On Tuesday's episode of Chicago Fire, Casey (Jesse Spencer) revealed that he wanted to be a firefighter ever since he was a little boy. In my experience in just one day on the set of Chicago Fire, I learned that I should never, ever consider being a firefighter - or even playing one on TV.
During my set visit, I thought it would be fun to walk a mile in the shoes of the Chicago Fire cast (so to speak) by trying on the same costume the members of 51 wear while they're battling blazes. With cast members Taylor Kinney and Monica Raymund on hand to offer assistance, we set out to get me suited up.
The first thing I learned was that, in real life, you'd have about 15 seconds to get out of your civilian gear and into the uniform - a.k.a., stepping into large boots, pulling up heavy, fire-retardant pants via suspenders, and topping the whole thing off with a jacket and suspenders. And the clothes aren't all. Once all the clothing's on, now comes the fun part: the oxygen tank (which Christian Stolte tried to convince me was a soup dispenser). The whole shebang weighs 60 pounds, I was told, with the tank making up the bulk of that. So, the next time you see an actor casually sling an oxygen tank over their shoulder like it's an empty JanSport backpack? Basically, that should be its own Olympic event. My back is still recovering.
Needless to say, I immediately failed the 15-second test, and I'm pretty sure the real actors realized they had a dud recruit on their hands. In my defense, the uniform was not exactly my size ... and I can barely get matching socks on my feet on a good morning in my own apartment.
Then there's the mask. I have a new appreciation for Monica Raymund's ability to make Dawson look good even in the midst of battling a blaze. My first mistake? Not tying my hair back - meaning, as several cast members pointed out, my uncontained locks would be totally scorched by the flames. In general, the mask is just not an accessory I would want to wear every day, or ever again. Luckily I had some help from Raymund, who shared her technique:
By this point, it was clear that I was never going to make it as a 51 candidate. Once the cast realized this, they decided to have a little fun by loading me up with literally everything they could get their hands on in the immediate area. Kinney handed me a bunch of bananas, David Eigenberg ran over with a hose, and Stolte topped the whole thing off with a cooler. In the midst of all of this, the oxygen timer went off, putting a final nail in my very cumbersome coffin.
"So, how would I do on a firefighter exam?" I asked Kinney and Raymund at the end.
"You'd be dead," Kinney replied.
"You'd be burnt to a crisp," Raymund added. "You'd be crispy chicken."
Check out the video above to see how a simple costume demonstration devolved into chaos. In short, it would not be in anyone's best interest for me to ever run into a burning building, fake or not.
Chicago Fire airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on NBC.