While the world of television production was once dominated by four main hubs in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Vancouver, over the years, other cities have begun entering the TV game, none perhaps more aggressively than the windy city itself, Chicago. Thanks to the likes of Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and this season’s new Fox drama Empire, the home of deep dish has quickly grown into a home for heavy-hitting drama. However, that doesn’t mean the city lacks a funny bone.
Enter USA’s Sirens.
Co-created by Rescue Me’s Denis Leary and writer Bob Fisher, Sirens follows the journey of three EMT’s working throughout the city. Together, the trio of Johnny, Hank and Brian find themselves getting into serious but hilarious hot water while doing what they do best: saving lives. Now in production on its second season of 13 episodes set to debut in 2015, USA offered Nerdist the opportunity to take a peek behind the curtain of the series in order to learn just what makes it tick, and that we did.
What immediately stands-out about the first responder comedy is the abundance of pride the entire production staff has for the show. While the situations are absolutely absurd 99% of the time, the gravity of these guys’ jobs is not lost on them. In a chat with co-creator Bob Fisher, the writer explained the changes the series went through in order to get to that point. According to the executive producer, in an older version of the pilot, Hank and Johnny were cracking many more jokes in the middle of a life-or-death situation. The writers soon realized this would play heartless to viewers, and the idea was stripped away in order to sell audiences on the belief the gang cares about doing their job right more than anything else.
In the same conversation, Fisher went on to praise many of the actors, particularly that of the recently promoted Josh Segarra (Billy), who was in the middle of shooting a scene involving fan-favorite Lenny Clark during the chat. In fact, many of the showrunner’s smiles and laughs during shooting came from a single line Segarra continued modifying between takes – sometimes becoming more silly, other times choosing to scale things back. However, no matter how many times Segarra and the rest of the cast did the scene, it was incredible to watch their ability to find just the right comedic tone in what was otherwise a very serious moment.
During our sit-down with stars Michael Mosley (who offered everyone fried chicken between takes), Kevin Daniels and Kevin Bigley (which you’ll be able to read in full later on), the gang explained their pension for improvisation and how the various writers and directors will often use the actors’ creativity as tools to get them out of one scene and into another. This was of course after a chat about Bigley’s short role in the recently released Joe Carnahan film, Stretch. “We’re trying to figure out how to get ‘Bitches & Tits’ into [a rig scene],” exclaimed Daniels. If you watch the show and ever think, “Man, those guys look like they’re having a great time,” it’s because they are.
In fact, perhaps the greatest proof of that is what happens during shooting breaks, where much of the cast and crew gather in the back of their Chicago soundstage and, despite bitter, shiver-inducing weather, set up a makeshift hockey goal and take turns shooting pucks at the target. From Daniels to supporting actor Bill Nun, everyone, as they passed by for lunch or to go home, took a shot. But, at least during our time there, no one scored. These guys are great actors, but the NHL’s next superstars they are not.
There couldn’t have been a better way to experience Sirens than by taking a trip to their Chicago home. Everyone is as kind and funny as you’d imagine them to be, especially Bill Nun, who showed up just to meet the press and talk about the show – even though he had nothing to shoot that day. Right now, the Sirens team has one goal for their second season: raise the bar. There will be comedy, there will be drama, and there will be feels. Though we can’t tell you exactly how, if you were a fan of season one you’re definitely going to be taken on a ride for season two. If you’re a newcomer to the series, you can also rest assured knowing the 2015 premiere will be a great place to jump in.
Sirens premieres January 27, 2015 at 10/9c on USA.