from Executive Producer Dick Wolf, also of Law & Order fame, Chicago Fire doesn't only shoot on set. While doing the pilot and continuing into Season 2, the actors of Chicago Fire have visited Chicago Fire Department squads 1, 2 and 5 in Englewood and use real firefighters as consultants and extras on the show.
I spoke with Taylor Kinney, who plays Kelly Severide on the show, about his experience working with Chicago firefighters. "We want to be authentic. Interacting with firefighters gives us an understanding for the tools they use and the nuances of what they do. This allows us to develop our characters and be true to the stories we tell." I asked him if the firefighters he has worked with had any advice for him. "Yeah," he replied with a smile that could charm a stone, "don't make us look bad!"
I asked Taylor how he liked being in Chicago. "The weather is tricky, but the people are great! They take pride and ownership and like that we are here. They shake your hand in a burger bar. It is better than any other place." He had something similar to say about his fellow actors. "We have really become a family. We all know we've had a great opportunity on this show, especially with Dick Wolf at the helm of the ship."
The team of Chicago Fire works incredibly hard: taking eight or nine days to film one episode of a 22-episode season. I asked Taylor what is different now on season two. "With season one, we knew we had all the right tools: the writers, the producers, the cast. With season two, there is less noise in your head. You have an established voice and character that has evolved and been honed." This leaves Taylor a bit more time to work on his on stunts, like scuba diving in Lake Michigan in episode 3.
Chicago Fire is going so strongly that there is a spin-off series already! Chicago PD is scheduled to air some time in January. Until then, watch this clip below of David Eigenberg, taken from his appearance on The Dinner Party. Eigenberg plays Christopher Herrmann on Chicago Fire. In the clip, he talks about his first break into the acting world and the firefighters he works with on Chicago Fire.