Considering how differently theater pieces work compared to TV shows, you’d never have expected Chicago Fire to adapt the former’s format, but they pulled it off.
During the COVID lockdowns, shooting movies and TV series was complicated, to say the least.
With everything shut down, a whole lot of restrictive measures, and many actors stuck away from the set, many shows either completely stopped filming or changed their format for the time being.
Chicago Fire chose the second option.
It had a shorter season then, sure, and the locations were a bit of an issue, but it led to some experiments some of which turned out spectacular — like the season 9 episode 5 titled My Lucky Day.
Because of the restrictions, the crew filmed almost the entirety of the episode inside an elevator, and it had two active officers for the most part: Christopher Herrmann and Joe Cruz, accompanied by two civilians stuck there with them.
The shooting of the episode resembled a theater piece more than an actual TV series filming.
According to Derek Haas, the Chicago Fire’s showrunner, it was “written like a play”: the actors did each act in just one take without breaking it down into a dozen scenes like it usually happens in TV series.
David Eigenberg, the actor who plays Lt. Christopher Herrmann, was delighted and called this episode his absolute favorite.
This led to his best-ever performance on the show, claims Derek Haas. In his opinion, Eigenberg acting in My Lucky Day was unmatched.
The actor himself says it’s because he was initially trained as a stage actor, and his past theater experience carried him through the episode’s filming.
Eigenberg recalls that they did 15- and 20-minute-long takes, and one was even capped at 24 minutes straight.
While this is “unheard of” on TV, the shooting was exciting both for the actors and for the crew, and “it all really flowed”.
After some of the longer takes, the filming crew was even breaking into applause!
The episode did, in fact, turn out just as Eigenberg described it — very simple but really cool.
Apart from being fun, it allowed David to show off his theater-kid muscles, and everyone had great fun during the filming.
The next time you’ll rewatch Chicago Fire S9 and get to My Lucky Day, keep in mind that what you see on-screen was shot in 20-minute-long takes, and you’ll appreciate the professionalism of the actors even more.