Why Did Otis Leave Chicago Fire? It Was A ‘Difficult’ But ‘Necessary’ Decision to Kill the Beloved Character
Firehouse 51, we lost another good one. As one of Chicago Fire’s original firefighters, Otis’ death was an extremely hard casualty for fans to swallow. Whether you just watched the character’s tragic demise in the season 8 premiere or are reminiscing on past episodes, you are likely wondering why Otis left Chicago Fire after almost eight seasons.
Chicago Fire is NBC’s popular drama series that follows firefighters, rescue personnel and paramedics around the city of Chicago as they save lives and fight fires in their real and personal lives. The show first premiered in October 2012 and is currently on its eleventh season. Brian Zvonecek (nicknamed ‘Otis’ because of his expertise in elevators) is played by actor Yuri Sardarov. Viewers were introduced to Otis, the comedic first responder and latest candidate-turned-firefighter, in the very first episode. He spent most of his career driving Truck 81 and co-owning the bar Molly’s.
Sardarov first met Chicago Fire co-creators Derek Hass and Mike Brandt during his college days when they worked together on a movie called The Double. “Derek and I go way back. I actually did a film in college with him and Mike Brandt when I was still a senior at the University of Michigan, so we’ve been close for a long time,” Sardarov told Tell Tale TV in 2019. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 2019, Hass said that “Yuri had a sharp, puckish energy from the moment he walked into the audition.” The former showrunner revealed that initially, they wanted to make him the candidate, but ultimately decided that he should play Otis instead.
Considering Sardarov’s long history on Chicago Fire and his fan-favorite status, why did writers orchestrate the character’s tragic death in season 8? Read on for the real reason behind the actor’s exit.
Why did Otis leave Chicago Fire?
Why did Otis leave Chicago Fire? The decision to write Otis off the show began with a conversation between Sardarov and Hass at the end of season 7. “We had a discussion about the character and where he was headed, and I was very upfront with him about the fact that it’s been eight years, and I started when I was 22, and now I’m 31,” he told Tell Tale TV in 2019. “The communication was very open and honest, and we both walked away from it feeling really good.”
Writers wanted a shocking death to kick off the new season. Haas explained in an interview with TV Insider in 2019 that it needed to be a “core” cast member that fans wouldn’t expect. “We thought that Yuri affects everyone in the house as well as fans,” he said. “I had seen a memorial at an LA firehouse, and I thought that’s something we’ve never done before. I was thinking how could he be remembered, so I had the memorial as the ending in my mind and worked backward from that.”
While it was difficult, Sardarov said that his character’s death was also “necessary,” adding that it was “a combination of me wanting to move on and them needing something akin to what’s going to happen. And I think those two things met at the perfect time.” The actor also told Tell Tale TV what it was like filming the season premiere and his subsequent death scene. “I think it’s a morbid desire of every actor to die on stage or on screen,” he said. “I was really excited about the prospect of doing that, and we did so many takes from so many different angles. It was hard because I was so emotional and I had to be catatonic, pretty much. And so to get those ten seconds of footage, it took quite a few starts and stops.”
When the episode aired, Sardarov shared a heartwarming, comical poem to Instagram dedicated to Otis. In the caption, he wrote: “Thank you for the greatest 7 years of my life… #ChicagoFireForever.”
Shortly after, he also posted a video thanking the fans, the creative forces behind the show and his character, Brian Zvonecek, for allowing him to inhabit Otis for seven long years.” He also joked that he’d been away from London for so long and forgot what rain felt like, and he would be looking forward to that over the next few months.
How did Otis die on Chicago Fire?
How did Otis die on Chicago Fire? The explosive episode jumps into the dangerous fire the team was battling in the season 7 finale cliffhanger. The mattress factory boiler exploded with most of the crew still inside. While the other first responders made it out of the factory alive—Otis was unlucky. He was hit with an infernal backdraft as he slammed shut a steel door, saving his team and the workers inside. It was a heart wrenching moment for his best friend and fellow firefighter, Joe Cruz (Joe Minoso), who hears the distress alarm and calls out for Otis, eventually realizing that Otis is down. They put Otis in the ambulance and Crew rides with him to Lakeshore Memorial hospital.
At the hospital, the crew waits to hear news about Otis’ condition. The doctor finally comes out and speaks with Chief Wallace Boden (Eamonn Walker) and tells him that Otis isn’t going to make it. In an emotional scene, Cruz is able to speak to Otis before he dies. After Cruz asks his buddy to save a spot for him in heaven, Otis wakes up and says his final words in Russian, which translate to: “Brother, I will be with you, always.” At the end of the episode, Chief Boden reveals a statue that was erected in remembrance of Otis.
Despite Otis’ heartbreaking ending, Sardarov hinted that this might not be the last time we see the actor in Chicago Fire. “I just want them to know that creatively, they’re in good hands. You never know — you may see Otis some way, somehow, in the future,” Sardarov said to Tell Tale TV.