‘Station 19’ Showrunners Break Down ‘Exquisitely Painful’ Series Finale

Peter Paige and Zoanne Clack tell TheWrap how they approached ending the “Grey’s Anatomy” firefighter spin-off, and their message to its loyal fanbase

Jaina Lee Ortiz in "Station 19." (Disney/Chris Haston)

Note: This story contains spoilers from the “Station 19” series finale.

“Station 19” tamed one last epic fire in its emotional series finale, while also giving hopeful glimpses into each of its beloved firefighters’ futures — and setting the stage for at least one of them moving to “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Appropriately titled “One Last Time,” the finale followed as the crew fought a devastating wildfire threatening to reach Seattle. As the firefighters fought to keep both the city and themselves alive through the blaze, viewers saw montages of each of the characters’ futures, which both celebrated their journeys throughout the show’s seven-season history and offered a peek into what their lives could look like moving forward as we bid farewell.

Though there were close calls with several of the team members — including Theo (Carlos Miranda), Vic (Barrett Doss) and Andy (Jaina Lee Ortiz) — the core 19 cast survived the arduous rescue mission and were able to stop the wildfire from reaching the city. Big change followed after the danger passed: Vic confirmed her move to Washington D.C. to take the Crisis One initiative national, with Travis (Jay Hayden) in tow; Maya (Danielle Savre) and Carina (Stefania Spampinato) the latter’s pregnancy after years of trying; and Ben (Jason Winston George) gave Andy his notice as he decided to leave 19 to go back to being a surgeon. The show’s final scene flashed forward a few decades to Maya reigning as captain of Station 19, as Andy rose to fire chief as she had always dreamed of doing.

The finale culminates the tenure of showrunners Peter Paige and Zoanne Clack on the ABC firefighter drama, which benefited from renewed passion from fans hoping to save it from cancellation, and continued praise for its strong writing.

“It was exquisitely painful, and I mean those words quite literally,” Paige told TheWrap of filming the show’s final scene. “It’s a day I’ll never forget. (Working on) this whole season, I’ll never forget. It was a really incredible experience on so many levels.”

TheWrap spoke with Paige and Clack about how they approached ending the series, giving everyone a hopeful happy ending and their message to fans.

Congratulations on a fantastic series finale. How did you approach crafting this pivotal farewell episode?
Zoanne Clack: I watched many, many series finales and tried to see what other shows did. I really honed into wanting to see the characters in the future, but I didn’t want to have it all in the end. So we really wanted to try to figure out how to capture little bits of them as they will be or could be in the future.

And I also had this idea of showing these fire shelters. It was really fascinating to me that fires could completely pass over people in these little, like baked potato-looking shelters. I looked at a lot of videos of firefighters that have been through it, aand all of the angst that they go through and I thought it would be the perfect way like push the characters into picturing the future they’re living for. What what is motivating them to keep the faith and push forward. It seemed to really integrate nicely into the story that we wanted to tell, and the futures that we wanted them to have.

Peter Paige: We had some talks about what it was that we wanted to leave the audience with at the end of the day. The wildfire was going to be the season finale even before (the cancellation) and we thought, well, that still works. It’s still big and high-stakes and an opportunity for them to explore all the lessons they’ve learned about firefighting along with the lessons they’ve learned about being there for the community and for each other.

As you mentioned, we got to see glimpses of each of the firefighters’ future — or maybe wishful thinking about their futures — throughout the finale. Why include them in the midst of the big wildfire, and how canon are they to the actual future of these characters?
Z.C.: The accuracy to these characters is whatever we want it to be right? Unless we get to tell more stories, so we were looking for a satisfying ending. Not everyone will be happy with everything that we did, but between the actors who’ve played these roles for seven seasons, the writers, the crew, the production team, we all felt very satisfied with the way we’re moving forward and these potential futures for the characters.

We also had a lot of really great surprises, from Beckett ending up with Natasha’s sister to Dom and Travis ending up together with Vic in tow, both Maya and Carina getting pregnant and Prue becoming a firefighter herself. How did you go about crafting all of those little happy endings?
Z.C.: We toyed around with them. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes thing. The first script that we read in the preview event (hosted before filming) had two flashes. One personal and one professional. Obviously, we barely had time to tell the one flash, so we had to cut back a lot…

We wanted to go for what would be the most heartfelt, soul wrenching, the most true glimpses. The things that pay off all the things that we’ve gone through seven seasons. It pays off what we think about the growth that they’ve had, especially over this season. We really had to collaborate and go through what we could show. And there’s a lot of things when I was writing it, I was like, OK I know a lot of this will change. And we ended up not changing it too much, but there was some back-and-forth and we had to meet somewhere in the middle.

Jason Winston George in “Station 19.” (Disney/James Clark)

After the whole team tames the wildfire and Andy survives her injuries, Ben decides to act on thoughts he had been wrestling with all season and leaves 19 to go back to being a surgeon. Was that a Shondaland mandate so he can now go back to “Grey’s?”
Z.C.: We wanted to give options. We don’t have any kind of crystal ball about what’s going to happen, but we don’t want to lock in someone that didn’t necessarily need to be locked in. We could have killed Ben off in Episode 5… but I think we’ve set up well that everyone is moving on or moving up, and that seemed to be just the next place to take him. Yeah. Whether or not they take him back is up to “Grey’s.”

The final scene shows that Maya becomes captain of 19 once again, with little Pru and some of the probies as her crew, and Andy rises to become fire chief (and ends up with Jack too?). Why end the show there?
P.P.: It felt really important for these two women, whose friendship was at the core of the very beginning of the show, to see their dreams come to fruition. That felt like one of the things we wanted to resonate as the show came to a close. As for Andy and Jack? Look, Andy has a vision. She realizes Jack has always been right there beside her… You see these little moments of casual intimacy with them at Vic’s going away party.

So do with that what you will. Whether they become a conventional couple I don’t know. But are they deeply connected? 100%.

Z.C.: As far as the last ending moments, when we heard about the cancellation, we immediately started talking about how we wanted to see the ending, and we always wanted Andy to become chief, because that’s where she was always going.

Jaina Lee Ortiz, Jason Winston George, Barrett Doss, Jay Hayden and Danielle Savre in “Station 19.” (Disney/James Clark)

The fandom’s passion remains vibrant, as folks planned big gatherings of support in LA and other cities today, billboards and other things to commemorate the end of the show. What is your message to the fans who haven’t stopped fighting for Station 19 all season?
P.P.: One of the things we talked a lot about was like, what is it we want to say about the show and what do we want to say to the fans. Where we landed was sort of, thematically, yes, the show may be over, but it doesn’t have to end. You get to take everything that you loved and valued about “Station 19” carry it forward into your lives, into your community, into your relationships.

So yes, we may not be making any more new episodes, but let the show inspire you, let it drive you, let it guide you as you move forward in the world. That would be the greatest compliment you could pay us.

All episodes of “Station 19” are available to stream on Hulu.


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