The Chicago franchise has become a staple of the NBC lineup, and the three high-stakes shows regularly tackle cases based on real-life events. Chicago Med's ripped from the headlines episodes can be especially emotional, and one star recently weighed in on why these episodes are so necessary. At the recent NBC press junket, Yaya DaCosta, who plays ED nurse April Sexton, explained the importance of the ripped from the headlines installments:
It can be very tough and very emotional, especially when dealing with real world issues, but it's necessary, right? It's necessary because I think sometimes people watch the news and there's so much bad news to focus on, and so you look at it, you say 'Oh, that's terrible,' and then you move on. And then you move on. And somehow, being in a line of work where it's art but it's also, there is some responsibility there. Depending on what the show is and that's the choice. I feel like that's a choice that Dick Wolf made a long time ago, to rip from the headlines. So it's our responsibility as people who are playing characters that people already care about. You see something in the news, you don't know those people. What happens when there's a tragedy? 9/11 happened, I called my dad, who worked at BMC. I called, 'Are you okay? Okay, good.' Not that I don't care about all those people, but people are going to be more moved... They want to know, 'Is everyone that I know, all my cousins, do I have extended family in Hurricane Katrina? Who do I know? As long as who I know is good, then I'm good.' And somehow our characters come to life. When people are real fans, we live real lives. I hear people talk to me, if I'm in the airport, they're telling me, 'You better get to Dr. Choi, and you better tell him--' They're talking to April! For real! And so since they care about us, they're going to care about the issue in real life. And that's one of the most magical pieces of what we do.
Now in its fourth season and attracting more viewers than ever before, Chicago Med is filled with characters that a lot of people have come to care about, living lives that a lot of people are invested in. So, when something tragic happens to April or Ethan or any of the other medical professionals on the show, viewers are affected by it, and they may feel the impact of a real-life case more deeply when it happens on Med than when it was reported in the news to strangers.
Yaya DaCosta's comments illustrate how Chicago Med manages to function as both a procedural and a character-driven drama. The ripped from the headlines episodes of Med can pack more of a punch on a personal level for viewers who have connected to the characters. While it may be difficult at times to watch the heartbreak and struggles, the world and people of Chicago Med feel all the more real.
For Yaya DaCosta, the Chicago Med characters connect to so many people that there's a responsibility to show the impact of real-life issues on a personal level, even if the people involved are technically fictional. Chicago Med's doctors and nurses deal with so much more than broken arms, internal bleeding, and everything else that can go wrong with the human body, and that can make the highs feel higher and the lows feel lower.
There's one episode from earlier in Chicago Med Season 4 that was especially difficult on an emotional level for Yaya DaCosta and others at Chicago Med due to real-world connections. In the winter premiere back in January, April found herself in the midst of a shooting at the hospital, and she took a bullet herself, although it wasn't serious and she was up and about very quickly. The timing of the episode was unfortunate, however, as DaCosta explained:
Earlier in this season, we shot [an episode]. It started off with a young man who felt like women didn't want him and that he had to seek revenge on this particular nurse who had rejected him. So we're filming, our set is on a set, but when we do exteriors, we go to an actual hospital. A couple of them. And so we're filming at a hospital because we had shot most of the episode but then we had to go and shoot this scene at a later date because of snow. The day we end up scheduling this, the script had been written for months before, obviously. Already shot most of the episode. The day that we go to do this scene where he's shooting was the day after an actual shooting had taken place at that hospital. So we were so on edge, so sensitive to the community, the neighbors, the people who lived around us. We were like, 'Guns on silent. It's all make believe. Don't scare anybody. We don't want to call attention to ourselves, but we have to get the shot.' So it can be very tough.
In an instance of unfortunate timing that nobody could have seen coming, a shooting took place at the same hospital where Chicago Med was filming its shooting scene in the "All the Lonely People" episode from earlier in Season 4. The show has a responsibility to tell its ripped from the headlines stories well, as Yaya DaCosta said, but filming that scene without alarming people who had recently gone through a real shooting had to be a delicate matter. No wonder they were on edge while filming!
It's a safe bet that Chicago Med (as well as Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.) will continue to rip from the headlines for future episodes, and NBC recently announced very good news for fans of the Chicago franchise. All three series were renewed for the 2019-2020 TV season, bringing Med to Season 5, Fire to Season 8, and P.D. to Season 7.
For more of Yaya DaCosta as April, tune in to the Peacock Network on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes. For some viewing options on nights other than Chicago Wednesdays, check out our midseason TV premiere schedule.