Denis Leary by Timothy White/FX
The summer would be just a little less hot without the boys from Ladder 62. Fortunately, FX is keeping our Rescue Me passion stoked with 10 "minisodes" (Tuesdays at 10 pm/ET and also at Crackle.com). The five-minute standalone vignettes will premiere June 24 as a sort of preview to the strike-delayed fifth season (which isn't kicking off until April '09). Series cocreator and star Denis Leary chatted with us about those, as well as the status of Tatum O'Neal. - Mike Flaherty

TV Guide: These minisodes seem ideally suited for a show like Rescue Me.
Dennis Leary:
Yeah. It would be really hard for another drama to do them. But we have comedy and drama, as well as giant action sequences, which play well in small doses. People will get a taste of everything they like about the show.

TV Guide: Tell me about a couple of the plotlines.
Leary:
In one, Sean Garrity ( Steven Pasquale) spills a drink in his bed while the guys are asleep in the bunkroom, and he decides to climb into bed with Tommy. Needless to say, when they both wake up before the other guys, it's a nightmare. In another, Lou ( John Scurti) makes his famous donuts - according to the fiction of the show they are the best donuts known to man. And as it happens, it's during that same week that Garrity decides to go on a fast. Bad timing!

TV Guide: Will we see any guest stars?
Leary:
Karina Lombard, who is probably best known in this country for having been on The L Word, is playing a French journalist who's working on an oral history of 9/11, and that creates a lot of problems - certain people don't want to talk about it, and other people can't stop talking about it. It's a really interesting character and it's an interesting set of circumstances.

TV Guide: These minisodes sound destined to become DVD extras.
Leary:
Oh, yeah. In fact, I think at the end of this 10-week run, FX is going to run them as one special episode.

TV Guide: Naturally, fans are wondering if Tatum O'Neal's recent drug bust will affect her participation in Season 5....
Leary:
No. Tatum had already shot a couple of episodes and she was really on top of her game. Obviously she needs to take care of her own mental health at this point, but we can't wait to get her back.

TV Guide: So she will be coming back?
Leary:
Oh, yeah. Definitely.

TV Guide: I understand you're shooting 22 episodes now, right?
Leary:
Yeah. We finish shooting the beginning of next March. What we're probably going to do is run 13, and in there they'll probably be a week or two-week break and then the other nine are going to run.

TV Guide: Can you give me an overview of the new season?
Leary:
The dramatic overview is "Who is Tommy Gavin?" Is he the sober Tommy Gavin or is he old Tommy Gavin, or is he a combination of the two? And in that sense, where does he go and what does he do - not just as a firefighter but as a guy? It's all about who he's going to end up with and how he's going to decide to live.

TV Guide: How does the death of his father affect him?
Leary:
It doesn't really have an immediate effect on him, but it's actually killing everybody else around him. And he's sort of trying to decide if it's strange that he doesn't have the reaction that everybody else is having, or if he's just finally empty after all the grief he's gone through over all the people in his life who have died.