Chicago Fire's Miranda Rae Mayo And Showrunner Talk Stella's Stressful Episode, Casey's New Lease On Life And More

chicago fire stella kidd don't hang up nbc
(Image credit: NBC)

Chicago Fire has spent much of Season 9 building Stella Kidd up to finally take the lieutenants' exam, but the journey hasn't been easy, and she's not going to make it to test day without going through a very stressful episode that will present kinds of challenges that she has never faced before. The season has also delivered some serious highs and lows when it comes to Severide and Stella, along with enough of a threat to Casey's health that there were reasons to start wondering if Fire was preparing to write him out.

Fortunately, both actress Miranda Rae Mayo and Chicago Fire showrunner Derek Haas spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of Stella's big episode about what's in store for her, what's up with the good ship Stellaride after Severide made some bad decisions earlier in the season, and Casey's outlook on life after he got some good news about his head. Read on for what they had to say!

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(Image credit: NBC)

Stella Kidd's Dangerous And Stressful Episode

The next new episode of Chicago Fire is called "Don't Hang Up," and the trailer alone revealed that Stella is in for an emotional ride. A mysterious caller is going to reach out to Stella while in danger, seeking Stella's help to save her and her brother. This will all go down as Stella is nearing the end of her journey to the lieutenants' exam and would probably be better off with as much rest and relaxation as possible.

Then again, would this be Chicago Fire if the heroes had easy lives? I spoke with Miranda Rae Mayo ahead of "Don't Hang Up," and she explained how Stella will handle the stress of the mysterious caller on top of everything else that has been piled on her in Season 9:

Oh my gosh, she just goes in. It's the first responder in her. She really goes into her analytical brain. First she tries to assess the situation and see what is the best course of action, logically. She kind of gets out of her body. Like she goes into her head and out of her body. And then as things start moving forward and she gets deeper into the phone call, she really gets back into her body and into her emotions and her terror. And it's an emotional episode. And terror just being like, what might happen if she can't help the person who's on the other line?

Stella is of course more than used to pulling off the almost impossible under immense pressure after spending years as a firefighter and potentially becoming an officer, but this is a very different kind of emergency than she usually faces when she's racing into burning buildings and risking her life for tricky rescues. Miranda Rae Mayo elaborated on the situation facing Stella in the next episode:

I think normally as a firefighter, number one, there's rank. Stella is very much a team player. ... She's like a great character actor who works a lot, but isn't necessarily known. Like, her name isn't known. You know what I'm saying? Great to work with and holds together the ensemble. I think that has been her. So when she arrives on a scene, she lets others take the lead. And it's all very physical, but this was something where it really required her to tap into her emotions. And this other person who's on the other line, really caring for their emotions and being very sensitive to what they're experiencing, and really having to listen to them. I think it was very uncomfortable for her for a myriad of different reasons.

As if Stella hasn't already been dealing with enough pressure this season! She has always been successful when it comes to the physical and mental demands of her job, but this call could put her under emotional strain at a pretty trying time. And according to Chicago Fire showrunner Derek Haas, this situation will show off whether or not Stella has the mettle to serve as a CFD lieutenant, beyond what it takes to answer questions correctly on paper. Haas previewed of the episode:

This [episode] is the one up to her taking the lieutenants' test, which is what we've been building towards all season long, ever since Boden told Stella that he thinks she should take it. It's kind of been this drumbeat that's been going for a full season. And we knew that when we were writing this hour, we wanted it to show beyond the classroom, where the exam is going to be administered, we wanted to show what kind of a leader Stella is to our audience. No matter what happens on the test, the audience will know at the end of this hour how she can handle stress, physically, mentally, emotionally. And that was the driving force in writing this episode.

Whatever the outcome, Stella is clearly going to be put through the emotional wringer in "Don't Hang Up," but at least she can now count on the support of Severide in a way that she couldn't earlier in Season 9. That said, everything about this situation with the caller begging for help seems like it calls for some backup from the cops who have had a habit of crossing over from Chicago P.D.. So, will that be the case this week?

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(Image credit: NBC)

Will Chicago P.D. Help Firehouse 51?

One Chicago traditionally delivers a two-part crossover between Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. in the spring of each TV season, but COVID protocols have meant that the three Chicago shows haven't gotten any big crossovers in the 2020-2021 TV season. There have been some characters popping between the shows, however, and Stella's phone call seems like something that would normally be handed over to the authorities. According to showrunner Derek Haas, Stella and Co. aren't going to bring in any police for a good reason. He previewed:

It's an unfolding drama that's almost in real time while it's happening. And there's specific reasons why we're just trying to solve this one on our own, especially with just the limited information that we have. But the other thing that happened in this episode kind of thematically is we don't know, 'we' being the general we, don't know the impact we have on people, even casual acquaintances that we have. And here was a teenage girl who, Stella Kidd without even knowing it, influenced and had such a giant impact upon [her] that when this girl's trouble, that's who she reaches out to.

Stella's work as a firefighter means that she touches lives every time she makes a save, and Kylie is proof of how much good her influence can do. And this is a situation that Stella and the others at Firehouse 51 are going to have to deal with themselves, presumably while the cops of Chicago P.D. keep busy with their own cases.

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Has Severide Redeemed Himself?

Of course, some of Stella's struggles in Season 9 were due to Severide back when he chose to support her pursuit of the lieutenants' exam by shutting down on her to avoid any indication that he was the reason for her success within CFD. Stella was not about to stand for him falling back into old habits that had been bad for their relationship, but he did eventually come around and start opening up again. Is he fully redeemed for his actions? Miranda Rae Mayo weighed in:

I think that in their relationship, it's not something that she's thinking about, at least not consciously. Like, I think her mind is really focused on the exam… I don't think there's anything necessarily [that] needs to be redeemed in relationships. You know, I think that in relationships, you just continue to move forward… You know, [Severide] is who he is. [laughs] And she continues to say yes to that. It's not like she's saying, yes, you know, contingent. Yeah, there are boundaries, like, 'I'm not going to deal with this.' But I don't think that Stella ever says to Kelly, like, 'I'm going to stop loving you'… I guess the answer is yes. Because she's not thinking about it. It's not something that she's holding over his head.

Severide has always had the best of intentions when it comes to Stella this season, and he fortunately fixed his mistakes before their relationship could be permanently damaged. The good ship Stellaride seems to be sailing smoothly; the question is whether whatever happens next and the outcome of the lieutenants' exam will force any change.

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(Image credit: NBC)

Casey's New Lease On Life

While Stella is facing a stressful set of challenges in the next episode, one character's prospects are looking up! Despite all signs seemingly pointing toward the end of his career after he took a second blow to the head, Casey was miraculously cleared and given the go-ahead to return to work. With the prospect of giving up his job as a firefighter no longer hanging over him, Casey can have a new lease on life. According to showrunner Derek Haas, Casey isn't going to waste it:

Casey's in a great mood in this episode because he really is like Lazarus coming back from the dead. And then he notices that Brett is not her usual, cheery self. And Casey investigates that because she was there for him every step of the way, while he was going through this over the last four or five episodes. So he's going to, in turn, be there for her and he wants to get to the bottom of why she's not sharing his happiness here.

Casey got his great news in the previous episode when he found out that the latest knock on his noggin wasn't the end of his career as he knew it, but Brett got some not-so-great news when Grainger broke up with her over her bond with Casey. If the breakup is the source of her unhappiness (and I certainly couldn't blame her) and Casey wants to help, then this could well lead to Fire revisiting the Brettsey pairing despite seemingly moving away from it for a time. Still, it's possible there's something else on Brett's mind than the breakup with Grainger.

Tune in to Chicago Fire on Wednesday, May 5 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC to see the "Don't Hang Up" episode that will deliver even more pressure to Stella Kidd, reveal Casey's new outlook on life, and more. The season finales for all three shows of One Chicago are fast-approaching, so be sure not to miss an episode. If you have missed any of the action of the 2020-2021 TV season, you can check out Chicago Fire (as well as Med and P.D.) streaming on Peacock now.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).