‘Fire Country’ Co-Creator on Plans to ‘Build Out a Franchise’ and Mixed Reactions From Cal Fire Firefighters

Rexa Vella

‘Fire Country’ Co-Creator on Plans to ‘Build Out a Franchise’ and Mixed Reactions From Cal Fire Firefighters

SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for the Season 2 premiere of “Fire Country.”

“Fire Country” is ready to change everything with its sophomore season. For Season 2, which launched with its explosive premiere on Feb. 16, executive producer and co-creator Tony Phelan says that they wanted to “shake up everything” on the CBS procedural, which began with a six-month time jump from the last season’s finale. Every character is in a new place.

“Some of them have changed jobs. Some of them have changed relationships. It was a big reset,” he says.

Many viewers may have been shocked (and sad!) to see that not only did Gabriela (Stephanie Arcila) start dating someone two months after Bode (Max Thieroit) left — she originally visited him in prison and he refused to see her, plus her letters went without a response — but that she is engaged to her new boyfriend, Diego (Rafael de la Fuente), by the end of the first episode.

“There was always so much turmoil around her relationship with Bode. In a way, she was so hurt by the fact that she continually tried to reach out to him and he kept shutting her down with his silence that she said you know what, screw it. I’m gonna walk away from this,” says Phelan. “In doing so, she meets Diego, who it seems like is a perfect fit for her. He’s very stable, reliable, handsome and good at his job and he sees her for who she is.”

At the end of the premiere, Bode returns to Edgewater after getting out of prison, which means he’s back to firefighting with his ex and her new fiancé. Things will be “fraught,” as one could imagine, as they’re all forced to co-exist in the same small town.

CBS

Going forward, that town will become more of a character as “Fire Country” expands. The network is eyeing a police-focused spinoff and, later this season, Morena Baccarin will guest star as Sheriff Mickey in an episode seemingly serving as a backdoor pilot for the potential spinoff.

“She shows up about midway through the season and she’s fantastic,” Phelan says. “Our intention was always to show more of Edgewater, more of this town and more of the people in this town and how they relate to our characters. It feels like we really are expanding our scope a little bit.”

While the show wasn’t originally planned as a launching point for a franchise, the audience engagement is there — and procedural franchises do well, as shown in everything from “Law & Order” and “One Chicago” to “NCIS” and “CSI.”

“Because people respond to this small town and the people who are there, there are more stories to tell,” Phelan says, careful not to reveal whether the property plans to expand to multiple different shows. “We’ll have to play it by year. I don’t feel like we would ever want to capitalize on the show if we weren’t fully committed to the idea behind it. You have to know that there are enough stories to fill 22 episodes in a season to build out that franchise. Also, you want to create a world in which these characters can interact with each other, but they’re not totally isolated in their little bubble.”

The power of the procedural is only growing, especially today, and streaming helps. “People like the comfort and the ease of coming home after a hard day and not having to choose what they’re going to watch,” Phelan says. “Shows that do 22 episodes a season for a couple of years, there is an ease to them, and you really do get to see these characters in all sorts of different situations. So there’s a familiarity and a comfort to it.”

Another element that’s important for the “Fire Country” team is accuracy. Ahead of the show’s first season, Cal Fire staff released a statement claiming that the show does not represent the values of their firefighters. However, actual first responders have been supportive, Phelan says.

“There’s a distinction between the organization and from individual firefighters. My interaction with individual firefighters has always been very positive. They think that the show portrays firefighters and these first responders as heroes, which is how we see them, leading very complicated lives,” he tells Variety. “When we were doing ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ certainly we had a contingent of surgeons who felt like, ‘You’re cutting corners in storytelling. That’s not exactly how it happens.’ But I think that you chalk that up to dramatic license.”

“Fire Country” airs on CBS on Fridays at 9 p.m. ET.

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