Chicago Med debuted its sixth season with a brand new storyline right off the bat due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the winter hiatus is almost at an end, fans will soon get to see how Med continues approaching the pandemic after those first two episodes in the fall. According to the Chicago Med showrunners, this will involve changes in how the characters approach the pandemic, different characters working together, and Will Halstead causing some trouble again.
Chicago Med showrunners Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider spoke with CinemaBlend about what's in store with the show in 2021. Frolov explained the challenges of tackling a COVID storyline when the real-life situation is changing so rapidly:
Yeah, it's a challenge. You know, when we were starting developing a number of these stories, no one knew if there was going to be a vaccine. So now we know, and so for instance we are going to have our healthcare workers getting vaccinated.
True to life, healthcare workers in the One Chicago universe are going to be vaccinated, which was not an option back when the Season 6 premiere was coming together. In that episode, the doctors and nurses working in the COVID ward were struggling to even try and treat the patients, with April in particular invested in the risky but important work.
With the developing COVID stories and new priorities developing, the impact of the pandemic on the ED will result in some changes to which of the characters work closely with each other. Andrew Schneider shared what's in store as the characters move forward with the evolving nature of the pandemic:
And we do want to see the effects on the population as the season progresses. There'll be fewer patients in the COVID ward and April, who found such meaning in serving there, will be looking for more meaning in her life as a nurse and part of that will be she will get invested in Will's clinical trial and work with him on the trial.
Will and April haven't exactly been the closest of the doctors and nurses in the ED over the years of Med, with more emphasis on some of their other relationships. As of the first two episodes of Season 6, Will moved on from his disappointment at not being named ED Chief to join forces with newcomer Dr. Sabeena Virani on a clinical trial for a heart failure medication, and April will evidently become invested in this new mission once the COVID ward doesn't require as much of her time.
Of course, the clinical trial more or less fell into Will's lap after he said goodbye to Hannah and then lost out on the ED Chief job due to his knack for breaking the rules. When I noted to the Chicago Med showrunners that Will might have been the only one surprised that he wasn't the top choice to lead the ED, they teased:
Andrew Schneider: [laughs] But he's got his clinical trial!
Diane Frolov: And that's going to be an ongoing story with a lot of complications for him.
"Complications" are par for the course when it comes to Will Halstead, so at least fans can count on the fact that the pandemic hasn't fundamentally changed that about him! Will's passion as a doctor has enabled him to make some spectacular saves and breakthroughs over the years, so working on a new drug that could potentially save a lot of lives could be right up his alley.
That said, the Chicago Med showrunners hinted that Will is still going to be very... well, Will Halstead in his approach. Diane Frolov shared that he "does things the way Will does them," and Andrew Schneider elaborated:
He is going to pursue [the clinical trial] with vigor. He's really going to go for it. And in fact, there will be some times when he doesn't do everything quite above board.... For the right reasons. Not according to the strict rules of the trial. He does things for the patients which could actually wind up getting him in trouble. Vis-a-vis the trial.
Will's passion for saving lives has gotten him in serious trouble before, and his approach to the "strict rules" for this trial could do the same but on a different level. Dr. Virani doesn't have the same kind of experience with Will that the rest of the key characters do, so it should be interesting to see how she reacts to Will doing things that aren't entirely above board. Will his approach put the clinical trial itself in jeopardy?
While on the subject of Will Halstead, I just had to ask the showrunners something I'd been wondering throughout the early episodes of Chicago Med Season 6: is Will's surprisingly long hair a nod to the state of a lot of people's hair during the pandemic, or just actor Nick Gehlfuss growing it out? Fortunately, Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider confirmed the answer:
Diane Frolov: No, you're right. That's what it was. Yes. In fact, there was that little moment in the first episode with Hannah where she said, 'Who's going to cut your hair?'
Andrew Schneider: That was the idea. It wasn't we think the actor needs longer hair. It is a story point with COVID.
While some of the other doctors and nurses at Med have managed to look pretty well coiffed, Will embodies what has become the new normal for a lot of people during the pandemic... hair-wise, at least. I don't know if he has ever looked less like he's related to his brother over on Chicago P.D., but at least Med went out of the way in Season 5 to answer the burning question of why they don't look alike!
In all seriousness, the demise of Will's relationship with Hannah was a catalyst for his story to start the sixth season, and it should be intriguing to see where the rest of the season takes him. See what Chicago Med has in store for Will, April, and the rest of the hospital when it comes to COVID when Season 6 picks up again on Wednesday, January 13 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, followed by new episodes of Chicago Fire at 9 p.m. ET and Chicago P.D. at 10 p.m. ET.