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With eight seasons and nearly 200 episodes of television, Chicago Fire has remained a mainstay for NBC. Alas, the same cannot be said for more than a few of its prominent cast members. As the One Chicago spin-off continues going strong on its broadcast station, several main players on the show have left or been written off in some fashion or another. Ultimately, each departure is different than the other, so let's take this time to explore the various reasons why certain actors on the popular dramatic television series have either opted to leave or found themselves taken off.
Naturally, given the fact that we're talking about actors leaving the hit NBC show, you can expect some heavy spoilers for Chicago Fire henceforth.
Teri Reeves (Dr. Hallie Thomas)
While Teri Reeves served as one of the series regulars during the first season of Chicago Fire, it wasn't meant to last. Playing a physician, Dr. Hallie Thomas was in a relationship with Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer). Ultimately, towards the final episodes of this freshman season, Dr. Hallie Thomas was killed after being struck in the back of the head. It was revealed that the belated character was murdered. While there isn't a clear reason given as to why Teri Reeves was written off Chicago Fire, the character decision was seemingly made in the hit show's early days, and that it didn't have to do with Reeves or her performance. Rather, in order to build the dramatic stakes in this first season, Dr. Thomas' death added emotional heft.
Lauren German (Leslie Elizabeth Shay)
As Leslie Shay, a paramedic in Ambulance 61 at Firehouse 51, Lauren German was a main player during Chicago Fire's first and second seasons. However, towards the end of season two, Leslie Shay was killed by a man who stalked her. The character made a few appearances in Season 3 in the form of flashbacks, but the character's journey ultimately came to an untimely end in the show's early seasons. In a 2014 interview with TV Line, executive producer Matt Olmstead explained that they wanted to kill of a character that would have a big dramatic and emotional impact, and they felt that, as difficult as it was, it would be Leslie Shay's death that cut the deepest. Olmstead claimed Shay's exit "affected the most people" overall.
Going into it, we knew if we were going to do it, it had to be someone who was going to give us a big impact, as opposed to going for a lesser-known character, which would equate to a pulled punch. So, as opposed to approaching it with timidity, we thought we’d go for it... There was some discussion that this might be happening, and she was very professional about it. She joked that she wasn’t going to miss the Chicago winters. She’s a California girl. So it was nice to know she was able to joke about it a little bit. My experience, having done this a couple times, is you’re expecting the worst and then you’re relieved [by] the professionalism and the graciousness of the actor. They almost know that you’re feeling worse than they are. It sucks, but it’s a job and a craft. This is what happens sometimes. You mourn it and move on.
Charlie Barnett (Peter Mills)
During the first three seasons of Chicago Fire, Charlie Barnett's Peter Mills served as a series regular. However, as the third season was winding to a close, the show-runners decided that it was time for Peter Mills to go his own way. The character decided to leave the team and move closer to his family in order to avoid living in his late father's shadow. Ultimately, in an effort to introduce fresh blood to the firefighter series, executive producer Matt Olmstead explained to TV Guide that it was time to let some characters go, in order to prevent the series from becoming a "clown car" filled with too many characters. In the end, it was a difficult decision, but it was also one Olmstead believes was right. Once again, the choice to let Peter Mills walk away from the show doesn't appear to be related to Charlie Barnett or his performance. Rather, the show-runners wanted to give the guy an out.
The hardest part of this job is when you feel it's the right time to make cast changes. It was solely based on bringing in new people for new stories. Otherwise, it turns into a clown car. You have affection and admiration for [your cast], so you keep everybody, but it's at the detriment at being objective and making some tough calls in terms of storytelling. So, we wanted to shake things up and bring in a new character and we started discussing the idea ... and here we are. It was an extremely tough decision to make, but we feel good about it.
Dora Madison Burge (Jessica "Chili" Chilton)
After serving as a guest star during the show's third season, Dora Madison was promoted to series regular in Season 4. In the role of Jessica "Chili" Chilton, Madison played the paramedic-in-charge of Ambulance 61 and served as a replacement for Peter Mills. However, that was a short-term position, as Jessica Chilton was taken out of the show shortly thereafter when she was fired for drinking on the job. Ultimately, the choice to write Chili off Chicago Fire didn't have anything to do with Dora Madison or her performance. Rather, according to executive producer Matt Olmstead, it was a decision made by the executives to keep the audiences in suspense, knowing that characters could leave at any point in the program — not merely in the season premiere or the season/mid-season finale. Something major could happen anytime. Here's how Olmstead explained it to THR.
[There are] no plans for Chili to come back right now... You can't just save up the big moments and departures and entrances for characters at episode one and episode 22. It almost conditions the audience to be like 'OK, we'll tune in for the first episode and tune in for the finale because not much is going to happen in between because the writers are too timid to make any kind of moves.' So you can threaten people leaving and you can kind of rattle your saber here and there, but unless you follow through on it, no one is going to believe you. You think you could have helped her out, but she's on this path of self-destruction. It got us some good stuff midway through the season as opposed as to waiting for a finale to have the character exit. It's hard. We liked the actress a lot and she did a great job.
Steven R. McQueen (Jimmy Borelli)
Introduced in the show's fourth season, Steven R. McQueen became a regular in the role of Jimmy Borelli during the show's mid-point. However, by Chicago Fire's fifth season, Jimmy Borelli had exited Ambulance 61 after the show-runners felt it was time for his character to go. In an interview with TV Line, executive producer Michael Brandt explained that the decision for Jimmy Borelli to leave Chicago Fire was ultimately one based on his character's history, and one that felt natural for the progression of the show.
Once again, it doesn't seem like there was any ill-will with the actor nor his performance. Rather, this is where the show-runners felt the series was heading with this character, and that his time in the show's narrative with the other characters drew to a close. When it came to the narrative-at-hand, the decision among the show-runners was that this was the end.
We’ve wrestled with this over the last four years, in terms of threats and real dangers to people in the firehouse. There are times when people get injured, or really bad things happen to them, and we don’t follow through on that, and sometimes we feel like we have to pull the trigger on certain things. With Jimmy’s character, it just felt like he needed to stand up for what he believed in, but Boden needed to stand up for what he believed in, and those two things couldn’t live together. It was driven by the story and who the characters have evolved into.
With Chicago Fire still going strong after eight seasons, there are many dramatic twists-and-turns still to be found in the NBC program. Nevertheless, these are the biggest departures from the firefighter/paramedic show, though there is still the possibility that some other major players will meet their end on the series — in some fashion or another. Specifically, there are reports that Taylor Kinney's Kelly Severide might soon be leaving the show. Will the show see more characters exiting in the future? Viewers will simply have to tune in to NBC when the show returns to find out what happens next.