CHICAGO FIRE: Jimmy Nicholas on Filming the 'Loaded' 'Completely Shattered' and 'Pure Love' From Fans - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

CHICAGO FIRE: Jimmy Nicholas on Filming the ‘Loaded’ ‘Completely Shattered’ and ‘Pure Love’ From Fans

October 12, 2022 by  

Chicago Fire Hawkins death

CHICAGO FIRE — “Completely Shattered” Episode 1103 — Pictured: Jimmy Nicholas as Chief Hawkins — (Photo by: Adrian S Burrows Sr/NBC)

[Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Wednesday, October 12 episode “The Center of the Universe.”]

CHICAGO FIRE dug into the aftermath of Hawkins’ (Jimmy Nicholas) death on the Wednesday, October 12 episode, “The Center of the Universe.”

While business proceeded as normal as possible at Firehouse 51—with Brett (Kara Killmer) and Kidd (Miranda Rae Mayo) discussing the funeral, and everyone (understandably) voicing their concerns about Violet (Hanako Greensmith)—Violet mourned her boyfriend at home…until she went to the hospital to visit the man Hawkins saved.

Violet was shocked, though, when Severide (Taylor Kinney) showed up to tell her about his own experience with grief…and he didn’t know how low he would have sunk if he hadn’t returned back to work.

“I’m scared if I go back to work I’ll see Evan everywhere,” Violet admitted. “It was his work, too.”

Severide regretfully informed her it wouldn’t help; she’d still see Hawkins everywhere—but distracting herself would allow her to see other things, too. The pep talk worked and Violet returned to Firehouse 51.

After saving someone in the field on her first call out, Violet got more good news: the man Hawkins sacrificed his life to save woke up.

But, understandably, the grief didn’t go away, and Violet sought out Severide for advice on how to handle the emotions.  “Think about them, talk about them as much as you can,” Severide told her. “So in some ways, it’s like they’re still here.”

Following his advice, Violet went back to the hospital to visit the man whose life Hawkins saved. She shared a photo of herself with Hawkins and talked about her fallen ex.

The moment also served to be a final tidbit—at least for now—of Violet and Hawkins. With his time on CHICAGO FIRE at a close, Nicholas looks back at filming Hawkins’ death in “Completely Shattered,” the lengths he went to keep it all a secret, and the outpouring of fan love…

When did you find out that Hawkins would be dying?
Anytime a death happens on a show, I think it’s something that is a lot for everybody to process in the production, completely, because they’re also losing a coworker. It’s not you getting fired, but it can feel that way, because someone’s no longer going to be with us. It is one of those things that I think I’d be curious when the decision was actually made; I know I found out in July. And then I had about, oh, maybe five or six weeks to process it and then be like, “Let’s make this the best death that we absolutely can.”

With that amount of time to process it all, how much were you trying to soak your final days in and consciously take mental snapshots?
Oh, everything. I think that there are very few things in life that we are given proper goodbyes for; sometimes Irish goodbyes are forced upon us. And so I knew in advance I was going to get to say goodbye to this thing—so I soaked it all up. I had a kind of countdown in my head going, “Okay, got about 10 more days on set. Enjoy all of these. Enjoy your people. Don’t be on your phone today. Walk around with the PAs, buy the grips some energy drinks.” I was just enjoying that and moments, trying to remember the little things and the big things.

In theater, we learned to do this really well, because most theatrical contracts are three months to a year, so you learn to say goodbye. You get really good at knowing how to approach the end. I got to spend a month really processing it and getting to take a ton of mental snapshots. So luckily my memory bank is full and my cup is full from those last four weeks on set.

CHICAGO FIRE — “Completely Shattered” Episode 1103 — Pictured: Jimmy Nicholas as Chief Hawkins — (Photo by: Adrian S Burrows Sr/NBC)

Your final episode was big, with some stunt elements—and also as you also seemingly were there, having to not move, while there was profound grief around you post-Hawkins’ death. What was filming the end of “Completely Shattered” like?
Loaded is the word that comes to mind—it was an extremely loaded day, in general, from an emotional standpoint, from a physical standpoint. But I am always trying to do all my own stunts. And it’s not like Hawkins was Spider-Man out there, there’s not a ton of stunts that Hawkins is having to do. So I always go to our stunt guy, Rick [LeFevour], who’s incredible, and his son, Rick [LeFevour] Jr., who’s my stunt double, and I’m like, “Hey, I want to drive my buggy in this scene. Can we give it a shot? I know it’s a little fast drive…” Or, “Hey, can I do this? Can I do that?”

Leading up to the final day, I told our director Matt Earl [Beesley], “I want to do all of it.” Similar to what we just were talking about, soaking up every last minute, I was like, “I only got a couple more days with this guy. I want to be Hawkins as much as possible. Even his corpse.” So I did all of it. I did all of his falls. We had to shoot that a bunch; I came up the next day pretty bruised. But that’s good. I like that. I hope that I’m doing my own stunts for as long as I make TV and movies. I like the physicality.

And then, also, we were doing some crane shots and some really wide shots of all the rubble being pulled off me. I knew the day would go a lot faster, and we could get some cooler shots, if it was actually me in the rubble instead of my double, so we didn’t have to pretend or cut away. That is my body and I’m under there the whole time that they’re pulling away.

So I would have to get set under there—it would take sometimes five to ten minutes to get all of the rubble where it needed to be. And then that whole sequence took a while, so it was a lot of that. The falling down to simulate the wall coming down on me was obviously like the most physical part. And Jerry, who was the man who I was working with [who Hawkins tries to save], he’s pretty old. We wanted to make sure he felt safe, so I was working with his double a lot. And it was a pretty physical day.

We also had a lot to navigate how Hawkins’ body would be in that rubble, which, thankfully I got to kind of have a part in saying what the best way I thought to shoot it would be, to help get me out, so that we could actually get the shots that mattered: Hanako coming in to perform CPR, and getting that whole sequence, which I was extremely grateful with how that turned out. I mean, that sequence is so…it’s absolutely heartbreaking. And the way it’s shot is incredible and it’s really visceral. Part of that was how we were able to set it up. Hopefully me doing all my own stunts helped facilitate that.

But that day, having to just be a corpse for my whole last day on set—and [co-showrunner/episode writer] Derek [Haas] had put in the script that his eyes were open—and having to be like a lifeless body for a day was was definitely something that was a lot for me, emotionally. And I think a lot for Hanako, as well, to have to deal with this idea that not only is Hawkins dead, but her friend, Jimmy, is dead underneath her. Hopefully she used that to draw up the wonderful performance that you saw. But, all in all, it was a very taxing day, physically and emotionally.


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A post shared by Jimmy Nicholas (@jimmynicks)

Last week, you posted a BTS photo from the episode airing after Hawkins’ death. (Albeit, at the time, teasing it was a date night for Hawkins and Violet.) What was the experience like of filming that little bonus bit of Hawkins and Violet?
Well, once the writers and the showrunners made the decision that Hawkins was going to die in episode 3, that was obviously a lot for me to process. I was hoping I’d be around longer, because I love this set, I love this cast, I love this crew, I love making the show. But I kind of sat down, as I do with anything in my life, and I was like, “Okay, what do I want to accomplish in this time?” And one of the things that I was really committed to was I wanted it to be a massive surprise. My hope was, I’m going to do everything within my power so that this has maximum effect. I don’t want this to be something that audiences see coming for weeks, and becomes a formality.

I told Derek that, I told the directors that, I told the writers that. I was like, “I will do everything in my power to make sure that nobody knows that this is coming.” I wore hoodies on set anytime I was in makeup. I didn’t let my dusted uniform be seen. I lied to some fans about why my stunt double was there to cover my tracks. I was really specific with our PAs about where I wanted people not to be able to see during filming. I was committed to the bit. I pretended to be in Chicago some days that I wasn’t in September, because I didn’t want people to think that I was done filming. I went for it.

And then NBC put out the promo that somebody was going to not make it, which makes total sense. From a ratings standpoint, we got a bump. It worked. You got to put that out, if you’re gonna film it, you gotta draw in the viewers. But we also have very smart fans. And they’re committed and passionate, very passionate. So I knew they were going to put two and two together. I knew that if you put out the suspect board, eventually you could figure out it was me. So I got committed to the idea of, on the day of, I’m going to post the [Instagram photos and video] pretending like I’m in next week’s episode to throw some people off the scent.

And I am, in a sense—I think it’s a lot smaller than many of our fans would hope for. But I was like, “Well, it’s true. I’m in this next episode.” And my hope was to just throw them off the scent, just a little bit, to commit back to that original list of things that I wanted to do, which was surprise them.

And I think we were very successful in that. I think some people knew it was coming, because we have very smart viewers. But I was proud. I was proud that we were able to hide something from this rabid fan base that sometimes you can’t hide anything from. And my hope—I mean, I hope, hope, hope I get to come back in a flashback of some sort that’s more than what this week’s episode is. I have an idea for an episode; I hope they steal it. But I think the flashback is going to be a lot less than what people would like.


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A post shared by Jimmy Nicholas (@jimmynicks)

There was a real vocal amount of love and grief at Hawkins’ death. What did that mean outpouring mean to you?
It meant the world. I put out another post today—I wanted to thank all the fans, specifically. I just don’t think there are many things in life that are just pure love and pure light towards you. And the fans have definitely been that for me…even withstanding the few death threats that I’ve received. [Laughs.] Very weird to be in a place in my life where I received death threats. But other than that, a ton of love and light.

I’m just incredibly grateful for the fact that they took me in as one of their own. I’ve had lots of different things that I’ve worked on, so far, in my career, and obviously there will be more to come. But I doubt if I’ll ever have anything as overwhelming as this fan base’s support. I was so, so grateful.

Last season, for a lot of fans, was really hard [with] losing Jesse Spencer on the show. And I was so grateful that they gave us the chance to keep making the show, and that my character got to come in and this budding romance kept a lot of people watching the show. I was really grateful that they gave us that chance. And I think that any time you have a network show that runs for so long, there’s always new characters that come in, that have to take over the mantle of the show. And I think we’re watching in real-time as Hanako takes over a lot of that mantle on this show, in a beautiful way. [She is] someone who less than a year ago was very supporting and is now a crucial, crucial part of the family—I’m glad fans gave her that chance, and I’m appreciative of their support that they gave both her and me in our love story.

CHICAGO FIRE, Wednesdays, 9/8c, NBC


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