Interview: ‘Chicago Fire’ creators Derek Haas and Michael Brandt talk serialization, ‘Rescue Me’ and more

NBC’s “Chicago Fire” is being promoted as the new drama from Dick Wolf, but the firefighter saga doesn’t necessarily feel like what some viewers might expect from the “Law & Order” guru.
While there have certainly been exceptions, Wolf’s more successful shows have pioneered a procedural structure in which strong actors have played frequently interchangeable characters, about whom audiences have learned very little. 
“Chicago Fire,” at least in its early going, is more about the men and women of Firehouse 51 than their professional emergencies. The concentration is on the ensemble — featuring Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, Lauren German, Monica Raymund, Eamonn Walker, David Eigenberg and more — rather than weekly infernos.
Much of that is certainly attributable to the approach taken by “Chicago Fire” creators Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, making their first foray onto the small screen in the midst of a feature career that includes the exceptional remake of “3:10 to Yuma” as well as the blockbuster adaptation of “Wanted.”
I had a long chat with Haas and Brandt and, to be frank, I got a little myopic regarding the show’s narrative approach and focused on that to the exception of a slew of other questions. So this interview goes into great depth on character-driven storytelling versus procedural storytelling, but maybe not as much depth on the rest of the series, which premieres on Wednesday night on NBC.
We also covered reshoots to the pilot, inevitable “Rescue Me” comparisons and… more about serialized, character-driven storytelling.
Check it out…
HitFix: You guys have a busy feature career. Why was this the time to transition to television?
Derek Haas: We have gotten the call every year, “Do you guys want to do television?” And we always said “No,” because it just seemed like it was too much work. And then we got the call last year and it was basically, “Dick Wolf and NBC want to do a show about firemen.” They didn’t have anything more than that, so Michael and I came in and we met with Dick and we said, “We don’t know anything about firemen, but we like the idea of doing a show that was set in Chicago, because the city was born out fire. So put us on a plane to Chicago.” And that Friday we left and we spent three weeks basically bouncing around different firehouses in the city and doing 24-hour shifts and meeting firemen and when we came back, we just said, “OK. this is what we want to do.”
HitFix: Was there *any* core to what you guys pitched to Dick and his people?
Derek Haas: Nope. Nothing when we first started. And then when we came back, we said, “This should be a big ensemble in the tradition of ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘E.R.’ and sorta the classic NBC dramas.”