[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the premiere episode of 9-1-1: Lone Star. Read at your own risk!]
Fox's 9-1-1 universe officially expanded Sunday evening with the series premiere of the Texas-based spin-off 9-1-1: Lone Star, which puts Rob Lowe in the
saddle lead as Capt. Owen Strand, a fire chief charged with rebuilding an Austin firehouse after nearly its entire crew died in an explosion. The sole survivor of the station is Jim Parrack's Judd Ryder, who was also on the scene of the fateful blaze, but was just far enough outside of the blast's radius to survive where the rest of his crew did not.
In the premiere, Judd is reluctant to accept the authority of Strand after he puts him on the bench and insists Judd needs to address his post-traumatic stress from the deadly catastrophe. Even though Strand knows what he's talking about here — he lost everyone in his New York City firehouse at Ground Zero on 9/11 — Judd is still angered over being sidelined by this newcomer, especially when he notices all of the photos and belongings of his fallen friends have disappeared from the firehouse.
However, after Owen Strand manages to recruit his new crew and pulls off a few rescues around Austin, he and Judd Ryder have a heart-to-heart which culminates in Strand revealing a tribute wall he's created for his lost friends. Judd is truly touched by the gesture and seems to gain new respect for the Captain, who in turn allows Judd to hop on the truck for the next emergency call.
TV Guide caught up with Jim Parrack at the Television Critics Association winter tour to talk about creating the emotion of that final moment and find out whether Judd is really ready to follow Owen Strand's orders from now on.
Why do you think Judd needs to get back in the saddle so fast?
Jim Parrack: Being a firefighter is the thing that propels him through life. And particularly one of his stripe and tradition, there are people who — they're so emblematically for the place they're from. There's a mindset in which if you take that away, the man doesn't exist any longer.
So, why do you think he rejects the opportunity to take time to heal? Owen did not necessarily say you can't come back. He just wanted a little more time.
Parrack: Initially, it was an intruder in my home telling me what the wallpaper should look like. It's like, who the f-- is this guy? He's gonna tell me in my own backyard if I work or if I don't? Once you get over the pride of that, the second time I said no was because I wasn't prepared to face the inner wounds.
Is that going to come back and backfire against him, that he didn't take that time?
Parrack: Well, we'll just have to see. Because without giving anything away, at some point I consider getting help.
How important to him was it that he saw that wall — that tribute? Was that the game-changer?
Parrack: Yeah, that was when he won me over. That was a really interesting day [on set] because I'd had that script for about two months there, and I don't like when I see people faking emotion ... So, to me, that's not an option. For two months, I knew I [wouldn't] get to fake that moment. That moment doesn't allow me to really interpret the emotion of it. It's gotta knock you on your ass with the pain of it. So for two months, I had the willingness to stay open to what that might be like. Then on the day [of the shoot], I just told the director, 'Let's try to do one take, please.' And I think we did two.
Judd doesn't seem like the guy who's willing to take second place. With the rules of succession, maybe he believes he should've been given this job to rebuild the firehouse. Is that going to come up at all?
Parrack: I think you're right in that it's not the kind of guy who would like that. At the same time, if the leadership is good... and I'm not the leader yet, the main thing about being a firefighter is just do the most of the position you're in. It's like the military in that way; a good future general ain't trying to be general right now. Right? In fact, that's treason.
So, he respects Strand?
Parrack: Yeah, once I see him demonstrate that our values are similar when it comes to this job. It doesn't matter that much anymore what his values are like outside of that. We're brothers now. I thought it was such good writing to allow us to enact that instead of describing or explaining it. It was one of those days where I just said a prayer, and let's go ... I know on the day [of shooting], something very real happened.
9-1-1: Lone Star's second episode will air on Fox on Monday, Jan. 20 at 8/7c, the show's regular time slot.