(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of “9-1-1: Lone Star.”)
Gina Torres’ Tommy Vega made her big debut on Fox’s “9-1-1” spinoff series “Lone Star” Monday, returning to Austin’s Station 126 as paramedic captain after eight years out of the game. Tommy came back to the job because her husband’s restaurant was forced to close due to the pandemic — not because she was ready to return just yet, as she loved her new gig as a stay-at-home mom to twins.
“She was older when she had these girls and she made the decision to hang up the uniform, a completely principled decision that a lot of women make, which is she wants to just be a mom,” showrunner Tim Minear told TheWrap. “Like, she wanted to make that her job. So she hung up the uniform and she’s been living her best life by being a mother to these young ladies. And she always thought that she would at some point… But now she has to be the bread winner.”
Torres told TheWrap that Vega is “incredibly torn” about the decision, not just because of what it means to “go full-on, full-speed into a dangerous situation when you’re responsible for a family,” but because she’s unsure of her skills after eight years off. We see a bit of Tommy’s fear peek out in the “9-1-1: Lone Star” premiere, when she has one shot at resetting a bone in her first emergency response with the 126 on her first day back.
“I think it’s just being away from the field for so long. It took a minute for her to jump back in,” the “Pearson” alum said. “As an actor, personally, when I’ve been off a set for a long time I don’t know if I’m going to be able to memorize all my lines. I just don’t know if that muscle is going to kick in. I don’t know if I’m going to get to that moment. I’m not sure if the support system around me is going to give me what I need. I think that is true for anybody who is a professional who has been away from what they do, from what they love for quite some time. You hope that the muscle memory kicks in and that it kicks in when it’s supposed to. But it’s that moment that is there on display for everyone to see where you go, ‘OK, all right’ — and then she’s back. It happens, it’s there, and then she’s back. Eight years is a long time and there is a lot of doubt in that moment. Again, it’s not something that she thought through, it’s something that she was thrown into out of necessity.”
Torres’ introduction on “9-1-1: Lone Star” was also somewhat of a necessity following the exit of star Liv Tyler, who played paramedic captain Michelle Blake, after Season 1 due to the actress’ concerns about traveling from her home in London to the U.S. amid the pandemic. That’s when Minear had to find his new leading lady — a situation he previously dealt with on “Lone Star’s” parent series, “9-1-1.”
“I guess the best analogy would be, Connie Britton left ‘9-1-1’ at the end of Season 1, and then when I brought in Jennifer Love Hewitt, who is gold, it was like, there are some opportunities here,” Minear said. “Because it was always tricky to get Abby (Britton) into the stories with the other characters, because she had no connection to them, except for that she was dating Buck (Oliver Stark). The choice was made to have Maddie (Hewitt) be Buck’s sister, and then suddenly, everything is cross-pollinated and there is a reason for everybody to be interacting. And I had a similar thing with Liv’s character last year too. Her adventure stories were a little siloed out from the other characters.”
He continued: “So when I made the decision to create this character for Gina, it turns out that Tommy is old friends with Judd (Jim Parrack), that she actually introduced Grace (Sierra McClain) to Judd, so that their families are friends. So you already have a preexisting nexus between the characters because they have a relationship you learn about at the beginning of the story.”
And when it came to his casting decision, Minear couldn’t think of anyone but Torres, whom he previously worked with on Fox’s cult hit “Firefly.”
“That was just a no-brainer,” he said. “I need somebody who is warm, funny, powerful, commanding, a badass, a great mother, a sexy wife: Gina Torres.”
OK, enough about “Lone Star’s” fantastic new co-lead — let’s shift over to talking about the big news Owen Strand (Rob Lowe) received on tonight’s premiere: he’s (almost) cancer free. Now, normally this would make someone overjoyed — as it did for his son, T.K. (Ronen Rubinstein) and his ex-wife Gwyneth, played by Lisa Edelstein — but Owen has some issues with it.
“He is, to say the least, ambivalent about this good news,” Minear said. “Because I think there’s always been a part of Owen that felt like he got away with something, because he lost so many people, so many of his brothers, on 9/11. So he has survivor’s guilt, he’s always had survivor’s guilt. And the one thing that maybe helped a little bit was his diagnosis. Like, I didn’t get away scot-free and maybe there was some cosmic justice to that. So I think that what would come as good news to most people, he takes as a mixed bag. He doesn’t handle the good news all that well, particularly when something else happens in the second episode.”
We can’t wait to find out what that is, seeing as this hour ended with lava pouring into Austin.
“9-1-1: Lone Star” airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.