‘9-1-1’: How Show Balances Storylines with Such a Huge Cast

by Suzanne Halliburton
9-1-1-how-show-balances-storylines-such-a-huge-cast

Watch one episode of Fox drama 9-1-1. The cast is huge, with every type of first responder represented.

And there’s a beautiful symmetry to the storytelling. It goes at a frantic pace darting from dispatch to the actual emergency. And showrunners want to make sure all the characters are involved in the plot.

9-1-1 executive producer David Minear talked about how he believes everyone is a star on the show, so he must feature them all.

“That’s actually how it works in my head,” Minear told AssignmentX.com back in 2019. “It’s a big ensemble. I think everyone on the show is a star. So I think you just sort of have to feel your way through the balance.

“Since they are all stars, you can shift the focus week to week, and play some characters more heavily than others,” the 9-1-1 creator said. “What’s interesting about this group is it’s not just that they are all stars, but every different combination gives you a slightly different story to tell, or a different perspective. And I just love to see characters that maybe we haven’t seen a lot together on screen start to get together on screen and see just what happens.”

That’s surely going to be the case when 9-1-1 premieres next Monday night. A 9-1-1 fan account posted the “Panic” synopsis.

“A series of ransomware threats leads to an over abundance of emergencies for the 118. Athena must revisit her traumatic attack of the realtor rapist as the case goes to trial, Eddie suffers a health scare, Maddie’s postpartum depression worsens”

So many plot points.

9-1-1 Uses Real Life Events As Inspiration

The second episode also deals with a city-wide blackout. And notice how many different characters are in the 9-1-1 synopsis: “The 118 springs into action when a city-wide blackout and a record heatwave causes mayhem in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Chimney confides in Hen about Maddie’s condition and Athena’s worst nightmare comes true”

There’s not a detail too bizarre to use. The first trailer showed zoo animals roaming the streets of downtown Los Angeles. After all, with no electricity, it’s easier for the animals to get loose.

Minear said the show pulls from real-life news of emergencies around the country.

“A lot of our cases are real. In fact, the ones that probably you think, ‘Well, that never happened’ are probably the ones that did happen,” Minear said. “Even all the way back to the pilot, a baby being flushed down some plumbing, that was a real thing. A bouncy house flying a hundred feet into the air, that was a real thing. So we look to stories from real life.”

And Minear said they started looking to YouTube videos for ideas.

“The whole feeling, our sort of aesthetic for the show is, it’s not a plotty procedural,” he said. “There are incidents, and we want it to feel like the experience of getting onto YouTube and watching a compilation of ultimate fails. You keep clicking and going down that rabbit hole, because you want to see the next cool thing. So that’s the experience that we’re creating for network television on a scaffolding of amazing, emotional character stories.”

Outsider.com