How Chicago Fire's Director Used All 10 Seasons To Prepare For The 'Exciting' New Episode

Chicago Fire is finally returning to NBC after the break for the Olympics, and the show has something exciting in store for fans who have been waiting to see what comes next. With Severide back on the case of investigating a fire, Pelham hitting a snag in settling in at Firehouse 51, and Stella seemingly sticking with Girls On Fire, there’s a lot to look forward to, and director Kantú Lentz has opened up to CinemaBlend about what to expect. 

Kantú Lentz directed the “Fire Cop” episode of Chicago Fire, which will air on February 23, and she came to the show in Season 10 as part of NBCU Launch’s Female Forward program to promote gender parity in scripted TV directing. Coming into a show that is ten seasons in with a strong fanbase is no small task, and Lentz shared how she used all ten of those seasons to prepare:

Well, first, I watched all the seasons. [laughs] I had been a big Dick Wolf fan. I've watched his shows my whole life, even growing up. I grew up in Peru, and I used to watch Law & Order: SVU and I would probably say I learned a lot of English with Mariska Hargitay. But I would say for this specific episode as a first time TV director, I also am someone who over prepares. I watched all the seasons. The beginning of [Season] 10, when I started shadowing, I would study it basically on types of shots that they use, the tone in the acting. The tone specifically in all the types of things they do, meaning the tone in the comedy, the tone in the drama, and the tone in the action.

There was no shortage of material for Kantú Lentz to use for research when it comes to directing Chicago Fire, and watching all ten seasons guarantees an episode that stays true to the tone of what has made this show such a hit for so long. Checking out all the seasons on top of shadowing the production of Chicago Fire resulted in what should be a pretty thrilling episode. Plus, the director’s connection to the Dick Wolf TV universe goes all the way back to growing up with Law & Order: SVU, so Fire seems like a natural fit. Lentz continued:

So once I have all of those sort of paint brushes, so to say, when I was shadowing, I would prepare in a way as if I was directing. I would have a shot list for each day, I would do my overheads, I just would prep in a way of, like, 'You're doing this.' And then I would compare with what Reza [Tabrizi], the executive producer who I was shadowing, would end up doing. He was very generous and I would ask him, like, 'Would this blocking have worked? Would this have worked? Why did you do it this way?' I feel like other than that, for me, it's all about preparation and knowing the characters as much as you can when you have not worked on it for ten years, as everyone else that is on that set that you're walking onto is. Also just out of respect for them. You can't tell people what to do if you don't know at least, hopefully, as much as they do.

A whole lot has changed on Chicago Fire since it premiered ten years ago, and even a lot has changed since the beginning of Season 10 with the departure of Jesse Spencer as Casey. Most of the cast has been around for many years by this point, however, and watching the full series meant that Kantú Lentz would have been very familiar with them by the time she started directing for the show. 

Miranda Rae Mayo and Kantu Lentz behind the scenes Season 10

(Image credit: NBC)

With such a vast cast, a decade of history, and (based on the promo and episode description) what seems to be a thrilling script, this episode of Fire presented some new opportunities. When asked if there were any scenes or characters she was particularly excited to direct, Lentz shared:

It's a great ensemble cast. I was very excited to get to work with Miranda Rae Mayo. I think she is just such an interesting actor. She's someone who can do a lot of different things in a very grounded way, and she does them so seamlessly. So it was exciting for me to see also Kidd's character in this in-between space that I think is very real for a lot of people during the pandemic... I'm gonna have trouble answering this question just because I was genuinely excited to work with every single one of these actors, like Christian Stolte, David Eigenberg. Taylor Kinney is incredible. Eamonn Walker. I mean, Joe Minoso is so funny. They're all just so special, which is why I think the show has lasted so long and why it has such a following.

Many of the firefighters of Fire – including those that Kantú Lentz named – have actually been part of the series since the very beginning, and Miranda Rae Mayo has become a vital part of the show as Stella Kidd since joining in Season 4. With the February 23 episode delivering a Girls on Fire plot between Stella and Kylie, I asked Lentz if the storyline centered on opportunities for girls and women was meaningful for her, and the Female Forward director shared:

Absolutely. I think that's why I love television, and that's why I wanted to become a television director, because I think television has the power to change minds, right? It's a friend that is in your living room, or in your room, that you watch with family, during a breakup, during bad times, during good times. And I think storylines like these, on shows that are as popular and as widely-watched as Chicago Fire, have the ability to inspire young girls to go, 'Oh, I can do that.' It doesn't even have to be firefighting, but it can be something that traditionally girls thought isn't for them. And so I think that, to answer your question, that's what was exciting about it, is to show the storyline and to talk about this thing, specifically Girls on Fire, but that has much more of a universal meaning once you really deconstruct it.

Luckily, the wait to see the new episode of Chicago Fire, directed by Kantú Lentz, is nearly over. “Fire Cop” will air on Wednesday, February 23 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC in the 2022 TV schedule, between a new episode of Chicago Med at 8 p.m. ET and a new episode of Chicago P.D. (which will showcase Tracy Spiridakos’ Hailey Upton) at 10 p.m. ET. NBC has confirmed the episode count for the One Chicago shows in the 2021-2022 TV seasons, so fans still have plenty of episodes to look forward to. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).