‘9-1-1’ Chief on Premiere’s Tsunami Cliffhanger and How They Sunk the Santa Monica Pier

Showrunner Tim Minear also gives TheWrap some scoop on spinoff series “9-1-1: Lone Star”

Last Updated: September 23, 2019 @ 6:08 PM

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 3 premiere of “9-1-1,” titled “Kids Today.”)

The “9-1-1” season premiere ended with a cliffhanger that set to wipe out all previous emergencies the Station 118 team were drowned in: A tsunami coming right for the Santa Monica Pier.

OK, now that we’ve gotten our water disaster jokes out of the way we can get down to discussing what’s to come on the next two episodes of the Fox first-responder drama. Yes, this storyline is going to last as long as the earthquake that opened Season 2 — with some help from co-creator/showrunner Tim Minear, who told TheWrap how the show went about sinking the Los Angeles landmark.

“James Cameron built these gigantic water tanks in Mexico to shoot ‘Titanic.’ And a lot of things are shot down there, right? ‘Master and Commander’ and other things that require extensive water work,” Minear said. “So yes, we went to Rosarito, Mexico and we built Santa Monica streets in these water tanks and flooded them.”

Yeah, “9-1-1” replicated the iconic pier in Mexico, just so they could sink it and you’ll get to see Athena (Angela Bassett), Bobby (Peter Krause), Buck (Oliver Stark), Christopher (Gavin McHugh), Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Chimney (Kenneth Choi), Eddie (Ryan Guzman) and Hen (Aisha Hinds) all dealing with the fallout on the next two episodes, “Sink or Swim” and “The Searchers.”

“We actually built the ferris wheel from the Santa Monica Pier in the water tanks on the ocean in Mexico,” the executive producer told us. “So we see our character climbing up a ferris wheel with people stuck in it and sticking out of the ocean. That’s real and that’s our people climbing the ferris wheel that we built. When you see Buck and Christopher being pulled down the rapids in the middle of a street in Santa Monica, that’s them in the water. And you just can’t beat doing things practically if you can.”

The executive producer explained to us how this whole large scale emergency will play out over the next two episodes, which will be used introduce WWE wrestler Ronda Rousey’s character, Lena Bosko.

“There’s also a whole sequence– if you think back to the earthquake episode where you meet all these disparate characters in that hotel, where a lot of the drama was based on, a lot of the drama in these is based on the Santa Monica Pier. So Buck and Christopher are at the pier, but we also meet other characters at the pier. And we actually meet them in kind of ‘Rashomon’ fashion. Like, we’ll play what’s happening on the pier at the beginning of Episode 2 and then the tsunami hits and takes out the pier. And then in Episode 3, we come in and we meet some other characters on the pier during that same hour before the tsunami hits. And then the tsunami hits again and we follow different characters the second time around.”

Minear says the idea for the tsunami plot came from the fact that “a tsunami in Southern California is not out of the question” and the writers’ room was looking for another “great disaster movie”-style season opener.

“There’s a whole tsunami alert system that is in place in California,” he said. “There have been tsunamis that have hit different parts of the West Coast over the last couple hundred years. So it’s something that could happen.”

And because it’s a possibility, Minear is really hoping a tsunami doesn’t hit LA after these episodes air — because then he’d be 2 for 2 at accidentally predicting real-life disasters in California.

“It’s interesting, when we did ‘7.1’ [Episode 202] last year, the earthquake episode, I questioned whether or not it was realistic to have an earthquake that big,” he told us. “And then on July 4th of this year, there was a 7.1 earthquake in California out in the desert. So hopefully there won’t be a tsunami this July 4th, because that would be bad. So no one is rooting for that, just to make that clear.”

For those of you “9-1-1” fans looking for a scoop about the show’s upcoming Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler-led spinoff series, “9-1-1: Lone Star,” which premieres at midseason on Fox, here’s what Minear told us that they won’t actually be introducing the new show on “9-1-1,” as they are “two different worlds, but they do occupy the same universe.”

Minear, who co-created both “9-1-1” and “9-1-1: Lone Star” with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, says the show centers around “Rob’s character, who starts as a firefighter who survived 9/11 when he was a young firefighter in New York City.”

“And he will be coming to Austin, Texas to rebuild a firehouse that has experienced a smaller-scale but similar tragedy, in that most of the firefighters in the firehouse in Austin die tragically on a call,” he said. “So Rob comes to Austin to put back together this firehouse in a similar way to how he put back together his firehouse in Manhattan after 9/11. But it’s really also the story of Rob getting his son, who is also a firefighter, out of a bad environment in New York. And just trying to reparent and start over in Austin. So that’s at the center of Lone Star.”

“9-1-1” airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox.

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