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How Chicago Med's Director Approached The Character Growth And 'Very Cool' Relationship Scene In Her Season 7 Episode

Chicago Med Will Halstead
(Image credit: NBC)

Chicago Med has been juggling a lot of different storylines in Season 7 so far, between the plots that the show picked up from the end of Season 6 and incorporating some brand new characters to fill the void left by some departures. For the March 9 episode, called “Things Meant To Be Bent Not Broken,” Med brought in director Afia Nathaniel to bring the script to the screen, and she shared how she approached a show already seven seasons in, and previewed a relationship scene that will be “very cool” for fans.

Afia Nathaniel came to Chicago Med as a director as part of NBCU Launch’s Female Forward program, which works to promote gender parity in scripted television directing. “Things Meant To Be Bent Not Broken” is Episode 15 in a season that is slated to run for 22 episodes, so Nathaniel was coming into Season 7 when there were already some ongoing stories as well as some brand new ones. Speaking with CinemaBlend, the director explained how she prepared for her episode:

I follow the Chicago Med episodes very regularly, and then my own episode was only a few episodes away from the ones that were already in the network. So I read all the scripts before coming to direct my episode. The ones that had preceded my episode, I read all those scripts. I rewatched some of those episodes. I was already shadowing in that season, so I very much knew what the storylines were for some of the new characters and what was probably expected of them. So it was a great way in, into a season by already shadowing, learning, observing, and knowing what the arcs or payoffs were going to be for some of those things that you were observing early on in the show.

The director was able to shadow an episode of Chicago Med earlier in Season 7, so she was already familiar with how the hit NBC medical drama worked, and she had material to prepare even from episodes that hadn’t yet aired by the time she started her episode. The episode description reveals that there will be a lot of moving pieces, with Dylan’s cop instincts leading him to suspect a patient of a crime, Dr. Charles and Vanessa facing a patient who believes she’s infested, Crockett and Blake working with an arrogant surgeon, and Will deciding what to do with his whistleblower settlement, so there was a lot to bring to life. 

By shadowing an episode in the same season that she directed, Afia Nathaniel had experience with the storylines and characters as well as the technical workings of the show. She shared how the shadowing experience compared to the episode that she ultimately directed: 

In a shadowing situation, you're literally on the sidelines of things. You're watching, you're observing, you're learning. But being a director, which is what you really do, that's when you are driving what the shots are going to be, what the blocking is going to be, and how this whole script gets translated to the screen. And it's like day and night. Just observing, or being a keen observer is a totally different state of mind than actually being in the thick of things. Talking to your DP, talking to your actors, talking to your makeup folks, anybody who's on the set who are involved in any part of that scene. I think it's a totally different energy. It's a totally different vibe when you're actually directing.

Chicago Med is one of the biggest hits of the 2021-2022 TV season already, so Afia Nathaniel was coming into a show with a broad fanbase for the style of stories as well as the characters who inhabit them. Based on everything she had to say about her time at Med and the “wonderful things” in the episode, the energy of directing the show was something she embraced.

Afia Nathaniel directing Nick Gehlfuss on Chicago Med

(Image credit: NBC)

Of course, part of the Chicago Med style is how it melds some action-packed medical emergencies for the ED doctors, nurses, and surgeons with the character drama. Afia Nathaniel explained her approach to combining the two, including allowing for the character growth that is so valuable to the show:

What I love about Med is that through the patients' stories and their storylines, the main characters of the show, their moral dilemmas come to light. They learned something about themselves in the patients, in the treatments, in the storylines, through these patients. And so it's always a balance of finding that storyline, that thematic element for each of the characters and how they're learning and growing. It's very, very subtle. And that's the other thing I love about it – it's not an overt change. The change happens very subtly within the character. And that's where the drama is for a lot of the doctors on the show.

The director also shared that the four major storylines of “Things Meant To Be Bent Not Broken” will center on Dylan, Dr. Charles, Crockett, and Will, so there should be plenty of room for the characters to continue “learning and growing.” Will’s storyline at least will be part of an ongoing storyline with the VasCom case that ultimately brought him back to Med after being fired, while the other cases seem original to this episode, including what the promo indicates is a heated storyline for Crockett. 

Afia Nathaniel directing Chicago Med

(Image credit: NBC)

But what has Afia Nathaniel been excited for fans to get to see from her big episode of Chicago Med? While she didn’t drop spoilers to give away exactly what’s going to happen in “Things Meant To Be Bent Not Broken,” she did preview a scene that will come near the end of the hour that will be “very cool.” She said: 

I would say there's a very cool scene that I hope fans are excited by. It's towards the end of the episode. It's a relationship scene. And that's all I'm going to leave it at.

The wait is finally over to see Afia Nathaniel’s One Chicago directing debut with the latest episode of Chicago Med on March 9 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, ahead of Chicago Fire (which also embraced the Female Forward program this season) at 9 p.m. and Chicago P.D. (with an intense Burzek episode) at 10 p.m. With her episode on the verge of airing, I asked the director if she’d be interested in potentially returning to Med or possibly tackling an episode of Fire or P.D., and she had a very enthusiastic response:

Oh, that's such a fun question. Yes, and yes, and yes! I would love to be called back if they'd like me. I'm around and available and I'm a huge fan of Fire and P.D. Any day, if they call me, I'll pack my bags, come to Chicago and film. Absolutely.

The three shows of One Chicago are going strong for NBC, and maintain a strong corner of the nine-show shared universe of Dick Wolf TV shows. If you need to catch up on the Chicago action in the 2021-2022 TV season (or just want to relive some of the earlier days of the three shows), you can find them streaming with a Peacock subscription now.

Laura Hurley
Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.