[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Tuesday's season premiere of 9-1-1: Lone Star. Read at your own risk!]
The first responders of 9-1-1: Lone Star are back on the scene. In the Season 4 premiere of the hit FOX procedural drama, Captains Owen Strand (Rob Lowe) and Tommy Vega (Gina Torres) along with members of the 126 were called to the scene of a county fair after a "Derecho," a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms, hit Austin, Texas, causing a wide path of destruction and even leading to an even rarer weather phenomenon known as a heat burst.
In personal news, Owen's newfound passion for motorcycling seems to have put him on a collision course with a biker gang that might be preparing to launch a violent attack. Tommy opens herself up to the possibility of dating again after encountering a handsome single father named Trevor (D.B. Woodside) on multiple calls at the county fair—only to later discover that he is the new pastor of her church. And after discovering that their dream wedding venue has an opening in eight weeks, Carlos (Rafael L. Silva) tells T.K. (Ronen Rubinstein) that he is already married—in name only—to a woman: Iris (Lyndsy Fonseca), the younger sister of his former best friend, Michelle (Liv Tyler).
Following the premiere, TV Guide called up showrunner Tim Minear to discuss how the reintroduction of Iris will throw a wrench into the plans for T.K. and Carlos' upcoming wedding, Tommy's personal dilemma, and his plans to dig into the backstories of the show's fan-favorite characters.
What prompted the decision to bring back Iris, and how will she factor into the continued evolution of Carlos and his relationship with T.K. this season?
Tim Minear: The decision to bring her back was just because we could. It's one of those things where you get into year four, and you start to realize that you've been slowly, brick by brick, building a universe, and this felt like a real character that we hadn't revisited, partially because of the pandemic and partially because T.K. was in a coma many times. [Laughs.]
But I always knew that Carlos and Iris had a deep connection, and probably, he was much closer with her before she was missing than he was with Michelle. [Iris] is much more his age. And the idea that they were married before felt right to me. It was a great way to draw on the canon of the show, of pre-existing storylines, and I just felt it was great for Rafael. I gotta say: The scenes with Rafael and Lyndsy are some of my favorite scenes of the season. They have so much, like, BFF chemistry together. It's crazy.
Rafael told me that in the first season, you gave him this backstory to explain why Carlos and Michelle were so close, so this storyline has been gestating for a while now.
Minear: I don't know if I told him that [Carlos and Iris] were married, but I did tell him that I felt like they were best friends and probably had some kind of aborted romance when he was still questioning and trying to please his parents. So I think it's always been in the DNA of that story.
Why did you decide to go with the secret that Carlos was legally married to Iris? Were there ever any other secrets that were pitched in the writers' room?
Minear: No, Carlos is just so wholesome. I don't think he's got "dirty" secrets, if you know what I mean. To me, you're crafting a story with a whole bunch of reasons why you go down a particular path, and one of the things you want is something that has actual stakes or ramifications. Now, there are really no stakes in the fact that Carlos is married to Iris. I have characters saying it on screen: "She can't stop you from getting married. She knows he's gay."
The only real stakes as far as T.K. is concerned is that you have to be divorced a month to legally get married again, and when Nancy says to him, "So just get married and sort out the legalities later," he's not up to that. He's like, "We fought hard to have our marriages acknowledged by the government. And when I say I do, I want the world to know that I did."
But for Carlos, the stakes are: "[For] this woman, who's a friend of mine, who I feel deeply guilty for not really checking in on, is my re-emergence in her life going to disrupt her recovery? Is withdrawing her legal protections [as] my lawful wife and [not] having access to all my insurance going to hurt her?" Carlos is always about helping others and particularly somebody who he loves. … He's not gonna think about himself first. That's just not who he is.
Iris wants to meet T.K. before signing the divorce papers with Carlos—and she's not joking. What can you preview about their encounter in the next episode and the issues that arise out of those conversations?
Minear: To me, it's a very light-hearted storyline in some ways, because Lyndsy is so funny, and I compare it a little bit to what we did with T.K.'s sponsor last year. Carlos was on the outside looking in and couldn't quite understand or appreciate that that relationship served something for T.K. that he couldn't, and here it's T.K. on the outside looking in. Here, Carlos already has a wife, and he has a relationship with this woman where they don't even have to finish their sentences. They understand each other, so I think that feels alarming to T.K.
But I think what's amusing about it, for me, is that Carlos doesn't want to push Iris. You know she's gonna come around eventually. And for T.K., this is just like, "Here's this woman asking all these questions and sort of trying to vet me. Where does she get off [doing that]? And who does she think she is?" [But] on the other hand, "I don't want to piss off Carlos by saying any of that." So it allows us to poke fun at T.K., which I think the audience will enjoy. It doesn't drag on forever.
How close are you guys to writing and shooting the wedding? Will it be towards the end of the season?
Minear: It's not gonna be in the first half of the season, and no, we have not shot it yet. I want to make sure it's given its due. In January, it's always crunch time for us. We were a little bit ahead, and we know where we're going, but I always like to allow for the story to be a little bit flexible so that it can organically tell itself. … But I think I know when it is [in the second half of the season].
After going through the early stages of grieving the loss of her husband last season, Tommy takes a chance and gives her number to a handsome single father whom she encounters multiple times in the premiere—only to discover that he's a pastor. How would you say the introduction of Trevor signals the start of a new chapter for Tommy?
Minear: I love Gina beyond the telling of it. She is just everything. She is a Ferrari. She is perfect in every frame. Sometimes, I conflate Tommy with Gina a little bit, and I really wanted to give Tommy a gift. I wanted to give her a relationship that could match her in terms of gravity, humor and raw sex appeal, so we created Trevor. But I didn't want to make it so simple for her, so I made him her pastor, and that was a way to see into that part of their world.
The Ryders and the Vegas go to the same church, and it's sort of this very Texas thing. You get the choir in the first episode. I really wanted to see this kind of Capra-esque corner of the Lone Star world. I loved the idea of giving Gina somebody that was up to her level but complicated by making him her pastor, because that presents some real-world, interesting dilemmas for somebody like Tommy. Do you really want all the hens in the church clucking about you behind your back? Well, she's about to find out.
How will Grace (Sierra McClain), Judd (Jim Parrack) and even Owen support Tommy in this new chapter?
Minear: Judd just wants the best for his friend, and they never judge each other, and they'll be there to be sounding boards for each other. And every once in a while, they'll give each other a little gentle advice or push in the right direction. Grace, on the other hand, really thinks this is a good match, and she really needs to call this guy back. [Laughs.] Grace is on the Trevor train.
Owen is just beginning to form his relationship with Tommy in terms of them being friends, and Owen is someone Tommy can go to get his perspective on things without the baggage of having years of friendship like she does with Judd and Grace, and she might be able to say things that might even embarrass her with Judd and Grace. But the stakes aren't as high with Owen because he's kind of a work colleague and her equal on the battlefield. So they'll all support her in different ways. And don't forget: There are also three children involved, so things can get complicated.
What are some of the new challenges that Grace and Judd will face this season as the parents of a toddler and, if you count Judd's biological son, a teenager? What new parts of their lives will be explored?
Minear: We're gonna continue to check in on Judd and Grace's relationship with Wyatt [Jackson Pace], who will present some new challenges for them. We're also gonna meet Grace's sisters, whom we have not met up until now, and we will be revisiting an unresolved issue with her father from Season 2. All those things are coming up.
It seems like we have only really gotten a chance to see Grace at home or at work in the call center—
Minear: Well, that's not entirely true. I believe she gave birth in a bus. [Laughs.]
Well, unless she is personally implicated in an emergency. But will we see Grace and Judd out of the house more often this season?
Minear: Well, look, her world is the call center and her home life. But yeah, we'll see them in other places. She's gonna make her occasional appearance at the fire station, and Judd is gonna venture into a world of possibly quasi-Nazis with Owen at some point. [Laughs.] We'll definitely see them in other places, but we're definitely gonna get a little bit more of an expansive view into the family that Grace came out of.
Owen seems to be dealing with the trials and tribulations of middle age every season, but he never seems to learn his lesson. How will he assist in the FBI investigation in the next few episodes?
Minear: Owen is lamenting not having dragons to slay and is sort of presented with this opportunity to assist the FBI in infiltrating what is potentially an extremist group, what is possibly even [a group of] domestic terrorists who are planning some kind of attack in Austin. So Owen has the opportunity to go in there and help them, which is gonna isolate him a little bit from his team, but he's also gonna run into somebody that he knows and start to question if he really knows that person at all.
What's the state of his relationship with Catherine (Amy Acker)? Will we see Amy back this season?
Minear: Well, right now, Amy is shadowing on the set because she wants to be a director … so she's definitely still in our orbit. Coming into this season, Catherine has taken a job in D.C., and basically I wanted to sever a lot of Owen's support system. I kind of wanted to isolate him a little bit when we came into the season because things are actually going quite well for him. So Catherine's not in the picture right now.
Owen will meet a new woman around midseason sometime, and I think that's gonna be an interesting change of pace for him. But every time Owen meets one of these ladies, you never know what's gonna happen. There could be a pig in your bed. He just doesn't have a lot of luck out there, outside of the fire house.
What else can we expect this season from the other characters?
Minear: Everybody else has their very specific trajectories that they're on. Marjan [Natacha Karam] is gonna have a run-in with an institution that is gonna knock her for a loop. Paul [Brian Michael Smith] is gonna meet somebody that he doesn't have to play any games with in an upcoming episode, and there will be some romance for him, but [he will] also [be] dealing with some unresolved issues from his past. Nancy [Briana Baker] and Mateo [Julian Works] are still going strong, and there's gonna be more to be learned about both Nancy and Mateo. So there's a lot of great stuff for everybody coming up—just be patient.
Are there currently any crossovers planned with the original? Will there be any "Begins" or origin episodes this season?
Minear: Oh, definitely. So far, I haven't really done a "Begins" episode like we do on 9-1-1, and I would say probably the closest thing we've done to a "Begins" episode on Lone Star would have been "Saving Grace." Yes, there have been flashbacks, and we've had flashback episodes. But strictly speaking, maybe "Saving Grace" wasn't so much "Judd Begins" as it was "Jace Begins." It was how Grace saved him and how they met and sort of their romance. So there are definitely going to be episodes that touch on some of these backstories in a deeper way, but they may not come at you in the way you expect. But you will learn a little bit about what's happened in Marjan's past for sure… and I can't wait for you to see episode 4. [Laughs.]
9-1-1: Lone Star airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on FOX. Episodes are available to stream the next day on FOX Now or Hulu.