The doctors on Chicago Med face an insurmountable challenge when season 6 kicks off on Wednesday. With the coronavirus at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the staff at Gaffney Chicago Medical Center adjust to the new normal of the pandemic — and for many, the uncertainty and severity of COVID takes a mental, physical and emotional toll.
“With Med, we pick up pretty much in the middle of where we’re all living in today. COVID is at the forefront of our particular storyline and we feel it’s a deep set of responsibility to tell this particular story moving forward because the audiences that come back and the new audiences that tune in are searching for particular storylines that they can all relate to,” Brian Tee, who plays Dr. Ethan Choi, tells ET over Zoom. “I think in all of our shows [Fire and P.D. included], everyone that comes back that watches our shows — especially now with the social unrest and the pandemic — you really are tuning into the first responders and the ones on the front lines. And everyone in our whole universe can really, really be able to relate to our characters in this season.”
In the premiere episode, titled “When Did We Begin to Change,” several Med doctors — including Ethan and Dr. April Sexton (Yaya DaCosta) — shift their responsibilities to fight on the front lines to combat the virus and get it under control. Working in close proximity in a high-stress environment may also bring the former couple together on a deeper level. Maybe.
“With Ethan and April, there will always be and continue to be this deep sense of love for one another, whether they’re together or not together. In this season, so many circumstances get in the way of them bonding together,” Tee says. “But you’ll definitely see glimpses of that love, especially within our characters in our storylines come in and out of the episodes coming this season. Within the given circumstances and what I feel, as far as the storylines are concerned, especially dealing with COVID and the social unrest, there’s a certain dynamic between that relationship that you can really go deeper, as far as talking about those topic matters. And when you go deeper within those given circumstances and that love relationships that they have, it layers all of those situations together so when we’re telling that particular love interest storyline, you’ll see much more depth in this season than any other.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s return, ET sent off a handful of questions over email to Med showrunners Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider about how they’re navigating the pandemic, how it shifts the hospital’s priorities and romance updates.
ET: The world has changed significantly in the months since the last episode aired. What was most challenging about reframing the new season with the pandemic at the forefront?
Diane Frolov: We had big decisions to make about realistically integrating the pandemic into the workings of our hospital. Also, we had to decide how to balance COVID cases with non-COVID cases, which of course keep coming in regardless of the pandemic.
Because you were forced to shut down in the middle of production last season, how much did you deviate from the original plan in the first episodes?
Andrew Schneider: We didn’t deviate from our original plan for the character arcs. It was more that we put things on pause. In the new season, we pick up all the threads left from last season.
How does incorporating COVID shift the dynamics within the hospital?
Frolov: There have been new safety protocols put in place, and a new, COVID-only ICU. Our doctors and nurses are split between the non-COVID E.D. [emergency department] and the COVID ICU. Many of them, after so many months of the pandemic, are overwhelmed.
Which character has the most difficult time dealing with the realities of COVID?
Schneider: I’d say they’ve all had a difficult time to varying degrees. One of our characters is actually recovering from COVID.
What’s the state of Natalie and Crockett’s relationship at the start of the season? Will they continue to grow closer in a romantic sense?
Frolov: They will certainly grow closer. As to romance, you’ll have to watch and see!
Is Nick and Hannah’s relationship primed to overcome challenges thrown their way?
Schneider: We particularly deal with those challenges in the first episode of the new season.
There was a lot left to be desired between Ethan and April. Where do they stand at the beginning of the season?
Frolov: They are friends and enjoy a warm relationship, but they are no longer lovers — at least for now.
Talk about the new normal on set. How much has the day to day on set changed with new safety protocols in place? What aren’t you able to do this season creatively that you took for granted?
Schneider: New safety protocols very much changed the set — fewer people, much less physical contact. In terms of production, we’re trying to avoid large crowd scenes, and put our characters in situations where they can socially distance.
Lastly, how would you describe this season of Chicago Med in a few words?
Schneider: It’s a season of Chicago Med adapting to the new world of the pandemic, and how that profound change has affected our characters both physically and emotionally.
Chicago Med premieres Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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