‘9-1-1’ Star Kenneth Choi Has a Theory Why Chimney’s Always in Peril

The actor tells TheWrap how production of his Season 7 wedding mystery “felt like we were shooting a movie”

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Kenneth Choi in "9-1-1." (Disney/Chris Willard)

Note: This story contains spoilers from “9-1-1” Season 7, Episode 6.

When Kenneth Choi first saw the script for the “9-1-1” episode “There Goes the Groom,” the first thing he thought was, “‘Again? You’re going to put Chimney through the wringer again?’” Choi admitted in a recent interview with TheWrap.

After surviving a metal rebar to the skull, getting stabbed multiple times and having his heart stop twice, Season 7, Episode 6 once again found Chimney in a life-or-death situation. Only this time his big medical emergency happened on his wedding day.

As the last episode teased, Chimney and Maddie’s (Jennifer Love Hewitt) wedding day began with a missing Chimney. But instead of the goofy riff on “The Hangover” teased in promos for Thursday’s episode, his disappearance turned out to be far darker. As he roamed the streets of Los Angeles, unsure of his own name, the Station 118 team realized that their friend was likely suffering from viral encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain that can cause memory loss. The episode becomes an avant-garde dive into Chimney’s troubled mind, and a race to save him for everyone else.

“I think they give me these storylines — playing amnesia, brain fog and viral encephalitis, seeing these people from my past that could be devastating, either happy or sad — because Tim [Minear] knows that anything he throws my way, I can handle. So I got very excited once I heard the trajectory of it,” Choi said.

The episode is a sharp turn from previous “9-1-1” installments. Rather than the snappy cuts and witty one-liners the series is known for, director John J. Gray and writers Minear and Nicole Barraza Keim took a different direction to capture the “weird world that takes place inside Chimney’s mind.” To do so, Gray utilized a bodymount camera known as a Doggiecam to give certain scenes with Choi a shaky look, as well as a camera with a small lens that caused scenes to move in and out of focus. These stylistic approaches, which rarely appear in “9-1-1,” worked to mirror Chimney drifting in and out of reality.

“It very much felt like we were shooting a movie, and I think that the result is spectacular,” Choi said. “The director did a great job. It’s a high-wire act for a writer to write all of the violence of the car crash, with the amnesia, with the brain fog, with all the emotional elements and then the ‘Hangover’ stuff [with Buck and Eddie] and pull it all together.”

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Buck (Oliver Stark), Eddie (Ryan Guzman) and Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) in “9-1-1” (Photo Credit: Disney/Chris Willard)

As the episode unfolds, a devil and angel dynamic starts to form within Chimney’s hallucinations. On one shoulder is Maddie’s abusive ex-husband Doug (Brian Hallisay). On the other is his late brother Kevin (James Chen). In one of the most emotional moments of the series to date, Chimney’s hallucination of Kevin appears to him just as he’s about to give up and embrace sleep and, ultimately, death.

“Chimney has that sort of undeniable force in him where he’s going to overcome any obstacle thrown at him. That was him reaching for Kevin in his brain, and Kevin saying, ‘Get up brother. You’ve got to get home. You can’t fall asleep. You got to go keep moving,’” Choi explained.

The actor said that his reunion with Chen was “lovely.” Though they only worked together for about three hours for the episode, they immediately plugged back into the brotherly dynamic of Kevin and Howie.

“It took seconds to look in his eyes and get that emotional resonance back and that old scent. He’s a wonderful, wonderful actor,” Choi said. “I thought his performance was perfect, very delicate. He’s playing this ghost figure, but it’s got to be real, and he did it wonderfully.”

As upsetting as the episode may be for Chimney fans, it ultimately ended on a joyous note. Howie was rushed into surgery and saved before his brain inflammation could kill him. And true to their long history of falling in love in near the ER, Maddie and Chimney got married as he laid in his hospital bed.

“It’s exactly what Maddie says. She says, ‘We always find our way back to each other,’ ” Choi said. “That reward is all so much sweeter when the journey is so arduous, and in this episode, the hill seems insurmountable. When they finally get to the top together, it’s a beautiful, beautiful moment, and everybody can finally exhale.”

“9-1-1” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. Episodes are available to stream the day after premiere on Hulu.

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