Chances are, if you watched last night's Third Watch season finale, the image of Alex Taylor's severed body lying on the pavement remains etched in your psyche. Although NBC's promo department for weeks had been warning us that "someone won't be back," nothing could have prepared viewers for the grisly nature of Alex's death. For those who missed it, here's the sitch: While filling in as paramedic at the scene of a car crash, the trailblazing firefighter was sliced in two by a sudden explosion. (For added impact, Alex's legs hit the ground seconds

after her torso. Yeesh.) Fortunately, the character's portrayer, actress Amy Carlson, remains wholly composed in the wake of the tragedy. In this exclusive interview, the former soap star gives TV Guide Online readers the lowdown on Alex's haunting death, including why she had to go and which Third Watcher could be next.

TV Guide Online: First off, why did this happen? Was it your decision to leave?
Amy Carlson:
Yes. I've been itching to do other stuff. I've loved the stuff they did with the firefighters, but really, it's become a cop show. So, I wanted to do other things, explore other characters and work more. It's a cop show now, and I was a firefighter.

TVGO: Was it amicable?
Carlson:
Completely. [Exec. producer] John Wells was like, "I get it. You want to work more." He was very supportive.

TVGO: What was your reaction when you found out Alex was being killed off?
Carlson:
I was like, "Oh, it must be sweeps." (Laughing) And my second reaction was, "Oh, the poor dear. She never even had a chance." This character has been through so much, I was sad for her.

TVGO: How did you feel about the way they were killing her off?
Carlson:
To be honest, I was like, "Ewww." (Laughing.) It was shocking. I'm curious what the reaction is going to be [from viewers]. I spoke to head writer [Ed Bernero], and he wanted to do something that no one would ever forget.

TVGO: Were you upset?
Carlson:
My boyfriend was more disturbed about it than I was. My biggest concern about it was that I wanted the character to die with dignity.

TVGO: Speaking of which, were you disappointed that she died performing the job of paramedic and not firefighter?
Carlson:
Actually, a little bit.

TVGO: She never won the battle.
Carlson:
She never did win that battle. That's another thing that makes it sad.

TVGO: What was it like shooting that scene?
Carlson:
It was very disturbing for everyone; it was gruesome. It was emotional. What made it more challenging was that as soon as we got to my close-ups, it started to freezing rain and hail. So, I was laying on the ground in Harlem soaking wet to the bone. It was tough, because as an actor, you really want to relax and let go. But I was frozen.

TVGO: Who's legs were those lying next to you?
Carlson:
My stunt girl, Jodi Pynn's legs. She's been my stunt girl throughout the whole show, so in my mind, those were my legs because I felt so close to her.

TVGO: What happened when you wrapped for the day?
Carlson:
The crew had gotten me two dozen white roses and a single red rose. Then I said a little speech thanking everyone. It's such a hard show to shoot, and the crew has just been amazing to me over the years.

TVGO: What about the cast?
Carlson:
They were there, too.

TVGO: Were they sad?
Carlson:
(Pausing) A little bit. I had blood dripping down my face and my hair was sticking straight up, so I don't know if they were crying because I looked so bad or because I was leaving. There were definitely tears. But this is the life of an actor. The saddest thing was that [co-star] Eddie Cibrian wasn't there.

TVGO: Yeah, where was he?
Carlson:
He was shooting a pilot.

TVGO: Is he the next to go?
Carlson:
I don't know. But as I said, it's becoming a cop show. [NBC declined to comment on Cibrian's Third Watch future.]

TVGO: Why is it turning into a cop show?
Carlson:
I don't know. After 9/11, I thought we did some terrific stuff with the firefighters, and I was hoping it would go more in that direction. Maybe it's cheaper to shoot a cop show. I don't think they ever figured out how to tell stories with the firefighters without blowing something up.

TVGO: Has it been tough to keep Alex's death a secret from everyone?
Carlson:
Yes! I'm going to be so glad when I'm out!

TVGO: Who did you tell?
Carlson:
My family and friends knew. I had to warn my parents. I was a little worried about them.

TVGO: What's next for you?
Carlson:
I don't want to jinx anything, but I have a couple of movies I'm waiting to hear about. This is a really exciting time for me.Was Alex's death too graphic? Click here to vote.