‘Chicago Fire’: The Terrifying Elevator Scene Had Crew Members Applauding Between Takes

In almost 10 years on the air, Chicago Fire has had several memorable moments. Despite its set pieces featuring burning buildings and harrowing rescues, the show made human drama as exciting as any action on the screen. A recently-aired episode showed the best of both worlds. While the show’s scope can often seem grand, this one mostly took place on a single elevator. David Eigenberg spoke about how they made this work. 

(L-R) David Eigenberg as Christopher Herrmann, Christian Stolte as Randall “Mouch” McHolland in full firefighter gear, covered in soot, standing on a sidewalk talking
(L-R) David Eigenberg as Christopher Herrmann, Christian Stolte as Randall “Mouch” McHolland | Adrian S. Burrows Sr./NBC/Getty Images

What is Chicago Fire?

Chicago Fire kicked off Law and Order titan Dick Wolf’s latest television universe. Focusing on public officials’ lives in the titular city, it was the first of four series in the Chicago universe. Like Law and Order before it, the series doesn’t make a point to wrap things up in a tidy little bow, nor does it shy away from showing its characters’ warts. 

While the show’s spinoffs are also popular, Fire remains a favorite thanks to its diverse cast of characters from all walks of life. A recent episode allowed two of these characters, David Eigenberg’s Lieutenant Christopher Herrmann and Joe Minoso’s Joe Cruz, to experience a classic bottle episode that resulted in one of the most memorable sequences in the series’ history. 

‘Chicago Fire’ had an intense stuck elevator scene

RELATED: ‘Chicago Fire’: Is Actor Randy Flagler a Real Firefighter?

Bottle episodes are often a cost-cutting measure that does away with the medium’s penchant to go all over the place in different scenes and focus mainly on one stage and setting. Thus was the case with “My Lucky Day,” the fifth episode of the series’ ninth season. Located almost entirely in a burning freight elevator, the show forced Cruz and Herrmann to think on their toes as they tried to escape a freight elevator with two civilians and ablaze four stories above them. 

Rather than playing it out in many locations with several cuts and transitions, however, the creators decided to get theatrical and shoot a large chunk of the episode in one continuous scene. This allowed Minosa and Eigenberg to stretch their acting chops and show that they weren’t just disposable talents on network television. They were actors, and as such, they showed that they didn’t need editing and short takes to perform their craft. 

Throughout the drama of the episode, not only do Cruz and Hermann open up about their lives, Cruz an expecting father, and Hermann having adult children of his own, but they do so in the heat of one of their most harrowing situations yet. The results are one of the most touching, stunning, and exciting scenes in recent television memory. Eigenberg spoke about the magnitude of the scene in a recent interview.

A round of applause on the ‘Chicago Fire’ set

Eigenberg spoke about the trials and tribulations of filming such an audacious scene, stating that his roots made it an easier task. “I’m an old theater wh***,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly.

“We did one take that was 24 minutes long, which is unheard of in television. We did a couple that were 15- or 20-minute-long takes, and that was really cool. We were all locked up in an elevator, and it all really flowed. It was also pretty exciting for the crew and the actors. I remember after some of the more crazy takes, the entire crew broke into applause. And this wasn’t just for the actors, but all the hard that went into it from everyone to pull this together. It was a very simple episode, but really cool.”

However, what Eigenberg likes most about the scene is not necessarily the spectacle of it all but how it conveyed real-life emotions. If you ask him, he was not the reason behind the scene’s success. Instead, he was just a cog in a creative machine that allowed him to take himself out of his comfort zone and do something different. “They wrote some really nice stuff for us and I was glad that they stepped into our current times a little bit, showing what’s good in this life and what’s destructive,” the actor said of the amazing scene. 

This perceived danger helps elevate the entire Chicago franchise to another level. While they are all about the doctors, police officers, firefighters, and surrounding occupations, they are also about the human beings behind the scrubs and badges. This scene was a testament to the makers of the show. Still, its power lies in the relatability behind the scene that pushed itself to the limit to convey human emotion. For that, they deserve another round of applause.