Spoilers ahead for the March 18 episode of Chicago Fire on NBC.
Chicago Fire never fails to deliver some high-stakes scenes involving fires, crashes, and various other crises, but March 18's "Protect a Child" featured a really dangerous stunt that also packed an emotional punch. As it turns out, the stunt was actually even more impressive in real life thanks to the efforts of the actor, according to director Brenna Malloy.
In "Protect a Child," Casey and his crew were called to the scene of a house fire where a wheelchair-bound mom by the name of Jenni (played by Rachel Miner of Supernatural fame) was fighting up a set of stairs to reach her frightened son despite the very real danger of the flames on the second floor.
There's one stunt in the episode that I just think is incredibly special, and that's the moment where we first find Jenni on the stairs at the beginning of the episode, trying to crawl through the fire to get to her son. Jenni is portrayed by an actress named Rachel Miner who is also wheelchair-bound, and Rachel did that stunt. She laid on the stairs in front of the fire and crawled up those stairs, and she was so determined to do that on her own, and I'm so proud of all her hard work in the episode, and I think it turned out to look really dangerous. It turned out to look really dangerous and she was going to actually crawl through the fire to get to her son, so there was a lot of great stunts. The warehouse shelves, and Cook and even Herrmann's office is a stunt, but Rachel's work on the staircase I'm super proud to be a part of and I'm honored to have worked with her as well.
Chicago Fire fans may have thought they'd seen it all when it comes to One Chicago fires, but Rachel Miner as Jenni crawling up the stairs with fire all around and ahead of her was something unique. As Brenna Malloy noted, Miner is wheelchair-bound in real life, having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis back in 2010.
Thanks to Rachel Miner's willingness and determination to do the stunt as well as her performance, Jenni's fight to save her son was as suspenseful as it was intense, and it raised the emotional stakes when Jenni temporarily lost custody of her son before Casey and Gallo went the extra mile to help her.
Interestingly, her performance as the heroic Jenni on Chicago Fire aired only days before she reprised her very different role as the demon Meg on Supernatural, possibly for the last time as that series approaches its end.
In the process of Casey and Gallo trying to reunite Jenni and young Noah, Casey reflected on his brief time with foster son Louie back in Season 5 before he and Dawson made the difficult decision to give him back to his birth father. Brenna Malloy shared what it was like for Fire to revisit the heartbreaking Louie arc all these years later:
I felt really honored to get to direct an episode where Louie comes back or the mention of him comes back, because what [showrunner] Derek Haas and his team of writers did with that storyline I thought was so heartbreaking and beautiful. When Casey and Dawson decide to give Louie back to his birth father, I think that's one of the most heart-wrenching moments in the whole series. So when I first read Derek's script, I got so excited that that was going to come back into play, especially with the dynamic between Casey and Gallo and how Casey has taken Gallo under his wing, and Gallo doesn't know this part of Casey's backstory, so it was really beautiful to get to watch Alberto [Rosende] and Jesse [Spencer] bring this moment to life where Gallo learns this big part of Casey's life that he hadn't heard of before. And he saw him in a whole new light. It was really amazing.
Even though Louie may not be likely to return in the flesh, "Protect a Child" proves that Casey hasn't forgotten the little boy who allowed him to briefly be a dad. His bond with Gallo has the potential to last for a while, too. Chicago Fire didn't waste time in bumping Alberto Rosende up from recurring to regular status, and Fire has already scored a renewal for three more seasons. Assuming Casey is sticking around, their bond could get even stronger.
Of course, Chicago Fire wasn't just an hour of intensity from start to finish with Jenni's plot. Brett and Foster were memorably called to the scene of a very naked man called Cook causing a scene inside a building. The cops wanted the paramedics to handle the situation, but it was very clearly on the cops to do the job. The scene culminated with the man becoming a streaker and racing nude down the streets of Chicago.
Brenna Malloy explained the streaking scene, including who Fire actually recruited to bare (almost) all in "Protect a Child," saying this:
He had something to protect himself and all of us. That character of Cook is actually played by the show's gaffer, Tony Lullo, and the blocking was done specifically so that we only saw certain parts that were able to be shown on broadcast television, but also had the effect which was needed which was this guy's out of control. And our two heroes, Brett and Foster, shouldn't have to deal with him. It was clearly a police matter, and so it was walking that line between playing the comedy of the scene but also making it clear that the stakes are high here and this could go bad quickly. That scene was a lot of fun, certainly the entire cast and crew had a great time because Tony Lullo, who played the role, just really did a wonderful job and I'm super happy with how that scene turned out. I think the actors, Kara Killmer and Annie Ilonzeh, they're just wonderful and they really are so great about finding the right tone with scenes.
Chicago Fire recruited its gaffer to play Cook the streaker! Even though Tony Lullo was wearing something so that he wasn't totally nude on set, Fire managed to block the scene so Cook definitely looked like he was in the buff. The streaking scene (along with Brett and Foster's reactions) added some lightness to what could have been a heavy episode.
Season 8 of Chicago Fire will be cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic halting production on One Chicago as well as a whole lot of other TV shows. The show isn't out of new episodes yet, though, so be sure to tune in to NBC on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET to find out what happens next on Chicago Fire, between new episodes of Chicago Med at 8 p.m. ET and Chicago P.D. at 10 p.m. ET.