After a whirlwind couple of days, it was finally time for our last planned activity of the press trip — a set visit of Station 19. This series just entered its second season and we had the opportunity to chat with Showrunner & Executive Producer Stacy McKee, actress Jaina Lee Ortiz (“Andy Herrera”) and actor Boris Kodjoe (“Captain Robert Sullivan”). We then did a quick tour of the set. Let’s start with the interview here first, though.
They were an amiable bunch and had just as much fun joking around with each other as we did watching them. Seeing how they interacted with one another made it clear just how strong their camaraderie on-set is.
Station 19 follows a group of heroic Seattle firefighters as they put their lives and hearts on the line. The latest series from the executive producers of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” takes us inside the tough, tight-knit and sometimes heartbreaking world of the city’s bravest first responders.
Interviewing Stacy McKee, Boris Kodjoe, and Jaina Lee Ortiz
Stacy McKee kicked off the interview by telling us how she got started with Station19, which is a spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy. She said that it seemed like a “really natural sort of extension of the Grey’s universe” since it involves medicine but, instead of focusing on the doctors, the story revolves around the first responders who brought the patients in.
McKee: But what about if we got back in the ambulance and drove away with them and then started to see what their life was like? What if there was a fire station, three blocks down from this hospital that we’ve been seeing for 13 years, and they have a whole life that’s been going on this whole time too? What if we just shine a light over there?
She that’s why she wanted to tell the same kind of stories as she did on Grey’s Anatomy but to do it in the world of first responders instead. She also felt that the timing was right.
McKee: Especially right now, in this day and age, I feel like the world can be tough… To focus on a group of people whose only job is to help other people. Doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter what color you are, what your religion is, it doesn’t matter what your politics are. It doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that, if you are a person who needs help, these characters will help you. And, to me, that was just remarkable. I wanted to put that little piece of joy out into the world. It’s so unifying and universal. And it seems like this was the right moment to tell stories like these.
So how did Jaina Lee Ortiz get involved?
Ortiz: I signed onto the show the second I heard Shonda Rhimes was doing a spin off. I said, “Yes! I don’t care what it is, just put me in!” The second I found out it was about firefighters, I went and met two female captains and, I was like, oh my gosh! These ladies are bad*** and they could do everything. They could be moms and work and still have a life and balance. And so, just, it’s been, I can’t even, it’s been a dream, it’s… Pinch me!
She was so excited about her role that she even took the firefighter test!
Boris Kodjoe wanted to be a part of the Shondaland universe ever since it came on the horizon but things just never worked out, until now. How does feel now that he’s part of the team?
Kodjoe: You know that every single episode… where you don’t think it can get any better and then you open a script and then the script is better than the script that you read before. That’s always an amazing surprise. And, it’s so much fun to go to work because not only do you get to speak these words but also work with people like Jaina and people who have been so embracing of me.
This is such a great atmosphere and that speaks to what you (McKee) bring to this universe because it starts at the top and then it sort of trickles down all the way to everybody else. I’ve been part of sets where it wasn’t the case, where there was a lot of negativity and people just not happy to be there. This is just a pleasure to be a part of every single day.
Season one was mostly about “establishing the world and starting to dip into who these characters are,” according to McKee. But, there is an opportunity to do something a bit different in season two.
McKee: This season, we’ve earned the right to really explore who these characters are. We get to learn about their past, we get to see their interactions with one another, the relationships that have formed prior to the show starting and then after. To me, now we get to really dig deeper. I feel like we just barely scratched the surface in season one and now we get to get into the really good juicy character stuff, which is my wheelhouse. It’s the stuff I love. So, that’s the stuff I’m most excited about really.
Now, if you’ve watched Station 19, then you know how real the action scenes look. All interior scenes are shot on their stages and all exterior scenes are filmed on location in Seattle. For fire scenes, it’s a bit more complicated.
McKee: As for the incidents with the fires and stuff, it’s sort of a combination. We have both practical fire that we do a lot of it on our burn stage. We have a stage that we sort of dedicate to burning things up. But we also then supplement and add a lot of CG fire as well. So it’s both a combination of computer-generated, really crazy fire and then some practical stuff that we can use that’s still safe for everybody to be around.
Station 19 Set Visit & Interview — On Costumes & Acting
McKee went on to say that it has been a learning curve for everyone, especially when it comes to the uniforms. The actors wear actual turnouts while filming, which amounts to about 40 lbs. of gear with oxygen tanks and helmets. She said that “some of the sweat and the exhaustion that you see on these guys’ faces — oh, it’s fully real.”
Almost every story is inspired by something the crew heard from a first responder. They try to keep the show as authentic as possible using local authorities and responders. Then, writers bring attention to what would matter most to them versus what bystanders or the general public might think about. Does it ever get difficult to act when the subject matter is based on real-life experiences of those they’ve encountered?
Kodjoe: Absolutely. We’ve been in situations that are similar and we’ve been in situations that we can associate with that apply to that moment. That’s the goal. You want to feel it, you want to be authentic in that moment and sometimes you have to transport yourself back to when that happened. It’s a challenge that not every actor embraces because it can be tough and painful and all of that because all of that stuff comes back up. But, I definitely look for it, absolutely.
Ortiz: You have to have empathy, I think, because at some point in time, someone has gone through that same circumstance, that same situation. To kind of relive that experience, it’s terrifying but also invigorating in way… I enjoy that because our normal lives are just normal but when we have to play these characters and tell these stories, they are exciting and we get to transfer that.
McKee: But all of that translates onto screen I think. We have such an incredibly talented cast. I mean I just feel like I fell into a big ‘ol pot of honey because they’re just like lightning in a bottle. It’s just this really transformative group of people who take these words and elevate them every single episode and it shows. I think it shows on screen, just the sparkle there. It’s pretty incredible for me.
Station 19 Set Visit of the Boathouse and Station
Wow, what a dedicated and passionate group! After the interview as over, we walked around the lot and entered the Station 19 set. As we made our way to the set, we also passed by Station 19 actors Jason George (who plays Jack) and Grey Damon (who plays Jack). We didn’t talk with them but it was interesting to see how they greeted McKee, Ortiz, and Kodjoe like you would your buddy.
We first stopped by the boathouse. Then it was onto the station where we passed through the turnout room, the kitchen, and, lastly, to where the fire truck was.
Before we knew it, our Station 19 set visit was over and it was time for us to head to the airport for our flights home. The tour felt so quick that, when I look back at the photos, I think, “Did we walk by that? That actor was still with us there? Why didn’t I take a selfie with (insert famous actor I totally didn’t recognize at the moment)?” Should’a, could’a, would’a. Oh well. It was a great visit nonetheless and it’s was so special to talk with the cast and see where all the action happens.
Watch Station 19 Tonight!
Station 19 airs Thursdays at 9|8c on the ABC Television Network, streaming, and on demand. Check out the synopsis for tonight’s episode, “Last Day On Earth.”
Just when Ryan agrees to talk it out with his dad, Greg Tanner makes an unexpected visit to Station 19, leaving Ryan and others confused. In an effort to connect with his crew, Captain Sullivan enlists the help of an unlikely source for some bonding tips.
- https://twitter.com/Station19 (#Station19)
I was invited on an all-expense paid media trip as a guest of Disney and ABC. All opinions are my own.