Station 19 a spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy is now into season 2. It’s based on stories that they’ve heard or read about created into a TV series. While I was in LA I got the chance to visit the set of Station 19 but was first greeted by the Station 19 stars Boris Kodjoe, Jaina Lee Ortiz, and writer Stacy McKee for Q&A.
Stacy McKee has been a Showrunner and Executive Producer for Grey’s Anatomy since season one and moved up the ranks finishing in Season 13 to then create a spinoff about firefighters for Station 19. She talks about how she came up with the show Station 19, storylines, being a fan, and more.
Q: How did the show come about?
Stacy McKee: “It was a natural sort of extension of the Grey’s universe because it still involves medicine and in the background of all the Grey’s episodes, you see all of the first responders scootching into the breezeway, dropping off patients and then you know, really quickly we dispense with them and get them out of the scene so we could focus on the surgeon.”
“But what about if we got back in the ambulance and drove away with them and then started to see what their life was like? What if there was a fire station, 3 blocks down from this hospital that we’ve been seeing for 13 years and they have a whole life that’s been going on this whole time too. What if we just shine a light over there so that was really sort of the beginning gestation of the idea and it’s just also just something really appealing to me. You know Grey’s makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you feel things and it was really appealing to me to show those same types of emotions, and the same type of humor but to do it in a world of first responders.”
“Especially right now, this day and age, I feel like the world can be tough. There’s a lot of difficulties when you wake up every morning, you open up your news, there’s stuff that’s hard. And to focus on a group of people whose only job is to help other people. Doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter what color you are, what your religion is, doesn’t matter what your politics are. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that if you are a person who needs help, these characters will help you. And to me, that was just remarkable. I wanted to put that little piece of joy out into the world. It’s so unifying and universal. And it seems like this was the right moment to tell stories like these.”
“Well, I literally grew up on the show because I started there. I was a wee baby, look at me, I’m so young. But yeah, it’s been such a huge part of my life too. I’m a fan first, I’m always a fan first. You guys know this. I kind of geek out over every episode. We screen them sometimes and I get up and I just gush because you know, I’m basically you guys. I write things I want to watch. And then we’ve got these amazing people on. Jaina was the first person cast on the show. And at the time, there wasn’t even really a show. It was the kernel of an idea. I was in my office frantically trying to I think to finish an outline or something and I got this call from Shonda saying, we’ve met our Andy. I was like what? And so that was, you know, that’s how that kicked off and that was amazing. And then Boris came on this season!”
Jaina Lee Ortiz was the first person casted on the show but did you know that she took the actual firefighter test? Yes, it’s true.
Jaina Lee Ortiz: “I mean before the show even started talking to her, I signed onto the show the second I heard Shonda Rhimes is doing a spin-off, I said yes, I don’t care what it is, just put me in. Luckily, I found out it was about firefighters, I went and met 2 female captains and I was like Oh my gosh, these ladies are bad-ass and they could do everything. They could be moms and work and still have a life and balance. And so just, it’s been I can’t even, it’s been a dream, it’s… Pinch me!”
Boris Kodjoe became a part of the cast for the second season and talks about his transition to the show.
Boris Kodjoe: “Well I wanted to be a part of the show from the first episode as well. And unfortunately, that didn’t happen. So I had to wait patiently in the wings until it was possible and yeah, Code Black was canceled on a Friday and I think I met with Stacy on a Monday and it was pretty much done Monday night. I was ready to pounce. No absolutely, first of all, Shondaland is a universe that I wanted to be a part of ever since Shonda appeared on the horizon. And for some reason, it never worked out so that was a huge draw for me as well. And then meeting Stacy and Betsy just did the trick.”
“I love how great the writers are and to sort of put myself in the hands of someone like Stacy is an absolute pleasure and honor really, because you know that every single episode – and I had that experience once before but this really tops it – where you don’t think it can get any better and then you open a script and then the script is better than the script that you read before, and that’s always an amazing surprise and it’s so much fun to go to work because not only do you get to speak these words but also work with people like Jaina and people who have been so embracing of me.”
“And this is such a great atmosphere and to Stacy that speaks to what you bring to this universe because it starts at the top and then it sort of trickles down all the way to everybody else and I’ve been part of sets where it wasn’t the case where there was a lot of negativity and people just not happy to be there and this is just a pleasure to be a part of, every single day.”
Q: Any new storylines this season?
Stacy McKee: “Yes, all of them, so many of them. The thing that we get to do with Season 2 that is so exciting for me that we didn’t really have a huge chance to with Season 1 cause there [were only] 10 episodes, so you’re really just establishing the world and sort starting to dip into who these characters are. This season, we’ve earned the right to really explore who these characters are. We get to learn about their past, we get to see their interactions with one another, the relationships that have formed prior to the show starting and then after. To me, now we get to really dig deeper. I feel like we just barely scratched the surface in Season 1 and now we get to get into some really good juicy character stuff which is my wheelhouse. It’s the stuff I love so that’s the stuff I’m most excited about really.”
Jaina Lee Ortiz: “The question that we have, Boris here is Captain Sullivan this seasons and I don’t know if you noticed, he’s shaken things up around the fire station a little bit.”
Boris Kodjoe: “Just a little bit.”
Jaina Lee Ortiz: “So you know, that’s pretty fun too to have that dynamic, to have a person that everyone in the station can sort of push up against and have him push right back and not be intimidated.”
Stacy McKee: “Push up against!”
Boris Kodjoe: “Hey, hey. That’s later this season.”
Q: How do you make the set look so real on TV?
Stacy McKee: “Basically our main set is a fire station set which is so cool. The interior of it is all on our stages. The exterior is all shot on location in Seattle. As for the incidents with the fires and stuff, it’s sort of a combination. We have both practical fire that we do a lot on our burn stage. We have a stage that we sort of dedicate to burning things up. But we also then supplement and add a lot of CG fire as well. So it’s both a combination of computer-generated, really crazy fire and then some practical stuff that we can use that’s still safe for everybody to be around.”
“And it’s been a real learning process. I’m used to working on a hospital show where all we have to do is like pretend we’re doing surgery on like a piece of meat or something. And the scope of this is so different that it’s been a real learning curve for everybody, just even the physicality that Jaina and Boris have to go through, just even wearing the turnouts. Some of the sweat and the exhaustion that you see on these guys’ faces, is fully real.”
Boris Kodjoe: “40 pounds of gear with a helmet.”
Q: Did you volunteer with firefighters and see how that affects their lives?
Stacy McKee: “Yeah, in fact, almost every story that we tell is inspired by something that we’ve heard from or heard about from a first responder. We have a lot of firefighter consultants and paramedic consultants both in the Los Angeles area and in Seattle because some of the specifics are regional and so we wanted to make sure we could be as authentic as possible. And again, because I always tell a story from a character’s point of view first, I always as the tough questions, like what was your toughest call? What’s the one you’ve never been able to forget? What’s your most inspiring call? It’s usually like the smallest fire that had the biggest effects because of the family that it was affecting or something. So to me, those pieces of the story are more authentic and that’s our wheelhouse, that’s what I want to tell.”
Station 19 Set Visit
After we chatted, we had a chance to browse around the set. On the set, there is the house they live in, firehouse station, fire equipment which they actually wear while filming and the firetruck. It’s amazing how a small set can appear so big on TV. Check out the set visit in pictures!
Be sure to tune into ABC to watch Station 19 on Thursdays 9/8c.
‘Station 19,’ the latest series from the executive producers of ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Scandal’ and ‘How to Get Away with Murder,’ follows a group of heroic firefighters at Seattle Fire Station 19 – from captain to newest recruit – as they risk their lives and hearts both in the line of duty and off the clock. These brave men and women are like family, literally and figuratively, and together they put their own lives in jeopardy as first responders to save the lives of others.