A lot of characters have come and gone over the seven seasons of Chicago Fire so far. For every big departure, there must be the arrival of a new character. After all, Firehouse 51 can't go on with a shortage of first responders. One of the biggest characters to be written out of the series relatively early on was paramedic Shay, who was killed in the second season finale. Kara Killmer was cast to play replacement paramedic Sylvie Brett in Season 3.
Shay was a beloved character, and that she was killed rather than allowed to ride off into the sunset meant that viewers had to mourn that she would never return in the present, although she did appear in flashbacks. Between the popularity of her character, her ongoing presence in the flashbacks, and actress Lauren German's place in the cast from way back in the pilot, joining Chicago Fire could have been an uphill battle for Kara Killmer. A lot of people loved Shay and German's performances on Chicago Fire.
Now that Kara Killmer is in her fifth season as part of the Chicago Family, she shared how it has felt to replace a beloved character like Shay:
Fortunately for me, no one in the cast ever made me feel like I was an outsider or that there were even shoes to fill. She's got her own set of shoes, and I'm like, 'I can't fill those. I'll just bring my own set of shoes.' We're very different. They're really different characters, and so I think just based on how I was so welcomed by everyone, it was a great experience. I feel like the transition was really smooth and obviously I've had four different partners on the ambo, and now I have Annie Ilonzeh, and she's incredible. She just jumped right in.
While nobody at Chicago Fire could have known when Kara Killmer was cast that Brett would go on to become quite beloved in her own way on the show, the rest of the cast apparently made Killmer feel quite welcome when she stepped in to play Shay's replacement paramedic. As she said, it likely helped that Brett wasn't simply Shay 2.0, and she didn't try to be.
By this point, Kara Killmer is one of the veteran cast members who is able to welcome newcomers into the cast, and Brett in Season 7 has been attached to two newcomers: Chaplain Kyle and new paramedic Emily Foster. The new paramedic is played by Annie Ilonzeh, and she stepped up in a situation that somewhat paralleled Killmer's back when she joined the show.
Just as Brett was replacing a beloved character with Shay, Foster was replacing a beloved character with Gabriela Dawson. Chicago Fire had to say goodbye to Dawson after actress Monica Raymund decided to move on from the show, and she hasn't appeared aside from a quick cameo at the end of the Season 7 premiere.
In this case, the departing partner wasn't killed off. Dawson is alive, but working in Puerto Rico, which ended her marriage to Casey. (Is he really over her?) Fortunately, Foster is quite different from Dawson just as Brett was quite different from Shay, so fans haven't had to compare them and pick a favorite.
Brett herself didn't immediately warm up to Foster, but the two are fast friends by this point in Season 7. Honestly, their friendship with Stella in the mix has been a highlight of the season for many. Kara Killmer went on in her chat with CinemaBlend and other outlets at the recent NBC press junket to explain what it's like to join Chicago Fire as a paramedic and what Annie Ilonzeh had to learn:
Because it's a lot when you first come in. You have to learn some of the skills that you're going to be showing on screen so that you don't look stupid. She just jumped right in, and we learned how to do an IV, we learned how to intubate somebody, we learned how to take care of broken legs and constant bleeding and things like that. Now, in real life, I'm still going to dial 911 for you. I am not going to do any of those things. 'Got an issue? 911! I'm here for you in this way.' It's such a loving, like a sickeningly sweet group of people to be in. There's 12 of us. It's a big group, and nobody's a diva. Everybody has a good sense of humor, which you have to have when you're freezing your butt off. You gotta laugh. We're really fortunate. It's such a good group.
Well, it's probably a good thing that Kara Killmer's first instinct if faced with a real-life emergency will be to call 911 rather than use her TV talents to try and save lives! Brett may be incredibly good at her job as a paramedic on Chicago Fire, but looking good at saving lives on TV is different from actually being able to save those lives. Killmer is clearly content to stick with what she's good at!
All things considered, it sounds like Chicago Fire is a welcoming show to any newcomers who need to step in for departing favorites. Perhaps there really is nothing like filming outdoors in a Chicago winter to bring people together! Firefighters and paramedics don't exactly get to do their jobs from the comfort of a warm building at all times, and that is reflected on Fire. Chicago Med actress Yaya DaCosta recently explained a specific instance of filming outdoors being very challenging, although not for weather-related reasons.
Only time will tell if any more replacements need to join the cast of Chicago Fire any time soon. Casey recently had a near-death experience, but I don't see him quitting his job any time soon, and I have to hope that Foster's stalker doesn't come back and escalate his frightening attentions. Of course, given the nature of their jobs, all of the men and women of Firehouse 51 are frequently in danger. At least fans who keep up with news had an idea that Dawson was probably leaving!
The very good news is that Chicago Fire has already been renewed for the 2019-2020 TV season, bringing it to Season 8. Chicago P.D. and Med were both renewed as well. You can watch new episodes of all three shows in NBC's gigantic Wednesday night Chicago block, with Med at 8 p.m. ET, Fire at 9 p.m. ET, and P.D. at 10 p.m. ET. There may be plenty of options on TV this midseason, but you can get your Chicago fix in one night each week!