‘Chicago Fire’ Showrunner Discussed Making Jump From Films to Television

by Chase Thomas

Jumping from the big screen to the small screen is not easy. If it were, more Hollywood directors would make the jump from films to television like the Chicago Fire showrunner did.

It began with Dick Wolf, the man behind the One Chicago universe, along with the Law & Order universe. Rather than look for showrunners with a television background he went after a different subset of writers. Those writers were in the film industry. He ended up adding Derek Haas and Michael Brandt.

Wolf wanted the program to have a movie-like feel, meaning high-production value, that sort of thing. Haas and Brandt had a plethora of experiences in this world. The duo worked on Wanted, 3:10 To Yuma and even 2 Fast 2 Furious in the past. All great films, but it was an odd, bold choice for Wolf to bring them into the fold for the television project.

What Derek Haas Said of ‘Chicago Fire’

When they were approached about it, Haas said,”We’re movie writers, and we had a call … Dick Wolf and NBC wanted to do a show about firemen, and every year we’ve sort of turned down television… But when we heard Dick Wolf’s name, the subject matter [of first responders] sounded interesting… and we said, ‘What about setting it in Chicago?’ since ‘Rescue Me’ was done in New York and it seemed like it was so intrinsically tied to 9/11, and Chicago itself is a city that was born out of fire and seemed like a good location. So they said yes and we said, ‘Well then put us on a plane so we can start rehearsing.'” 

The gravitas of Dick Wolf got them in the door. They did not ever want to transition into a television based on their quotes, but they listened as the roles were laid out to them. Then, we learn that it was the duo that pitched putting the show in Chicago. Because of the success and location of Rescue Me their idea to put the show in Chicago makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider the fire origin of the city. They even an MLS team called the Chicago Fire. Because of the decision to put it in Chicago, it sounds like this is what got the showrunners signed on for the project.

The ‘One Chicago’ Universe

Still, even without the New York backdrop that fans of Wolf’s since the early Law & Order days, get the same sort of feel on this program that they get with the former. Wolf said of his style, “The wonderful thing about the company is, we don’t make Ferraris. We make Mercedes S-class sedans. They’re black. They’re not flashy. But they run for hundreds of thousands of miles. That’s what they’re designed to do.” 

It’s a machine, which is why the One Chicago universe has expanded and worked so well.