Chicago Fire executive producer Derek Haas teased "shake-ups" for the next season, and one is already happening. When the show returns for Season 9, Annie Ilonzeh and her character, Emily Foster, will not be a member of Firehouse 51. Ilonzeh is leaving after only appearing in two seasons.
Ilonzeh joined the Chicago Fire family at the start of Season 7 to play Emily, an easy-going and confident new paramedic who was a medical student. She was originally hired as a recurring star, but was promoted to series regular before Season 7 started filming, reports Deadline. In Season 8 she chose to apply to medical school again and was seen making a speech to the Northwestern University admission committee, giving Emily a door to leave the show through.
Wednesday's episode, "51's Original Bell," turned out to be the Season 8 finale, since production was halted last month due to the coronavirus pandemic. Before the episode aired, Haas told Entertainment Tonight the episode was setting the stage for "shake-ups," even if it was not originally written as a finale.
"We were five days into shooting [Wednesday's] episode when we found out it would be our last for the season," Haas explained. "Luckily, we usually have a cliffhanger or two in an episode, so this one worked out."
Even if Chicago Fire's Season 8 finale left stories unfinished, the show has been picked up for three more seasons already. This gave Haas and his team some breathing room, since they could map out the characters' futures.
"It allows us to explore relationships and characters on a wider timeline than we've ever had," Haas told ET. "We can look seasons ahead instead of episodes ahead. And yes, we will definitely have more cast shake-ups in the coming season. It's just part of the way we work to keep our audience on their toes. When viewers say, 'It'll never happen' on other shows, we want them to say, 'It's Chicago Fire… they might just do it.'"
Ilonzeh joined the show to help fill the vacuum left by Monica Raymund's departure in May 2018. Raymund played "Gabby" Dawson for the show's first six seasons. She left the show on good terms though, and made an appearance in the Season 8 episode "Best Friend Magic."
Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med and Law & Order: SVU were all renewed for three seasons each in February as part of a new overall deal producer Dick Wolf signed with NBC. Part of the deal includes making NBCUniversal's new streaming platform Peacock the exclusive streaming home for the Chicago shows. The Chicago franchise launched with Fire in 2012.