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Dick Wolf Talks ‘Chicago Fire’ Death Shocker and Crossover Episodes

TCA 2015: Executive producer says devastating twist was meant to ”maximize the effect“ of character’s departure

Dick Wolf joined cast members from his NBC shows “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.” onstage at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena on Friday, discussing a variety of topics, including September’s shocking death of “Chicago Fire” character Leslie Shay and the successful crossover episodes that the two shows undertook with “Law & Order: SVU” last year.

Asked about the decision to kill off Shay, the executive producer said that the death was a two-fold effort.

“Obviously the character’s leaving, you want to maximize the effect, and it’s a very dangerous business; that’s why that methodology was chosen,” Wolf said, adding that character departures “are always bittersweet, but you’re always looking for ways to do them that are unexpected, or in this case was a major cliffhanger.”

Taylor Kinney, who plays Kelly Severide on “Chicago Fire,” noted that while Shay might be gone physically, her ghost will loom large over the show. For one thing, there’s the emotional residue that Severide and the other characters will be left to deal with — as Kinney observed, when a firefighter loses a colleague to an on-the-job death, “You learn from it, you work with it, but you don’t get past it.”

And Shay’s death, Kinney pointed out, will turn out to be more of a mystery than it might have first appeared to be.

“We found out that it was possibly not an accident, but it could be a murder. So that brings up old wounds and opens up a new storyline.”

As for the crossover episodes, which provided a significant ratings boost to “Chicago Fire,” Wolf said that, after seeing the ratings success of previous crossover episodes between “Law & Order” and “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “it’s always been in the back in my mind that whenever you can do those on a rational basis, it’s synergistic.”

As long as it’s done in good measure, of course.

“You cant do it too often, but two, three times a season is catnip,” Wolf advised.

Of course, for the actors it can mean pulling double duty — an increased workload that Sophia Bush, who plays Erin Lindsay on “Chicago P.D.,” doesn’t particularly mind.

“Every once in a while, in that case, we work a Saturday, but when our two shows are together its kind of like being in a fraternity house so that’s a pretty good time,” Bush offered.