Holy smoke! Law & Order creator Dick Wolf's NBC drama Chicago Fire mixes buff bods, heroic action and — in a startling change from Wolf's previous procedurals — satisfyingly soapy storylines. This combo has helped make the sophomore series a hot date on Tuesday nights for more than 8 million viewers. "What we're doing here is the equivalent of big studio movies that have huge action sequences," says Wolf. Stars Jesse Spencer (Lt. Matt Casey), Taylor Kinney (Lt. Kelly Severide), Lauren German (EMT Leslie Shay) and Monica Raymund (EMT Gabriela Dawson) share what it's like to play the brave members of the loving yet dysfunctional family that is Firehouse 51.
TV Guide Magazine: Now that you're experienced at playing first responders, do you think you could actually help someone in real life?
German: I'm trained in CPR, and I can start an IV. My father is a vascular surgeon, so I grew up in hospitals.
Raymund: I'm definitely comfortable performing CPR — mostly on extremely good-looking people. [Laughs] I was at a play one night and an audience member passed out, so calls went out for a doctor or a paramedic. I swear, the entire audience looked at me, and I was like, "No! I just pretend to be one on TV."
TV Guide Magazine: You're climbing ladders and searching smoke-filled rooms. This show is not easy to shoot!
Spencer: We work under some really uncomfortable conditions. Actual firemen on the set think it's hilarious that we do all this stuff over and over, all day. In reality, they do something once. Obviously, it's not as dangerous, but the repetition wears you down.
Kinney: I wanted to be a stunt guy when I was a kid. So I'll rappel off roofs or jump out of a car that's falling off a building. I even got my scuba-diving certificate [for the show]. I think the producers were just covering their asses in the event that I died. [Laughs] They could say, "He knew what he was doing!" The underwater rescue this season was one of the coolest stunts I've ever done.
TV Guide Magazine: What's been fun for the rest of you?
Raymund: Playing a paramedic, I don't get a chance to go into the fires a lot, so I have the most fun when I get to go on the burn stage with the guys.
Spencer: My character likes swinging from ladders 40 feet high, holding on with one hand, while trying to escape fireballs. Those scenes are the most exciting for me.
TV Guide Magazine: Has there been a scene that you still can't shake?
Spencer: The scene we've all gone back to was in Season 1 when a boy in a chute suffocated and the whole firehouse dressed in their formal blues to salute him as his hearse went by in the funeral procession. It was really powerful.
TV Guide Magazine: Does that moment bring home the kind of people you're representing on screen?
Spencer: Yes. Filming at the actual firehouse does as well. It's a really moving place with the badges on the wall of firefighters who were lost in the line of duty.
For more on Chicago Fire, pick up this week's digital issue of TV Guide Magazine, available on Thursday, Nov. 14!