The heart-pounding action pumping up the volume on the highly rated TV series “9-1-1,” starring Angela Bassett, Peter Krause, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kenneth Choi, sweeps fans into the exciting world of firefighting. The pride and professionalism on screen are designed to pay honor and tribute to the real-life firefighters and police officers serving the city of Los Angeles off-screen.
Getting the nail-biting drama of life and death 9-1-1 emergency calls as close to the real thing as possible, with, of course, a dose of Hollywood tossed in, is at the heart of the production. A team of retired LAFD firefighters lends their time, talent, and expertise to the show to make the series one of the most popular and wild rides on air. Watch as they take you behind the scenes of one of the best firefighter shows ever made.
Behind the Scenes of “9-1-1”: Reel vs. Real
Whether the characters on “9-1-1” are responding to a deadly train wreck or a catastrophic earthquake, making the action and stories realistic is one of the marching orders taken on by Retired LAFD Battalion Chief Michael Bowman, the show’s technical advisor. “It was unique because they wanted it all encompassing, from script development to storylines to emergencies. And, authentic, everything from art direction to development of apparatus and equipment,” he says. Even the equipment purchased for the show is high caliber.
And, when you see the extras in the background of scenes, many are real career firefighters. Especially, if the action involves tools and techniques. “Any type of firefighting deployment of equipment or emergencies, advancement of hose lines, climbing of ladders, doing specific evolutions…with forceable entry and manipulation of all our tools, then we hire our real LAFD firefighters,” Michael says.
Several story lines for various episodes over the six seasons and counting came directly from the firefighters’ real-life experiences. “I’ll give you an example,” Michael says. “I told them one time, because I had a flashover in an apartment complex, I was forced to jump from one fire escape to another fire escape because a fire blew out the window. And, so, they just thought that was awesome, real life. Well, when they wrote the episode, we had our stars, Buck and Eddie’s characters have to jump from one building to another. So, they used the Rosslyn Hotel in downtown Los Angeles because they had enough room where it was realistic, where they could jump from one to there. So, they’ll use that and they’ll just build on it a little bit for television.”
“9-1-1” Realistic Special Effects: Lights, Camera, Action!
Retired LAFD Captain I Lorenzo Brazley describes one of the biggest scenes he experienced on the “9-1-1” set. “A couple seasons ago they did a big mudslide. They had it near the Hollywood sign, and they had a street that was just, it looked like the dam broke and water came down and there were cars flipped upside down. I mean, it looked like a real scene.”
Actor Anirudh Pisharody explains one of his more intense moments filming the riveting firefighter show “9-1-1” and what makes this TV series so special.
“In season four, there’s a scene where the Captain Bobby Nash gets shot and we’re trying to save him. And it was my first time wearing the SCBA tanks and everything, the whole outfit. And so, it was kind of claustrophobic initially because I’m like, wow, I’m not used to this. And on top of that, you’re in this room that was just filled with fire and it’s just constantly coming at you and there’s smoke and all this stuff. After that, I was definitely kind of winded and like, whoa, that was just crazy. If I didn’t follow the rules, I could have gotten seriously hurt, but that was really cool.”
It’s that level of dedication that makes the show stand out. “The writers are just incredibly talented people,” Michael says. “When I first started, I took the writers and producers for a 12-hour orientation with the fire department…I took ’em to Metro Fire Command. I took ’em to several different fire stations. I took ’em to City Hall with an interview with the fire chief. And they really got a perspective of all what we do, the culture within the fire department.”
Anirudh says playing firefighter Ravi Panikkar on “9-1-1” is one thing, but having what it takes to become a real one, is another. “Ooh, that’s tough. Maybe not right now, but I think if I got more physically fit than I am now…yeah, I think I could and I’d be honored to do that.”
Retired LAFD Captain 1 Brian Allen says family and friends look forward to seeing him on “9-1-1.” “Everybody wants to know when the next episode is,” he says and always ask “What did you do? Where are you at? Are you on TV this time? So yeah, they enjoy watching…it’s a lot of fun.”
By Marlene Casillas