‘Chicago Fire’s Joe Minoso & David Eigenberg Break Down That Intense Episode & Cruz’s News
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 9, Episode 5 of Chicago Fire, “My Lucky Day.”]
Chicago Fire puts one of its most intense — and best — episodes in the hands of David Eigenberg and Joe Minoso, and they deliver their best performances of the series when their characters, firefighters Christopher Herrmann and Joe Cruz, are trapped in a freight elevator, no way of communicating with anyone and only able to listen as the rest of 51 takes on a fire above.
They must rescue themselves — and they do, climbing out the hatch up top — even as the cables holding the elevator up begin to snap one-by-one, all while it sounds like Mouch (Christian Stolte) may end up the latest member of 51 to fall on the job. (He survives.)
Like a Play … in a Life or Death Situation
The events of “My Lucky Day” allow for Chicago Fire to mix what makes it so good — the action, tough calls, and emotional beats — into the pressure cooker that is the elevator. And in a situation like that, Eigenberg tells TV Insider, “I want to be in there with Joe Minoso because I adore Joe and we have a long history together and we play together really well.”
Minoso was reminded of his time in theater in Chicago prior to moving into TV and film. “We treated each act as a day’s worth of work and shot it straight through. Our takes were 27 minutes long, which is unheard of,” he explains. “It was very Robert Altman/Gosford Park-y kind of filming, and it really was remarkable to be able to sit in something that long. You don’t really get that gift much in television as an actor, this opportunity to really live through an experience, which translates to how you see it on film.”
It’s while trapped in the elevator that both Herrmann and Cruz share personal stories, with the former telling a story of his wife Cindy’s (Robyn Coffin) first pregnancy that could have ended in heartbreak (she fell on ice) but was one of hope (the baby was fine, as she insisted he would be). Cruz needed to hear it at that moment, both actors agree.
“Both have a very keen understanding of what it is to know tragedy and difficulty and how to overcome those moments in order to try and persevere,” Minoso says. “That is the firefighter’s job at its essence. To hear a turn-around story and something that could’ve ended up so poorly, there’s something to be said about the power of positive thinking in those kind of moments. It’s what really sparked Cruz to start finding and honing in on ways to get out of there and really taking advantage of his squad knowledge to figure out the best ways and means to self-rescue.”
“What was beautiful about that writing was it came out of a moment that seemed organic and not calculated,” Eigenberg adds. “I have a long, long history with Joe. It gets very layered because of who Joe is and who Joe’s character is also.”
Perhaps what makes Herrmann and Cruz having to listen to their fellow firefighters in trouble all the more heartbreaking is how it was filmed. Rather than just having someone reading the lines for them, “they pre-recorded all the actors and queued it, so we actually heard through our walkie-talkies the actors doing their lines,” which informed his performance, Eigenberg shares. “It was Christian and Mouch. Something in the fantasy of it all became kind of real.”
The 51 Family Is Growing!
In the elevator, Cruz reveals to Herrmann that his wife Chloe (Kristen Gutoskie) is pregnant, but he swears him to secrecy since they’re waiting until after the first trimester to share the news. “Sooner rather than later, the company’s going to start finding out,” Minoso teases.
As for how much we’ll see onscreen of Cruz and Chloe during the pregnancy, Gutoskie will be back. “We’re exploring the ups and downs of being first time parents-to-be,” Minoso says.
We’ve also already started to see how this is affecting Cruz on the job. In addition to their fallen friend Otis (Yuri Sardarov) serving as “a guiding spirit” in that elevator, Cruz is also motivated by his family to get out of there. “We’re going to be seeing from Cruz in the next couple of episodes, ‘I need to make sure to be here to see my kid and be there for my kid,'” Minoso previews. “He’s going to be an even more determined firefighter frankly because it’s going to push him to want to be able to get home at the end of the day.”
He expects Cruz, whom he says will likely be “the most devoted father ever,” to look to those with kids in the house, Herrmann and Boden (Eamonn Walker), for advice. After all, Herrmann is “one of the active procreators on the show,” Eigenberg laughs. (His character has five kids.)
“I certainly would have a wealth of knowledge,” he continues, though admits, Hermann isn’t “the perfect father. He’s a very loving father. He can be a little brutal sometimes. … Cruz is very loving. Herrmann’s a little bit like, ‘Yeah, I love you, leave me alone.'”
Remembering the Fallen
Chicago Fire using this episode to remember Otis is just the latest of a tribute to one of the fallen of 51; earlier in the season, Severide (Taylor Kinney) made sure to get the ambulance door with the dedication to Shay (Lauren German) after a crash wrecked the vehicle, making a replacement necessary. Both the characters and the actors who portrayed them are beloved to and missed by the cast.
“Sometimes when you’re on a TV show, and a character dies and the actor isn’t the most wonderful person, you have to really dig to find that connection,” Eigenberg admits. “But that was never the case on this show with anybody who’s left here. Those characters were adored, and we miss them.”
For Minoso, remembering those they’ve lost is “vital to the franchise” and firehouse culture. “They were hugely important to the foundation of the show — Yuri and Lauren German in particular were staples to what we represented as a brand and as a show and as a feeling — and so it’s incredibly important to always look back because it helps us understand how we move forward,” he says.
Chicago Fire, Wednesdays, 9/8c, NBC