‘9-1-1’: Jennifer Love Hewitt on That Emotional Episode, What’s Next for Maddie & Chimney

Spoiler Alert
Jack Zeman / FOX

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 2, Episode 13, of 9-1-1, “Fight or Flight”]

In the April 1 episode of 9-1-1, fans finally caught up with Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Chimney’s (Kenneth Choi) stories. Both fought for survival against danger at the hands of her estranged husband, Doug (Hewitt’s real-life hubby and actor Brian Hallisay).

“I have a lot of people asking me, ‘we really hope your husband is nothing like Doug,'” Hewitt says of fan reactions to her husband’s portrayal. “And I’m like… ‘Do you think I’d just be walking around in the world if that was the case?’ It’s very funny.”

But it isn’t all jokes, as Hewitt’s character faced multiple gauntlets throughout the episode, and her attempt to escape from Doug, who kidnapped her in the March 18 midseason premiere episode “New Beginnings,” came to a shocking end. Below, Hewitt chats with us about the emotionally taxing installment, what’s next for Maddie and Chimney, and much more.

This episode was insane for Maddie. Was it as intense to shoot as it was to watch?

Jennifer Love Hewitt: Yeah, it really was the maybe most emotional and tense thing that I’ve ever done. Just because there’s never a moment for her to breathe, and so much like it is onscreen, it was off-screen. It was hours a day, and every day I was crying and in that intense place all day…

There was the physicality of it, and then we had to go to Big Bear, so being out of our normal element, not getting to sleep in your own bed at night while you’re doing all that crazy stuff also adds to it [Laughs]. So yeah, it was very intense, but it was a lot of fun, and I was just very grateful to have the opportunity to tell Maddie’s story that way.

(Credit: Jack Zeman / FOX)

Fans had to wait a while for that cliffhanger. What kind of reactions did you encounter in the weeks leading up to this moment?

I know that people have been freaking out … The unanswered question of the episode for everyone is, “Did Chimney actually make it?” So I know that’s been on social, [people ask me] “Hey, DM me. Let me know privately, did he make it?” [Laughs]. “Like I’m gonna tell you guys that?”

I don’t know that they’re fully prepared for how intense tonight’s episode is, but I’m excited to see how people react to it, and I think it was a really important story to tell. I was very grateful and impressed that Fox and [writer] Tim Minear allowed us to play Maddie’s story out. You know, it’s very easy to — on TV — kind of bring a character in with a small story and never pay it off. So I was just really grateful that they’ve allowed Maddie to see all of it through and have allowed the audience to see that with her. I think it’s really important, particularly because of the subject matter, so it’s been really nice.

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Maddie and Chimney both made it out alive. Will things finally be moving in a positive direction? Can fans expect more romance?

I think it’s gonna be complicated [Laughs]. Without giving away too much of what comes up in the future episodes, I just think it’s gonna be complicated, because starting the relationship before for them had to go slow and was complicated given all the things that he’s been through and all the things that Maddie has been through … You don’t just kind of go back to normal life after something like that, and for Chimney there’s still a lot of healing, and I think there’s healing emotionally, physically, mentally for both of them.

So, I do think that what they feel for each other is obviously real and didn’t get a fair shot in the beginning and hopefully will get a fair shot by the end, but I think it will be complicated. I don’t know that people will get exactly what they want right away.

(Credit: Michael Becker / FOX)

Maddie also killed Doug. What kind of things will she have to deal with over that? It was self-defense, after all.

She won’t have any kind of legal trouble or anything like that. I think honestly the main thing for Maddie after everything that happens with Doug is just healing time … Like how do you put one foot in front of the other. Does it just go on?

And for Maddie it’s complicated because she will also still have to be there for people in their emergency situations answering 911 calls … I think that you’ll see her just kind of deal with like, “How do you put life back together and move on from something like that?” But there will also be some real relief — it will be the first time in Maddie’s life since she was 18 years old that she will not be living in fear, so I think there’s a freedom that comes with that for her.

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This was an emotional episode for everyone involved. What kind of head-space do you have to go to in order to pull out a performance like that?

Being in her story and knowing that it’s different than a superhero movie or a horror movie, in that the horror that was Maddie’s life is real — it actually happens to people. It happens to men, it happens to women, it happens to children, it’s out there in the world happening. It was happening while we were filming it, it’s happening now that this episode is airing, it’ll happen tomorrow, it just continues.

So, I think the head-space for me, personally … having not been through that experience in my own life, just trying to honor that fight and the ups-and-downs of those moments in the episode where she might give up, or she’s hurt too badly, or it’s all just too much, and then [she goes] “No, I’ve got to fight for my life harder.”

(Credit: Jack Zeman / FOX)

So, I think normally, in an acting circumstance, you have to think about things or go to a place, and in this it really was just being Maddie … it was very fair to the acting process in that for those eight or nine days we were always in that story, we were always in that torture, we were always in that drama, it was all just at different levels. It was just like, “Be as ugly and raw and open and vulnerable as you can be, and then honor the people who are having this as their real-life story.” And that’s it; that’s all you could do.

One facet of this episode that was impactful is the lengths that Buck (Oliver Stark) goes to find his sister, and Maddie’s reaction when he finds her is priceless. How did you prepare for that moment? Did you discuss the scene with Oliver beforehand?

No, and it was really crazy, cause I’m very sequestered on the show as it is because I’m at the 911 call center, and then they’re all out dealing with the emergencies and stuff. But definitely in this episode I didn’t see anyone. So we had been filming the episode for days and days and days, and that scene with him was one of my last scenes in Big Bear — our last scene on that mountain — and it was after the day that we had done the entire stuntwork and killing, and all of that stuff, so I was absolutely shattered …

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I was at the end of what I could do, basically [Laughs], physically and emotionally. I had been crying all day so much to the point that, like, I got these big welts underneath my eyes, and it was really crazy, so I hadn’t seen Oliver …

So that scene was really — it was Maddie and Buck but … I was really happy to see Oliver in that moment. I was so happy to just let go of everything that I’d been holding all day — the fight and the anger and the fear and all of that stuff. And I felt as much relief in that moment that the day was over, and I was gonna get to eat Jersey Mike’s and have a glass of red wine and be like, “Woah, we did some stuff today.” [Laughs].

But also, just getting to see him in that moment and know that Maddie was safe — it’s one of my favorite scenes in the show … And it made me cry when I watched it, because it’s just so sweet.

(Credit: Michael Becker/FOX)

What else should fans anticipate for the rest of the season?

The emergencies are crazy; like, it definitely takes you through some twists and turns. I think that hopefully by the season finale everybody will feel like everything that the characters went through this season was well-earned. We will be able to give some hope I think [Laughs] at the end of it even though there’s not a lot of hope on 9-1-1.

Hopefully, we will provide some hope for people as they head into waiting awhile for Season 3 … These last eight episodes, starting with the last couple, I think the ride is really fun and worth it, and I think people are going to be really excited.

9-1-1, Mondays, 9/8c, Fox