It's been a long summer for Chicago Med fans.
The popular hospital drama wrapped up production early in the spring of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for a while it wasn't clear when production would be able to resume.
But not only is Chicago Med back, but we had the opportunity to catch up with Nick Gehlfuss, who plays the talented but sometimes-tormented Will Halstead. Read on for his thoughts about working during a pandemic, what's coming up for Will on Chicago Med Season 6, and more!
TVF: What's it like working on Chicago Med during a pandemic?
NG: I feel very lucky to be working at all right now. It's so impressive what's been put together: all the time, money, and research that's gone into making this possible.
And before we even stepped foot back on stage at work, I felt very comfortable going in, knowing the precautions and all the new dynamics and the protocols that were set up.
But having said that, the first day, it was overwhelming. It was my first day, along with the entire crew. And so we were finding our way.
It was overwhelming, because you're downloading all this new information on how to be and also simultaneously making all these new decisions to set precedents with each department: wardrobe, hair, makeup, sound props, everything.
You know, I really felt like we were almost starting over on a new show. Thankfully, all our characters are so within us at this point, no matter how much of a break we got because of this quarantine. Will was still very much within me.
I can't imagine what it would be like to start up a brand new show during a time like this.
Thankfully that overwhelming and maybe stressful nature has dissipated a little bit.
It's difficult to not want to reach out and hug someone from your family, which is what we all are. having not seen them for six months. A lot of your habits are colliding with the new dynamic and the new way.
But we're adapting. So we'll figure it out.
And, again, I'm just happy that we have the opportunity to figure it out.
TVF: So yeah, definitely, it sounds like it was a big adjustment. But I'm sure you're grateful to be able to be back to work and to be able to do this show. How has the pandemic changed the direction of any of the storylines that you guys were working on?
NG: So the story definitely picks up in the midst of the pandemic. The whole of Chicago Med is adjusting to a whole new way of working as well. And we pick up with all the characters dealing with it in their own way and at their own pace.
It is so much that Dr. Charles will be having sidebars and chats with the doctors, just checking in to see how they're doing throughout all this. And Will Halstead is his first meeting. You get to see that right off the bat.
So we'll definitely be dealing with COVID stories. And then we'll also be bouncing in with what everyone has come to expect from the show, as far as just staying current with science and hot button issues and things like that.
TVF: We have fans that go into different directions and some fans really like Will with Nat, and other people don't, and other people like his storyline with Hannah, and other people don't. But I'm just curious how you see that. Do you ship him with a particular character?
NG: Yeah, I think I think if we're talking about do I ship him right now, with Natalie, I'd say I agree with where the show took it because it did not seem to be the right time for both of them. And I'm not blaming any one or the other. It's just if it's not working, you can't force it.
What they really could use is some couples counseling, and maybe Dr. Charles could give them that someday.
But as of right now, we clearly see that Will has moved on. And you know where we left off with him last year, when he was having trust issues with Dr. Hannah Asher.
But ultimately, by the end of that episode, he's reminded by charge nurse Maggie that, "you believe in people, Will, and that's a good thing." And ultimately he comes to the decision to trust Hannah.
Now at the beginning of this year, they face a kind of a troubling reality. It's a gripping opening to the season. And, and so the question will be: will they or won't they stay together?
Will also kind of brings us through this in all the protocols entering the hospital and what the new way of coming into work looks like. And, you know, no one wants to watch a show the entire time with our masks on, right?
And so there's a logic that we put into the emergency department specifically, that it's COVID free. Everyone's been tested before they come in: doctors and patients.
And so this allows us to have a little liberty with not wearing masks at times. But then we'll still obviously have a COVID ward where it's a completely different world.
So we'll really be going back and forth between two different setups quite a bit. And it'll be you'll get a little bit of the COVID side, but then we'll be balancing it with what fans come to expect from the show.
TVF: Awesome. So I know that one of the things that I've found is that sometimes fans of shows will be like: I watch this show to escape; I don't want to see this kind of thing. But I would imagine on a medical drama, they would expect it.
NG: Yeah, we have an opportunity here to discuss it. And you know, it's Dick Wolf. He started off with the idea of ripped from the headlines [stories] on Law and Order that has not changed in the Chicago franchise. It's still very much a part of the whole concept of how we navigate stories.
And so we we would eventually have been dealing with COVID. We decided to come out right out of the bat with it. But it doesn't take over the show.
But yeah, this is Dick Wolf's way: you stay current. You stay relevant. And you get an opportunity to talk about stories in a different way or a different angle to look at it all.
But at the end of the day, it is very relatable to audience members. Because it's what's going on. It's what we're all dealing with. So it's a great opportunity for us to as a medical drama, to talk about what's going on.
TVF: Yeah, definitely. You guys have been on for six years now. And you've been involved a lot of different stories. I was wondering what your favorite of all the stuff that Will's gotten into over the years.
NG: That's an easy one. First off, I can't believe that It's six years now. It's kind of unbelievable. It's really great. It's a testament to a lot of hard work.
We had our 100th episode. That was a quite a quite an experience on set!
But my favorite, favorite storyline has to be where Will was prepping for his wedding with Natalie. And he gets mixed up with people in his neighborhood Canary Ville, who just so happened to be unsavory characters, in which,Chicago PD have been looking after these particular individuals as well.
And so he's asked to wear a wire and help them do some work while he's also trying to work out a deal with the quid pro quo for a wedding venue.
And ultimately, in that climactic episode, which you can't have unless you have the storyline before it, I don't think Will actually goes into the hospital once! He's off site the entire day.
He ends up drilling a hole in a guy's head and then has his life threatened and never makes it to the altar and in fact, is carried away to protective custody.
But right before that, he's able to say goodbye to Natalie. That was juicy stuff!
Although I will say in a different way, to answer your question: I was really appreciative to be able to deal with some of the opioid crisis this past season. So... favorite in a different way.
I would say it's just it's such an important topic. It is a crisis. And my family's been affected by it. My uncle ended up dying from heroin about 10 years ago, and I think he might have been one of the first victims of the opioid crisis before it actually became well known.
I just think it our writers do a great job of putting a spotlight on what's what's really important to dive into and I was happy to be a part of that storyline.
And then of course, Will falls for Hannah, and then they did such a great job of justifying how we're going to get from this off-site safe injection site, back into the hospital.
Well, she worked at the hospital. And so it was a really well done storyline, and it's still going so... yeah, that's one of my favorite ones.
TVF: So have any stories you've done ever thrown you completely off guard? Like you were totally not expecting that?
NG: I guess I probably should have expected that I could drill a hole through a guy's head in a boat warehouse in downtown Chicago. But that was wild!
I don't like to know the storylines before they arrive in front of me in script form. I don't like to ask the writer, "So hey, what do you guys have lined up for Will this year?"I prefer not to know that.
When I read the script, the first time, it's such an important read.
I take a lot of notes, because I'm reading it as an audience member will receive it.
You know, it takes a lot of different forms, of course, and there's different drafts that end up coming out. But the broad strokes are usually what the audience is going to go through.
And that's very important for me, to clock what I'm feeling and what sort of epiphanies I have about this story and where my head's at, at any given point.
But they always do such a great job of some sort of reversal, where they give you an idea where it may be going and then it goes a different direction. And that's just great writing and good conflict.
But yeah, I think probably the one I wouldn't have seen coming was the drilling the hole in that guy's head on my wedding day, and being a bloody mess.
TVF: What are your biggest hopes for Will as time goes on?
NG: That's a good question.
Well, I hope he finds love. I hope he finds somebody that he works well with and we can see a side of Will that isn't constantly colliding with a loved one. Although you know what, there's plenty of conflict in any healthy relationship.
You know, he is a lover, I think at heart, and he fights for those he loves and so maybe we'll see him and Dr. Manning work out well, someday.
I also know that this new season Will will be taking a look inward at where he's at and evaluating where he's at with his career and life and he seems to be pretty introspective this year.
And I hope that we get an idea of maybe where he wants to go. He'll always go with his gut instinct and fight for his patients, regardless if he has to bend the rules a little bit to do what he thinks is right.
He needs to listen to his patients, of course, and not let his personal stuff get in the way of patients' wishes. But I hope he's always willing to take the risk to save somebody's life even though he goes with a gut feeling. That's because he's a great diagnostician.
And I hope we get to see more of that.
TVF: Yeah, that's one of the things I like about Will too, is that he will do whatever he thinks is right. And sometimes he gets it wrong. And he's too much in his headspace, but in his heart is always in the right place.
NG: That's true. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Well said.
TVF: One last thing: I was wondering ,what do you think of the crossover episodes that I know are really popular with a lot of fans?
Yes, that's one of my favorite parts of this job. It really is a magical night, when the three shows intersect.
It is basically a feature film, if you're looking at it.
Because the one aspect of it just a technical sort of thing, where we're all conditioned as audience members, when you're watching broadcast television, not streaming or anything of that nature, that there's a commercial right after the show before the next show comes on in when you cross the hour, right?
And that's sort of like an internal television clock that we have within us.
But we don't have a commercial there, it just slips right into the next hour, and you almost don't even know you're in the next show yet.
And you just have not seen it on television really ever. Right? That's magical.
It also affords us time to work with others in a larger manner. And it's amazing. We have our own acting troupe, really the three shows, and Dick Wolf has really created a community here for all of us.
That's allowed me to lay roots. I wouldn't have been able to talk about this until now. But I've been able to lay roots as an actor. And that's something that actors aren't used to, because we have to move around quite a bit and go where the work is.
But I've been able to be a part of this community here in Chicago, and certainly the community of the One Chicago family. And it says a lot that he [Dick Wolf] took all of us from elsewhere, and knew that we weren't going to know anybody in this new city, in this new area for all of us.
And we get to know these wonderful people, which it seems like he's background checked, because everyone's so fantastic to work with.
And so I enjoy also getting to go on the other shows, and play in their world, which I'll bring my medical aspect side of Will to, of course.
But sometimes, like in the last crossover, I was able to go inside this building to find my brother, right? And now, I'm creeping with the rest of the squad on TV, in a tactical manner that I've never done on Med because it's just not our show.
And so you get to dip in and out of those worlds a little bit and play and a whole new way. And it's just awesome. It's never been done. It's historic, right?
TVF: Yes, I think a lot of people really love seeing Will and Jay interact as brothers too. I think it's an unusual dynamic that you don't really see too much of: brothers who are in completely different careers and different worlds just interacting.
NG: Yeah, absolutely. And the reality of the Chicago franchise about these first responders intesecting, is really art imitating life. This is what happens on a daily basis. And so in realm of keeping things relevant, and ripped from the headlines, these people interact all the time.
And so he [Dick Wolf] has really leaned in his own formula and capitalized on it with this One Chicago franchise, and it makes a lot of sense that it took off the way it did.
And then we're still in existence, because he kept what works and just added some new elements that really kept it competitive in this world of television where there's so many options these days, and it's difficult to last.
TVF: Do you have any last thoughts you'd like to share with fans before we wrap this up?
I just want to thank them for being patient through this break that we've had to maintain for everyone's safety. We are figuring it out. And we appreciate the patience, and we appreciate the support.
We are coming back November 11.
I've been told it's a fantastic episode to start. I know that from the script, but you never know how things are all put together by the end. But I've heard such great things.
And, you know, I think one of the most important things we can give one another is our time. So I just like to thank everyone for the time that they have given us up into this point and the time they will give. So awesome!
Your turn, Chicago Med fanatics! Are you revved up for Chicago Med Season 6? What do you hope happens for Will and the rest of the Chicago Med crew?
Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know your thoughts!
Want to catch up before the new season? Watch Chicago Med online right here on TV Fanatic.
Chicago Med continues to air on NBC on Wednesdays at 8 PM EST/PST. The season 6 premiere airs November 11, 2020.