‘9-1-1: Lone Star’s Gina Torres on Tommy’s ‘Fascinating’ Reaction to That Heartbreaking Shocker
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for 9-1-1: Lone Star Season 2, Episode 13 “One Day.”]
For Captain Tommy Vega (Gina Torres), the day that unfolds in the May 17 episode of 9-1-1: Lone Star after she discovered her husband, Charles (Derek Webster), unresponsive at home is the hardest one of her life.
While on the phone with 9-1-1, Tommy realizes there’s nothing she or anyone can do for Charles; he’s died. (She’ll later find out it was an aneurysm and there truly was nothing that could have been done.) As she waits at the hospital for answers about his death, she does so alone, not telling anyone what’s happened. She’s there with a relative, she tells Captain Owen Strand (Rob Lowe) when he runs into her on his way to a check-up. She has firefighter Judd Ryder (Jim Parrack) and his wife, 9-1-1 dispatcher Grace (Sierra McClain), watch over her daughters, who think their dad just isn’t home at the moment.
But as Tommy helps a man, George (Greg Grunberg), who brings a gun to the hospital as he refuses to take his son off a vent, the truth comes out. (Judd and Grace listen to their friend’s 9-1-1 call.) In the end, while there’s no miracle for Tommy, there is for George. His son wakes up. When the hostage situation is over. she takes a moment to grieve, with Owen at her side.
Torres opens up about that heartbreaking loss for Tommy and teases the finale.
When did you find out that Charles was going to die? Did you know all season that this would be part of Tommy’s story?
Gina Torres: No, I did not know all season. But I did know quite a little bit ago. The good news is that Derek Webster got another job, so as an actor, you’re like, “Oh, that’s great.” He’s so talented and so lovely, I was so happy that that was the case. And then it became, what are we going to do about scheduling? [Showrunner] Tim [Minear] called me and told me, and I felt this pit in my stomach. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it. I immediately just had this visceral reaction — and rightly so — to not just losing a great scene partner, but losing this beautiful character.
What does that mean for Tommy and the devastation of it? Also just from the perspective of the kind of story that we were telling, to see this couple together, this multi-racial multi-ethnic couple be happy and go through life and the motions was also very important to me. So I wasn’t happy about it, I’ll put it that way.
My heart broke for Tommy because she wasn’t letting her own break for herself. Can you talk about the clinical, paramedic captain side of her taking over after she finds Charles’ body?
I thought it was fascinating to me that we got to really experience how differently people deal with their grief. That is something that has always fascinated me because we’re so individual. We deal with success differently. We deal with happiness differently. So why wouldn’t we deal with grief [differently]?
To have this consummate professional be in a situation where she couldn’t help, there was nothing for her to do, and to cloak herself in this armor for as long as she possibly could with such a delicate balance of making sure that the audience knows this is what grief looks like on Tommy. She’s not heartless. She’s not cold. This is the only way she knows how to cope with this, which is just to keep moving one foot in front of the other. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving. Because the second you stop moving, it’s going to come down and hit like a brick wall.
How much did she need to help George like she did that day before letting herself feel the real loss?
We see all of that play out. Owen put such a button on it: “You’re hoping for the miracle that you didn’t get.” She’s just trying to overcompensate for not having been there and also a supreme distraction, don’t you think? Here’s a guy with a gun. He’s grieving enough for all of us. He’s grieving for both of us and everybody on this ICU floor of this hospital. Yeah, let me jump in here.
What makes Owen the person she needs by her side at that moment? We’ve seen them being there for each other throughout the season.
He’s a safe place. What she has grown to understand and learn about Owen is family is as important to him as it is to her. And so in that moment and again, she didn’t tell him, she told no one, he’s the only one that knows what’s happened. He’s there, he’s a safe place. He was able to pry open that armor and just let her feel.
Grace and Judd listening to that 9-1-1 call was so heartbreaking, but at the same time, if Tommy talks to them, it would be too real because of how close they are. Right? There are levels of acceptance.
Oh, absolutely. There’s no way, and I understand that. I hope the audience understands that. She’s not ready to deal with it. She can’t confront it. She can’t say it out loud. She’s still waiting for answers. Why did she stay longer at Judd and Grace’s house when she should’ve just gone home? She might’ve been able to help. All of these things going on in her head. She’s just not ready to really confront the thought that he’s really gone. Yeah, Judd and Grace are just way too close. Judd’s her brother.
I loved seeing Tommy in the flashbacks and introducing them.
Aren’t those great? I love the flashbacks, and I love the flashbacks in this episode, too. They’re so great, and they go such a long way towards understanding her loss because we didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with Charles as a character. The flashbacks in this episode are just so important and so beautifully weaved into the reality of what’s happening to her in the moment that I think it helps bring the audience into that relationship even more.
There’s a dust storm coming in the finale, so will Tommy have time to deal with her grief?
There are a lot of unanswered questions going into the season finale. and that’s what season finales are for. We’re not going to have a lot of resolution. The death of somebody in your family, the death of a spouse, the death of a family member has repercussions that go on beyond a day or two or a few weeks. It’s years of adjustments. I think we will see her chosen family of the 126 step in, but we’ll just have to tune in next season to find out what Tommy’s life is going to look like from now on.
What else can you tease about the finale?
That’s pretty much it. [Laughs] I can tell you that in true Lone Star form and true 9-1-1 franchise form, there are epic saves. There is a massive dust storm situation coming in and we do find a way to come together and do what we do best.
9-1-1: Lone Star, Mondays, 9/8c, Fox