I’ve known more than my fair share in my life. They’ve been there for me in more ways than I could have ever anticipated. Some as friends. Once as a protector in a hostile situation. Yet, others were there when I wasn’t, desperately trying to save my mom’s life when she went into cardiac arrest during chemotherapy.
It’s this respect they have earned from me that has me pulling over to the right at the slightest sound of a siren. You’ll often find me ANGRY when people on the road do not pull over when an ambulance or fire engine approaches. I know how precious each valuable second is. I’ve been there.
So when I heard that the ever-popular television hit Grey’s Anatomy was creating a spin-off about first-responders, I was ready. This would be my show. There would be emotion, no doubt, but sometimes in this life, you need a show that entertains, but also has a bit of truth and realness to it. That is exactly what you get with Station 19.
Last week I had the chance to visit the set of Station 19! I KNOW!!! Not only that, but I had the opportunity to meet and interview Showrunner & Executive Producer Stacy McKee, actress Jaina Lee Ortiz (“Andy Herrera”), and actor Boris Kodjoe (“Captain Robert Sullivan”).
(Disney and ABC have invited me to California on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for our coverage of events. As always, all opinions are my own. Affiliate links in post.)
NOTE: Station 19 airs Thursdays at 9|8c on The ABC Television Network or streaming or on the app.
We headed off for what would be a memorable morning at the studio lot, a studio that has been seen the likes of actors from Fred Astaire to Cary Grant walking around. I was in awe.
I was about to do the same, walk the lot with so much history, to discover a world of first responders who ironically “live” in Seattle, Washington. Thanks to the magic of television, Seattle just happens to be in Hollywood (for most of it anyway).
Showrunner & Executive Producer Stacy McKee shared with us how it all began and why a show like this resonates.
McKee said, “I wrote on Grey’s Anatomy for 500 million years. I started on Season One and moved up the ranks and finished there on Season 13 in order to come over here and create a spinoff about firefighters, which is kind of amazing. And it seems like a really natural sort of extension of the Grey’s universe because it still involves medicine. In the background of all the Grey’s episodes, you see all of the first responders scootching into the breezeway, dropping off patients and then really quickly we dispense with them and get them out of the scene so we could focus on the surgeon.”
She continued, “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. What if we just shine a light over there so that was really sort of the beginning gestation of the idea and it’s just also just something really appealing to me. You know Grey’s. You know what it’s like. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you feel things and it was really appealing to me to show those same types of emotions, and the same type of humor but to do it in a world of first responders.”
Let me take you inside their world for a minute…
This was a very real television set, complete with all the fixtures and dangers. Yes, dangers. If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s that you wear closed-toe shoes on a set visit and do not have your eyes in your phone.
You never know WHO you might see on a set or a lot. You never know WHAT might be coming straight for you. You never know how many trip-hazards there are, but there are usually many.
So with my eyes darting around I explored the Studio 19 set.
We weren’t the only ones exploring.
Well, maybe exploring isn’t exactly the right word. I’d say maybe actor Boris Kodjoe was just very interested in accompanying us around, seen above in the pink jacket.
A rare treat.
McKee explained that the interior of it all is shot right here in Hollywood. It’s the exterior scenes that were shot on location in Seattle.
Then came the interesting part. She said, “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. So it’s both a combination of computer generated, really crazy fire, and then some practical stuff that we can use that’s still safe for everybody to be around.”
What we learned about the cast surprised us. The firefighter actors literally wear the 40 pounds of gear with helmet that real firefighters wear.
40 Pounds? Yes! But there’s even more that you will be impressed with, trust me. Read on!
Boris Kodjoe (Captain Sullivan) explained, “It’s the real stuff, even the tanks, even the oxygen tanks on the back. We have fake ones and we have real ones.”
A highlight of the morning was spent actually going through the different scenes, including the garage where the firetruck is housed. THE firetruck for Station 19.
We saw the lockers, the fire hoses, the helmets, the uniforms, the workout room, and the nod to those fallen in the line of duty. And though the set is just “make believe”, it felt very real.
We also had the opportunity to walk through other areas like this kitchen which was INCREDIBLE. Wouldn’t you love a kitchen like this?
But this was soon a “HOT” set, which meant actors were walking in and we were quickly ushered out. I told you we had to keep our eyes peeled.
Though we were completely indoors, I felt as though I really was standing outside in Seattle, with the kayaks and greenery.
Unexpectedly, Jason George walked right by me.
Yes, the Jason George! He is part of this incredible cast, and was curious as to why this large group of women were in this area with none other than Boris Kodjoe. He stopped to chat.
Sitting down with these three (Showrunner & Executive Producer Stacy McKee, actress Jaina Lee Ortiz (“Andy Herrera”), and actor Boris Kodjoe (“Captain Robert Sullivan”)) was so fun and filled with laughter, as the chemistry between the actors was off the charts.
Though these three had us laughing, there was one thing I remember well – how McKee explained the importance of first responders in this world of ours. Timely importance.
McKee shared, “Especially right now, this day and age, I feel like the world can be tough. There’s a lot of difficulty 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. It doesn’t matter. 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 so unifying and universal. And it seems like this was the right moment to tell stories like these.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Let’s talk about Jaina Lee Ortiz, who was the first person cast on the show.
She is AMAZING!
Why? Okay, not only can she act, but she literally took the firefighter’s test! Boris Kodjoe can’t even say that (and there was a lot of ribbing about that on set – HaHa)!
She said, “I actually came home and I said ‘Mom, how much do you weigh?’ I told her, you need to be at least 165 pounds so that I know I can drag you out of a building because that was part of the test, dragging a dummy that was 165 (lbs), and it’s hard, it’s really hard. But being on the show has forced me to kind of stay in shape just in case, she throws a sexy, nude scene at us.”
And then Boris Kodjoe came on just this second season. While he plays a no-nonsense captain on the show, his dry wit had us in stitches on set.
Kodjoe 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.”
He further explained that he had wanted to be part of the show from the beginning, but that didn’t happen. Patience paid off and here he is second season.
It’s clear that he is happy to be a part of this cast, this team. He mentioned, “This is such a great atmosphere and (to Stacy) that speaks to what you bring to this universe because it starts at the top and then it sort of trickles down all the way to everybody else, and I’ve been part of sets where it wasn’t the case, where there was a lot of negativity, and people just not happy to be there and this is just a pleasure to be a part of, every single day.”
All the feels guys. For real.
Mckee shared that almost every story that they tell is inspired by something they have heard about from a first responder.
She went on to say, “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’ve never been able to forget? What’s your most inspiring call?'”
As for Season 2, it’s clear that they want to explore more and dig deeper.
McKee gave us a preview by sharing, “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 cause there [were only] 10 episodes, so you’re really just establishing the world and sort starting to dip into who these characters are. This season, 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. I feel like we just barely scratched the surface in Season 1 and now we get to get into some really good juicy character stuff which is my wheelhouse. It’s the stuff I love so that’s the stuff I’m most excited about really.
It’s clear Season 2 is off to an interesting start with Captain Sullivan shaking things up.
Of course, I had to ask a question when given the opportunity and I wanted to know if being in this environment and dealing with fires and learning so much had impacted their life in some way.
As expected, Kodjoe was a jokster saying, “I’ve gotten a bunch of calls from like the mommies in the neighborhood.”
Ortiz was more realistic and I loved her answer – tough lady that she is. She shared, “I always get carried away like if I see an incident outside or in the house, I feel like I want to save and rescue.I have to remind myself like, no! My Mom is like ‘Chill, you play firefighter, you’re not really a firefighter'”.
WATCH TONIGHT! Guest star: Dermot Mulroney
“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 on ABC’s “Station 19,” THURSDAY, NOV. 8 (9:01–10:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network, streaming and on demand.
Guest starring is Dermot Mulroney as Greg Tanner.
“Station 19” airs Thursdays at 9|8c on ABC (also available via streaming on ABC app/ABC.com/Hulu and on demand) follows a group of heroic Seattle firefighters as they put their lives and hearts on the line. The latest series from the executive producers of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” takes us inside the tough, tight-knit and sometimes heartbreaking world of the city’s bravest first responders.
Season 2 of “Station 19” will return with answers to all of our burning questions. With a massive skyscraper fire raging, can Andy (Jaina Lee Ortiz) lead her team to safety?
Will her former flame Jack (Grey Damon) and teammate Travis (Jay Hayden) survive after an explosion sends them both into jeopardy? And when the dust finally settles, who will win the race for the captain position at Station 19?
The second season finds our team wrestling with the fallout of the deadly blaze. The life of their former captain, Pruitt (Miguel Sandoval), hangs in the balance after major health complications. No longer a rookie, Ben (Jason George) searches for his place on the team. Maya (Danielle Savre), Vic (Barrett Doss), and Dean (Okieriete Onaodowan) are tested beyond their limits. And if all that wasn’t enough for Andy, her complicated relationship with police officer Ryan (Alberto Frezza) grows even more complex as his path intersects with the station’s.
The crew at Station 19 will welcome a new teammate, a seasoned firefighter (Boris Kodjoe) with a mysterious past. Season 2 will also feature more crossover elements with ABC’s flagship series “Grey’s Anatomy.” Seattle’s brightest doctors will collide with Seattle’s boldest firefighters in unexpected ways as they work side by side to save lives.
“Station 19” stars Jaina Lee Ortiz as Andy Herrera, Jason George as Ben Warren, Grey Damon as Jack Gibson, Barrett Doss as Victoria Hughes, Alberto Frezza as Ryan Tanner, Jay Hayden as Travis Montgomery, Okieriete Onaodowan as Dean Miller, Danielle Savre as Maya Bishop and Miguel Sandoval as Captain Pruitt Herrera.
The drama is produced by ABC Studios.