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9-1-1's Peter Krause on Bobby and Athena's Near-Death Experience on the Cruise

The actor reveals the hardest scene to film in the disaster arc, and it wasn't a stunt

Max Gao
Peter Krause, 911

Peter Krause, 911

Disney/Chris Willard

Peter Krause will be the first to tell you that he always looks forward to shooting the full-scale "disaster films" that have transformed 9-1-1 into one of the most ambitious shows on television. In six seasons of the procedural drama, Krause's Bobby Nash, his LAPD field-sergeant wife Athena Grant (Angela Bassett), and his tight-knit group of Los Angeles firefighters have weathered nearly every possible natural or manmade disaster known: a plane crash, an earthquake, a tsunami, a train derailment, a mudslide, a citywide blackout, and a bridge collapse — just to name a few.

But for the show's seventh season — the first on ABC after the show was unceremoniously canceled on Fox — co-creator and showrunner Tim Minear decided to craft an opening disaster that pays homage to the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure. In true 9-1-1 fashion, Athena and Bobby's belated honeymoon cruise ends up in choppy waters — first when pirates, in search of a dongle required to access some cryptocurrency, temporarily takes over the ship, and then when a hurricane off the coast of Mexico literally turns their vessel upside down.

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"Knowing that Bobby and Athena were going to be at the center of it because it's their honeymoon cruise was not only exciting to me, but in some ways, I think it was really time for Angela and I to get to carry one of these disaster films together," Krause told TV Guide. "I love that Tim chose The Poseidon Adventure as a starting point for this, and I thought the way that they had Athena watching [that film] on ABC when she was a kid to start things off was very clever."

No one would blame Athena and Bobby — or Bassett and Krause, for that matter — if they never wanted to step foot on another cruise ship again. In Monday's conclusion to the three-episode emergency, Bobby and Athena attempt to lead a small group to safety while struggling to tell up from down. Despite suffering a few casualties along the way — including cruise director Julian Enes (Rick Cosnett), who had an affair with cruise-goer Lola (Romy Rosemont) and was responsible for the shooting of Lola's embittered husband, Norman (Daniel Roebuck) — the group is able to get high enough in the ship for Athena to shoot a flare gun at a helicopter manned by Tommy Kinard (Lou Ferrigno Jr.), with some of his former teammates at the 118. Fittingly, Hen (Aisha Hinds), Chimney (Kenneth Choi), Buck (Oliver Stark), and Eddie (Ryan Guzman) — the current core of the 118 — are able to come to the rescue of their captain and his wife in their hour of need.

On a recent phone call from Los Angeles — where he has just begun shooting Episode 7 of the 10-episode seventh season — Krause opened up about the evolution of Bobby and Athena, the unique challenge of shooting in a rotating set called a roll room (which Krause has likened to a "giant bingo tumbler," in which the actors themselves were the "bingo balls"), and the unexpected scene that he admits was the most difficult for him to film.

In Episode 2, Bobby and Athena profess their love for each other one last time, because they think they're about to drown in a room that is quickly filling up in water. It goes back to Bobby's multi-season arc of not feeling worthy of Athena's love, and Athena has to reassure him that she does love him, that she was the one who decided to marry him in the first place. What did you want to convey about Bobby's feelings in that near-death scene?

Krause: I think that Athena, along with the 118, really saved Bobby. He needed a new family — a family that would accept him and love him. Bobby still carries around an enormous amount of guilt about his past, and as the standard bearer for dealing with addiction and battling with the Almighty, I've been very proud to get to play Bobby. I think specific to Athena, she really did save the guy. There's a chance that the character of Bobby Nash just wouldn't have made it if he hadn't found somebody that would support him, love him for who he is, and forgive him for his past that she had nothing to do with. But Athena is a powerful person, and I think that we get to see the power of her love in her relationship with Bobby.

What do you think Bobby and Athena learn about themselves and their relationship through surviving this emergency?

Krause: I think that the love between Bobby and Athena gets deeper in this episode just because of what they go through. But I've always enjoyed the little moments of affection over the years, like when they're on the job and they call each other "Sergeant" and "Captain." That's a little detail that I enjoy. When they're out in the field, you can sense a little bit of warmth and playfulness underneath. I think that the way that Tim wrote this [opening arc] concerning Athena being afraid to be alone [with Bobby] on the ship with no emergencies to deal with — and then of course there are all these emergencies — is an interesting aspect to their relationship as first responders, [because] they're always dealing with these emergencies. To deal with these super emergencies aboard the cruise ship, I think, was a really fun thing to get to do.

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Although 9-1-1 is technically a drama series, I think it's been challenging for Tim and the rest of the writers to find ways to generate realistic conflict in Athena and Bobby's relationship that doesn't feel like we are rehashing the past all over again. Considering that they both nearly died together on this cruise, I'm not sure what else the writers could throw at them as a couple.

Krause: I always feel like conflict between Bobby and Athena rings rather false. I think that they really do love and support each other. In this one, it was about Bobby's inner conflict that they were dealing with, and obviously they're in a dire set of circumstances. But there was a writer who referred to 9-1-1 as "competency porn." These are competent people who do their jobs well, but they're also people who are heavily invested in their personal relationships. So I'm very interested in seeing Bobby and Athena be completely solid with each other and help others with their problems now. I think that they find great meaning in helping others; I think that their lives really are focused on helping others and being there for each other.

Athena and Bobby certainly help as many people as they can aboard the ship. In the third installment of this cruise emergency, Bobby has two big rescues after the ship has capsized: He saves a wounded Norman who is tied to the ceiling — or technically, the floor that has been turned upside down — and he later saves a little kid, Cory (Leo Abelo Perry), who was too busy playing video games with his headphones on to realize that the rest of the passengers were evacuating into lifeboats. Talk to me about shooting those two sequences.

Krause: The physical demands of the first bit of action that you described — saving Norman from what was the floor and is now the ceiling — was kind of a Nike "Just do it" moment. They put me in a stunt harness. My usual stunt double is about my age, a little bit younger, and he said he thought that a younger guy should probably do the stunts on this one, which gave me pause. But we put the stunt harness on, and then I started climbing, swinging, and hanging around in [an] upside-down world, and there were a few elements that were unexpected to me.

I don't know what it was exactly on the underside of the roulette table that was sharp, but as I climbed around it, I immediately started cutting my fingertips open, and I got a couple gashes in my legs crawling up there. But we didn't really rehearse it. It was just a flying blind kind of thing. With the harness on, I knew I was safe, and the injuries were all within the bounds of acceptable stunt injuries. But it was a lot of fun playing in [an] upside-down world.

It was a very precarious set. Some press wanted to come into the roll room, and once it was upside down and the chandelier and the ceiling was the floor, there's very little space to move, so it was essential personnel only. We did have one person slip and fall and hit the plexiglass of the skylight. But that was an exciting stunt to pull off. It kind of reminded me of grabbing the donor heart off of the falling helicopter that was stuck on the side of the hospital in Season 5.

What I thought was interesting in terms of the intentionality of Bobby saving Cory [without Athena] was that he was really afraid that he was going to lose Athena, and it was going to be his fault [because] he took her on this cruise. ... The saving of Cory was important because Bobby disallows Athena from going after him. He doesn't want to lose her again, so he'd rather go take the shot at going after this kid [alone]. That young actor, Leo, was great, and that was a fun thing to get to do — some more water work!

Was there a particularly difficult scene for you to shoot from this arc?

Krause: Oddly, the most difficult thing was learning to dance the Foxtrot [in Episode 1]. Angela and I found out the night before we were going to be dancing together. But fortunately for me, Angela is an excellent dancer and also a good dance teacher, so she helped me out with the Foxtrot very much. That was not the most dangerous thing I had to do, but it was certainly the most difficult as I had less than 24 hours to prepare myself.

Peter Krause and Angela Bassett, 9-1-1

Peter Krause and Angela Bassett, 9-1-1

Disney/Mike Taing

Did you and Angela practice the steps together, or did you practice yourself?

Krause: It was just like jumping into cold water. We got there, and there was a wonderful choreographer whose name I can't recall — Nicole, I think. Between her and Angela, it was made much easier, but that was the day we also filmed all the Norman and Lola dinner scenes.

You've previously described these first three episodes as a disaster film, an action-adventure, and a rom-com all wrapped in one — and you and Angela really had a chance to play the rom-com aspect with the aftermath of the rescue. I particularly loved seeing Athena and Bobby wearing "Welcome to Hollywood" t-shirts and sharing a moment alone back at home.

Krause: Shooting the reunion aboard the vessel was a lot of fun because we were actually out at sea. We were not on a cruise ship, but we were on a large ship that has multiple functions. It's a ship that is used for multiple purposes — oil cleanup, spills, etc., but [the cruise ship on 9-1-1] was an amalgam of many ships. For instance, when I'm seeking Athena through the rain [in Episode 2], that was on an old battleship. But we were out at sea when we filmed that reunion with the helicopter and the whole bit, and those are some really special days. We were out at sea for a couple of days.

With the scene at the end, I think the idea is that we lost our luggage at sea, so we had to stop somewhere and get some fresh clothes after everything we'd been through. That was a fun, little scene to shoot, to get to laugh together at the very end, despite all the tragedy behind it. 

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Now that he has been reunited with his team, how are Bobby's relationships with the rest of the 118 going to continue to deepen this season?

Krause: I think you're just going to see them continue to enjoy working with each other. That's a really solid family of people both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. It's a terrific group, and we always look forward to working with each other, just like the characters on TV.  Bobby looks at them all as his kids, if you will. Buck certainly, from the beginning, was most like his son, but Chim sort of occupies the best friend space, as does Hen at times. I think that both Hen and Chimney in some ways are Bobby's confidants, but it really is like a small family of the 118.

Are we going to see any other members of the Grant-Nash household this season?

Krause: I'm not sure about Michael (Rockmond Dunbar), but I think Harry (Marcanthonee Reis) and May (Corinne Massiah) will show up this season.

Now that you are seven seasons and over 100 episodes in, what new layers are you finding in Bobby that continue to make him challenging and interesting for you to play?

Krause: I think as the guilt over Bobby's past loses its grip on him, we're able to see a lighter hearted side of Bobby, a more humorous side. I always like it when we see Bobby Nash smile on the show and enjoy his family and enjoy his time with Athena. In some ways, the story of Bobby Nash is a story of redemption and forgiveness and letting go. In the seasons to come, I think that it would be nice to see that progress even further, that he's found happiness in his relationship, happiness at work, happiness with his coworkers, and just that the past has loosened its grip on Bobby and he's moving forward cheerfully and happily as a whole person.

Have you or Tim been able to establish some kind of backstory for Bobby that we have yet to explore in these seven seasons?

Krause: Things change a lot on 9-1-1 at the last minute, but Tim has mentioned to me that he is going around with the idea of a childhood story for Bobby — details of which I can't share because it's not definite at this point.

Realistically, how much longer do you think you can withstand the physical demands of this role? Do you have another 100 episodes left in you?

Krause: [Laughs.] I could do another a hundred episodes if the hours are manageable!

Fair enough. For what it's worth, you guys seem to be having a lot of fun behind the scenes. Kenny Choi just posted a new video on Wednesday about working with you, so it seems like you have joined in on some of the social media antics this season.

Krause: Really? [Laughs.] Yeah, he's always up to something. Kenny's always up to no good. He's caught me a couple of times on film and I didn't know he was filming and holding his iPhone low or whatever, but there are other times I've participated knowingly. … But Kenny's fine, having his fun. It's all good.

9-1-1 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC. Episodes stream the next day on Hulu.