9-1-1 Season 3 kicked off its premiere on Fox with another major catastrophe. It wasn’t enough that the Season 2 finale ended with an earthquake hitting Los Angeles. During the Season 3 premiere, the characters watched as a tsunami began to take shape off the coast, and photos for Episode 2 show the destruction that will be left after the massive disaster plunges the show's characters into even more turmoil. To bring that massive tsunami sequence to life, 9-1-1 showrunner Tim Minear says a Titanic level of effort went into making it look as realistic as possible.
Tim Minear explained everything that went into creating the tsunami, which will be hitting the Los Angeles area in the upcoming episodes of 9-1-1. The tsunami itself is obviously a special effect, but Minear wanted it to look like the type of disasters that famously appeared in The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. This makes sense considering the fact that the series itself is set up as one long disaster movie. With a bit of Hollywood magic, and those unbelievably massive water tanks James Cameron used for Titanic, that sense of frenetic and life-threatening energy became all too real on the show. According to Minear:
These tanks are huge. We built city streets in these tanks. And when you look at some aerial shots from the drones, you see in one corner of these enormous tanks are city streets, and then a lot of water, like a mile of it, and then there is a Ferris wheel sticking out of the ocean. Those are the tanks that we used… It's to scale in a sense. In other words, we built the top parts of streets so that when you flood it with 42 inches of water, and you have your actors being pulled down 42 inches of raging rapids, it looks like it's seven feet or 10 feet or whatever of flooded street because we built the tops of the streets. But they are interacting with reality.
Tim Minear also spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the preferred usage of practical effects versus using green screen and CGI. Historically, practical effects have been known to have a longer shelf life, considering they go back to the dawn of filmmaking. Just think of all the films and TV shows, especially in the more fantastical genres, that embrace more practical effects than CGI, and you'll know what I mean.
Sure, 9-1-1's tsunami sequence might have looked great if it was mostly crafted in the digital realm, but I don't think it would have looked better than whenever the effects team could come up with on a practical level. The showrunner seems to agree, saying:
I don’t think you can beat doing things practically if you can. I mean, it's the actors literally scaling this Ferris wheel, it's Oliver Stark in some raging rapids going down a city street, climbing onto a submerged fire truck. You're just in there. It's real. I think it aids the performance, I think it aids just the visceral feeling as you're watching it. And I think it was super exciting for the cast and the crew to pull off something like this.
The 9-1-1 showrunner teased that the characters will be reeling from the effects of the tsunami over the course of the next few episodes. The disaster movie thrust will give way to more thriller elements with an episode following the different characters as they attempt to escape the various locations they’re trapped in.
As Season 3 really kicks off along with the rest of the fall primetime season, it’s clear that the characters of 9-1-1 will stay busy for a long time. The pulse-pounding series airs Monday nights on Fox at 8 p.m. ET.