Stepping on the set of ABC’s Station 19 TV Show was bittersweet. I hadn’t laid eyes on a fire truck since Sept 22nd of this year. My cousin’s husband was a 20-year firefighter and we lost him a few days earlier. I had never been to a funeral with such an outpouring of love for an individual who serviced the community. The police vehicles and fire trucks were lined up on the highway for as far as we could see from our limo. When we passed fire stations on our way to the grave site, firemen were standing at salute. His 6-year-old son rolled down the window to wave at the firemen and women. Soon after he was in uncontrollable tears when he realized he couldn’t take daddy home with him.
I stepped on the Station 19 set with the hope of some healing. After all, I have been a Grey’s Anatomy fan since the very first episode, and I looked forward to chatting with Showrunner & Executive Producer Stacy McKee who left Grey’s to work on the spin-off show Station 19. While the hit drama is a television show, I soon learned that it’s much more.
I was invited as media to cover this event. All opinions are my own.
A Set Visit to ABC’s Station 19 TV Show
Exclusive interview with Showrunner & Executive Producer Stacy McKee, actress Jaina Lee Ortiz (“Andy Herrera”) and actor Boris Kodjoe (“Captain Robert Sullivan”)
From the start it was obvious Stacy, Jaina and Boris love their job. They had great chemistry throughout the interview, even cracking jokes at one another.
Stacy worked at Grey’s Anatomy beginning with season 1 through season 13. Along the way she had this idea about a spin-off….”in the background of all the Grey’s episodes, you see all of the first responders scootching into the breezeway, dropping off patients, but what about if we got back in the ambulance and drove away with them and then started to see what their life was like? What if there was a fire station, 3 blocks down from this hospital that we’ve been seeing for 13 years and they have a whole life that’s been going on this whole time too.”
Stacy went onto say, “There’s a lot of difficulties when you wake up every morning, you open up your news, there’s stuff that’s hard. And to focus on a group of people whose only job is to help
other people….doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter what color you are, what your religion is, doesn’t matter what your politics are. All that matters is that if you are a person who needs help, these characters will help you. And to me, that was just remarkable. I wanted to put that little piece of joy out into the world.”
It’s about real life
Stacy shared, “almost every story that we tell is inspired by something that we’ve heard from or heard about from a first responder. We have a lot of firefighter consultants and paramedic consultants both in the Los Angeles area and in Seattle because some of the specifics are regional and so we wanted to make sure we could be as authentic as possible. And again, because I always tell a story from a character’s point of view first. I always ask the tough questions, like ‘what was your toughest call? What’s the one you can’t forget for an amazing reason?'” Adding, “So to me, those pieces of the story are more authentic and that’s our wheelhouse, that’s what I want to tell.”
It was very touching to learn that they use inspiration and real stories from first responders. These individuals put their lives on the line every day, and we’re fortunate to have them.
Jaina was the first person cast
She shared, “I signed onto the show the second I heard Shonda Rhimes is doing a spin-off, I said yes, I don’t care what it is, just put me in. Luckily, I found out it was about firefighters, I went and met 2
female captains and I was like Oh my gosh, these ladies are bad-ass and they could do everything. They could be moms and work and still have a life and balance. And so just, it’s been a dream.”
Jaina also told us that she not only plays a firefighter on Station 19, but she took and passed the test too! She mentioned, “Yeah, I took the firefighter test….dragging a dummy that was 165, and it’s hard, it’s really hard! But being on the show has forced me to kind of stay in shape.”
The newbie on the show
Boris shares that he’s been hoping to join a Shondaland series for some time, but the timing never led to that opening, until now. Boris mentioned, “I love writers and I love great writers and to sort
of put myself in the hands of someone like Stacy is an absolute pleasure and honor really because you know that every single episode – where you don’t think it can get any better and then you open a script and it’s better than the script that you read before, and that’s always an amazing surprise. It’s so much fun to go to work because not only do you get to speak these words but also work with people like Jaina and
people who have been so embracing of me.”
We asked Stacy, Are there certain elements or storylines that you’re really excited to explore this Season?
“Yes, all of them, so many of them! The thing that we get to do with Season 2 that is so exciting for me (that we didn’t really have a huge chance to with Season 1 due to only 10 episodes), is we’ve earned the right to really explore who these characters are. We get to learn about their past, we get to see their interactions with one another, the relationships that have formed prior to the show starting and then after. To me, now we get to really dig deeper.”
Q: Can you tell us about the sets and how much is real?
Stacy shares, “our main [set] is a fire station set. The interior of it is all on our stages. The exterior is all shot on location in Seattle. So when you see those exterior scenes, we went to Seattle, we shot all of
those actually there on location. As for the incidents with the fires and stuff, it’s sort of a combination. We have both practical fire that we do a lot on our burn stage. We have a stage that we dedicate to burning things up. But we also then supplement and add a lot of CG fire as well.”
Q: Do they actually wear the weight of the firefighters, like a real firefighters’ uniform?
Boris answered, “Yeah we do. It’s the real stuff, even the oxygen tanks on the back.”
Q: I know you’re acting but you use real stories. Does it ever get emotional…do you get choked up?
Boris shares, “Absolutely, if we’ve been in situations that are similar and situations that we can associate with that apply to that moment…absolutely, that’s the goal. You want to feel it, you want to be authentic in that moment and sometimes you have to transport yourself back to when that happened. And it’s a challenge that not every actor embraces because it can be tough and painful and all of that because all of that stuff comes back up but I definitely look for it.”
Jaina added, “You have to have empathy I think because at some point in time, someone has gone through that same circumstance, that same situation and to kind of relive that experience, it’s terrifying but also invigorating in way…”
After our Q&A Boris and Jaina took us on a tour of the Station 19 TV Show set. I actually have some video I’ll be adding to Facebook so you can do a live walk-through with me!
Both actors were kind of enough to answer any additional questions we had, as well as snap selfies with us. It was such a cool experience!
For more live coverage and photos of the Station 19 Tv Show tour, check out #ABCTvEvent and #Station19 on twitter!
Photo Credits: Coralie Seright (www.lovebugsandpostcards.com)
Station 19 airs Thursdays at 9|8c on ABC, and is also available via streaming (ABC app/ABC.com/Hulu) and on demand.
Tune into tonight’s episode: “Last Day On Earth” – Just when Ryan agrees to talk it out with his dad, Greg Tanner makes an unexpected visit to Station 19, leaving Ryan and others confused. In an effort to connect with his crew, Captain Sullivan enlists the help of an unlikely source for some bonding tips.
Exclusive Boris Kodjoe Featurette!
In loving memory of Michael “Beef” Matonak.