Before Chicago Fire premieres October 10, don’t be dissuaded from watching by all of the men you see in the previews. The women of the show are very much part of the story, including rescue squad EMT Leslie Shay, played by Lauren German. In the pilot you find out Leslie is a lesbian after her squadmates convince the new guy to hit on her and she asks him, “Are you gay? Because I am.” She smirks at her peers, who laugh uncontrollably and the new guy slinks away, red-faced.
It’s this kind of humor and heart that Chicago Fire has that you also can’t glean from previews, but that’s why you’ll have to tune in to see Dick Wolf‘s newest drama at work. The Law & Order creator is executive producer of the show based on a real life firehouse in Chicago that is home to both a fire squad and a rescue squad who are consistently battling for who is the biggest and the best squad. Each of the squad members have their own stories and personalities which will be fleshed out throughout the series, and Lauren said she already knows a little bit about where her character is headed.
“Fortunately like Dick Wolf said we’re making a show that isn’t a ‘fire of the week’ type show so you’ll get to know all of us,” German said after the Chicago Fire panel at NBC’s TCA press day. “Leslie Shay is a paramedic, she’s partnered with Monica [Raymund]’s character, Dawson. She’s a tough cookie but I think, out of the cast, Shay sort of gets a lot of the humor, which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve always kind of wanted to do comedy and it seems like, for a drama, I get to have as much fun as possible.”
The cast of Chicago Fire
In the pilot, German and Raymund are perfectly paired partners, working together to save a young girl who inhaled too much smoke. They take the heat for one another when need be, and are respected members of the firehouse. In fact Leslie is roommates and best friends with one of the big guys on campus, Serveride, played by Taylor Kinney.
“We haven’t even started shooting our second episode yet so we’re still kind of developing the basics,” German said. “I know it gets into my dating. I start off single on the dating scene.”
German, who refers to her character largely by her last name in true firehouse form, said she’s always wanted to play two kinds of roles: “A hooker and someone in the medical field — so we’ve knocked one out now.” Her dad is a vascular surgeon, so German said she grew up in hospitals and around medical terminology and equipment. “I just really admire the profession,” she said. “These people, they get overlooked. People forget about them and all they do all day long is save lives left and right. And that excites me. That is fun for me.”
Before shooting on the pilot started, German and Raymund rode in ambulances with the two women who were inspiration for their characters. “I don’t know what could have been more helpful. We saw anything from this guy almost jumping off the 50th floor; Michelle and Margaret saved a woman’s life in the ambulance,” she said of the EMTs. “She was going into cardiac arrest and like almost flatlined and we watch her save this woman’s life. We saw a lot of pretty intense stuff. It’s just very helpful to have them there and just sort of see how focused and almost not dramatic in a lot of ways. Like what’s actually happening is dramatic enough. There’s no time for them to do anything else but just focus on saving a person’s life and just sort of see that was very helpful for me. And I’ll continue to train. I fly right after this back to Chicago and any day off I am going to go in the ambulance with them.”
Lauren German and Monica Raymund
Besides the respect she has for the occupation, German said she appreciates her character’s sense of humor.
“She’s kind of like goofy, down to earth, one of the guys so to speak,” she said. “I like that I get to have humor. As great as my other jobs have been on television, I’ve never really —Ii’ve sort of been the heavy or the serious. I like that Michael and Derek and Dick Wolf are letting my real, immature, lame personality come through into my character.”
Before joining Chicago Fire, German guest starred on Hawaii 5-0 and producers wanted her to stay on until “politics were involved” and female fans of the show didn’t like her character. “To each his own,” German said with a shrug, because then she got this gig and she couldn’t be happier. She said she’s played a few other lesbian characters before but this one doesn’t fall into “cliches of homosexuality.”
“That’s one thing I was really impressed by in the script,” she said. “It’s very normal, as it should be I think. And yeah, I think she’s beyond being out of the closet. It’s just like any other thing. It just is, and I like that.”
As for if Shay’s sexuality factors into how German plays her, the actress said it didn’t cross her mind.
“I mean love is love and I personally would approach it no differently,” German said. “I’ve played a few lesbians and I have gay and lesbian friends and I don’t think it’s really any different. It’s almost like asking a straight character ‘how do you play straight?’ You’re just attracted to what you’re attracted to. It’s really just playing whatever’s going on in the scene.”
Chicago Fire debuts this fall on NBC.