Chicago Fire fans were devastated when the show’s writers killed off Otis Zvonecek (Yuriy Sardarov) in the Season 8 premiere. But they had a compelling reason to do so, as executive producer Derek Haas pointed out in a subsequent interview.
In a 2019 conversation with TV Insider, Haas explained that they felt they needed to remind the audience about the nature of firemen’s work. They had strayed too far into a fantasy world where heroes never die, he said, and they needed to come back down to earth.
“We finished last season not knowing what we were going to do,” Haas said. But “we had pulled the football too many times when a person was in danger, then was saved. The audience has to be reminded that these calls are dangerous and sometimes people don’t make it. We thought, what if we killed off Otis and he dies heroically? We realized there was so much emotional landscape we could cover.”
Chicago Fire Plot Development Was Inspired by a Real Firehouse
But why did it have to be Otis?, some wondered. The fan favorite character had been around since the start of the show. And to lose him in the mattress factory fire was a real blow to many audience members.
“For it to be a real surprise, you need it to be a core cast member,” Haas insisted. “We thought that Yuri affects everyone in the house as well as fans. I had seen a memorial at an LA firehouse, and I thought that’s something we’ve never done before. I was thinking how could he be remembered, so I had the memorial as the ending in my mind and worked backward from that.”
It just serves as a reminder that many firefighters die in the line of duty, particularly as wildfires become more common in some parts of the U.S. It’s a noble line of work, and not a glamorous one.
Otis’s Last Words Were an Important Detail
Joe Cruz (Joe Minoso) lost his best friend when Otis died. And it was through his reaction to Otis’s injuries that we learned the firefighter probably wasn’t going to make it.
“Joe Minoso is an incredible actor with such an expressive face,” Haas said. “I knew he would exceed anything I had in my head.”
Moreover, “I knew I’d end with the memorial service and Boden (Eamonn Walker) revealing Otis’s last words,” he added.
Otis’s last words, which were in Russian, were spoken to Joe. But Joe didn’t understand what they meant. So it fell to Boden to relay them, a touch that owes a lot to Arthur Forney, head of post for Wolf Films, who read Haas’s first draft and suggested the change. It made the drama of the episode all the more gripping. And though fans will miss Otis, they also won’t forget the lesson about the dangers of being a firefighter.