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9-1-1’s Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kenneth Choi Talk ‘Madney’ Wedding – TV Guide

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Oliver Stark, Ryan Guzman, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, 9-1-1

Disney/Chris Willard

Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kenneth Choi always knew Maddie Buckley and Howard “Chimney” Han’s eventual wedding on 9-1-1 was going to be anything but a walk in the park.

Since falling in love during the second season of the hit procedural drama, Maddie and Chimney have survived more trauma than almost any couple on television. While she has survived the abuse of her ex-husband, a hostage situation at her place of work, and a long bout of postpartum depression, he has come back from the brink more times than one could care to count. (For starters, he has been stabbed, impaled, and abducted — not to mention all of the natural and manmade disasters that he and his firefighting family have been involved in.)

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Naturally, for the characters’ nuptials, co-creator and showrunner Tim Minear wanted to create a microcosm of Maddie and Chimney’s hard-earned relationship. On the day of his wedding to Maddie, Chimney inexplicably disappears. As it turns out, Chimney had unknowingly contracted viral encephalitis from a patient that he saved on a recent call. The virus leaves him feeling wildly disoriented and briefly unable to remember the last 20 years of his life. What’s more, Chimney begins to have hallucinations about his late best friend, Kevin Lee (James Chen), who was killed on the job, and Maddie’s abusive ex, Doug Kendall (Brian Hallisay).

In the end, it’s the ghost of Kevin who is able to get through to a rapidly deteriorating Chim, who somehow finds his way to Kevin’s parents’ home before collapsing. Holed up in the hospital for weeks, Chimney tells Maddie that he doesn’t want to waste another second of their life together, and they get married in an intimate ceremony officiated by Bobby (Peter Krause) in Chimney’s hospital room.

“Any time that you read or look at anything that’s going to happen on 9-1-1, your reaction is always sort of like, ‘Oh, goodness gracious,’ but it felt oddly fitting for Maddie and Chimney,” Hewitt — who famously told Minear back in Season 2 that she thought Maddie and Chimney should end up together — told TV Guide on a recent Zoom call. “I think that their journey and their story is to constantly remind each other or to be reminded that they will always be OK and they will always end back together. It’s sort of their fate.”

“It doesn’t matter if we’re in a hospital bed, it doesn’t matter if I’ve been stabbed a couple times, it doesn’t matter if she has postpartum depression — we always find our way back to each other,” Choi added. “I think that Maddie and Chimney are the most adorable couple on television right now.”

Below, Hewitt and Choi break down the “oddly fitting” way that Maddie and Chimney finally made it down the aisle, the reason why Minear chose to bring back Doug and Kevin, what they are each looking to explore with their characters going forward, and how they reacted to Buck’s (Oliver Stark) coming-out storyline.

Kenny, how did you react when you first read the script for this episode, and how did you approach playing the different stages of Chimney’s disorientation?

Kenneth Choi: When I first read the script, I was excited because they put Chimney under duress yet again. I actually think the reason why they do it with me a lot is Tim has a lot of faith in my ability [to] hit any pitch that he throws at me, no matter how wild the pitches are, and this is kind of a wild pitch episode.

I did a deep dive into what viral encephalitis is and then every single one of the symptoms that would be affecting Chimney, and then I researched all of the symptoms so [that] I can sort of bring a reality to it. It’s difficult, as an actor, because you’re doing this tight rope walk where, OK, I’m really just a person playing this guy and this guy knows who these people are, but then I have to play a guy who doesn’t know who these people are, even though he knows who they are. But I had a good handle on it.

The most difficult part was, we shot out of sequence, so I had this emotional timeline that I made about how confused he would be, how sick he is, how far down the rabbit hole he is. [I had to analyze] when I first saw Doug, when I first saw Doug with blood. What am I freaking out about? What am I not freaking out about? So it was a handful, but I really enjoy it. I like to dig deep when I’m doing my prep work, and this forces me to go deeper than normal.

Jennifer, whose idea was it to bring back Doug, who is played by your real-life husband Brian, for Maddie and Chimney’s wedding episode?

Jennifer Love Hewitt: Tim and I had talked about it. I had actually said to him, “Is Maddie going to have a wedding dream about Doug? Because she’s been married before, it would feel natural for her to be nervous about doing it again, even though obviously this relationship is completely different.” And he was like, “That’s interesting. Let me think about that.” And then all of a sudden, Doug was back in the wedding episode, but not tormenting me in my mind, but tormenting Chimney.

I think the audience is going to freak out. I think that they always think that Doug is gone — and he’s never gone. So it was fun, and Brian was so psyched. He was so excited to do what he got to do. He and Kenny really love each other, so it was fun for them to work together. They had more fun being without me, apparently. [Laughs.]

Choi: The purpose of the Doug and Kevin thing is [Tim] wanted to have this sort of devil on one shoulder, angel on the other shoulder. The whole journey [of this episode] is about Chimney trying to get back his faculties and figure out who he is and where he’s supposed to be, and why the Doug stuff resonated so much is it helps him to realize that there’s this other person in his life that he’s trying to get to, that Doug is trying to keep him from. I had to read the entire script three or four times so that I could get a handle on, “Okay, this is exactly what’s happening,” but I think the end product is going to be dramatic, emotional, funny, unique, and way out there.

More on 9-1-1:

Jennifer, how do you think Maddie’s reaction to Chimney’s disappearance in this episode reflects not only her growth as a person, but also her faith and trust in the stability of their relationship? The difference between her first and second weddings are like night and day.

Hewitt: For me in the episode, even though there is fear and [she’s] upset obviously about the wedding day not going the way that she had planned, but also just not knowing where he was, I wanted to play Maddie strong in who she knows Maddie and Chimney are, and play her in a way that you could see the growth in her.

I can only imagine that her first wedding was [filled with] nerves of a completely different kind and probably having a massive gut instinct that maybe where she was going to find herself in life wasn’t the right place. In this wedding, I think her gut is telling her the entire time, “This is not who my Chimney is, so something’s wrong and I need to hold space and faith for him that he’s going to be okay, but that also we will get to do what we wanted to do.” So I hope that comes across in the episode. Although she’s vulnerable to the circumstances, she’s much stronger as a person than she used to be.

What do you remember from the day you shot the wedding in the hospital? That hospital room didn’t even look that big!

Hewitt: It was tiny, and I’m claustrophobic, so I was like, “God, get me out of here. This is too much.” [Laughs.] I’ll [often] run into the other actors in the trailer, and I’ll be like, “Hey, how’s your season going?” And they’re like, “My season is going great. How’s yours?” We just don’t have a lot of stuff all together, so it was really fun. It was fun for us to be together, and I feel like everyone’s collective reaction was an honest joy for Maddie and Chimney and those characters coming together that way. There was lots of laughter, lots of jokes, and lots of, “Oh dear God, how long is this going to take to film?” I’ll put it on Instagram after the episode, but I got one photo of everyone in the cast in the hospital room, and I’m so psyched about it.

Choi: I think every main and supporting main character is there, and we’ve never really had a scene like that before. When you’re doing such a highly emotional scene, professing your love to someone and having this beautiful union of marriage, looking out and seeing these 25-30 people who you deeply care about on a personal level, it helps the performance — which we needed because they had to do so much coverage. I think there were about six or seven different camera angles, and for each angle, you have to do maybe five, six takes. Jennifer and I got to this emotional place 35, 36 times, and it was exhausting. But having all of the people there helps support that kind of emotional resonance. 

This season, the writers have started to explore the friendship between Maddie and Hen (Aisha Hinds), who are connected by their love for Chimney. Jennifer, how do you think this storyline further reflects Maddie’s growth in terms of her willingness to establish new relationships after what she has gone through? What have you enjoyed most about working with Aisha?

Hewitt: Aisha and I have both separately called Tim and said that our wish for Season 7 is Maddie and Hen becoming friends. First of all, [Aisha] is extraordinarily talented, so it’s really fun to watch up close, but she is just, as a human being, light and sunshine, and we have a little bit too much fun. [Laughs.] We have just had the best time.

For Maddie, it’s been really big. When Maddie came on the show, she didn’t want a lot of relationships with other people because every relationship she had was a moment where she was hiding her truth. Then, I think after everything that happened with Doug, there was a lot of shame and a lot of, Are people going to judge the situation of me on the mountain fighting for my own life and killing someone else in the process?

Then, she got pregnant and it was Covid, so everybody was forced to be apart. Then, she had the postpartum, which was very much a shame thing for her [in terms of] hurting Chimney the way that she did. I think it’s taken her a really long time to be like, Do people forgive me for that? And where am I? So it’s been a big growth moment for her in this season to be like, “Yeah, I hang out with you all, and you’re my family and my friends, and this is cool.” I think that’s probably why Tim has made a conscious decision to put us together more this season. I think he’s trying to show that even if you don’t always see characters talking all the time, they are [talking] off-camera, and there are relationships forming. There are these things that are happening, even if you don’t necessarily see them on the show.

Jennifer, there’s a video that has been making the rounds on social media since Season 3, in which you declared that you thought Buck and Eddie (Ryan Guzman) would make a great couple.

[Hewitt laughs at the memory.]

Oliver Stark and Ryan Guzman, 9-1-1

Oliver Stark and Ryan Guzman, 9-1-1

Disney/Chris Willard

You may have been on to something, because Buck has been exploring his bisexuality this season. Buck came out to Maddie and Eddie separately in the midseason finale, and he comes out to the rest of his inner circle in a pretty clever way at the hospital wedding reception. He kisses Tommy, who has spent the day fighting fires, and they both show up to the party with soot on their faces. How did you both personally react to this storyline, and how did you want to play out your character’s reaction to Buck’s new revelation?

Hewitt: My first question to Tim before I read it, when I heard that it was going to happen was, “Please tell me Maddie’s reaction,” because she’s a mother figure to him too. I know that if it was one of my kids [coming out to me], I would want to be the safest, best place for that to land, and I would want to be as open and there for them as possible, but I would also want to be checking in and making sure that, “Is this a forever thing that we’re doing? Are we cool? Are we good? What’s going on?” And Tim was like, “Maddie handles it just the way that you would want her to.” So I was super excited about that.

I wasn’t surprised! [Laughs.] I just wasn’t. I was like, “Of course, that’s awesome,” because I think Buck has always been a person that has never quite settled into who he is, and the audience has always wondered where that was going to land and what he was truly going to decide. So I think it’s a really beautiful place for him to find himself, but something about it makes sense. It just feels right, and it feels good. I felt excited for him that there was a choice in his life that he could feel excited about.

Choi: How Chimney reacts is [like] most of the people who are close to Buck. It’s initially surprise because they never saw something like that coming, but then there’s happiness because you can see the joy on Buck and Tommy’s faces. When I heard about the storyline, I was super excited. And on a selfish note, I’m really happy because they brought Lou Ferrigno Jr. back. We’ve become really good friends, as he was in “Hen Begins,” “Bobby Begins Again,” and of course “Chimney Begins,” and we formed a tight personal bond. I think he’s a terrific actor, and I think this new dynamic brings this newfound energy into that storyline and into the show, and I’m excited to see how it blossoms.

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To be fair, Maddie has had some one-liners over the years that have, whether consciously or not, hinted at Buck’s sexuality.

Hewitt: Yeah, I think Maddie’s always known. I think I’ve always wondered if that was going to be a storyline for them.

I do side with the audience — I do think that Eddie and Buck would be adorable. I mean, I’m going to say it again, and I’m going to get in trouble. [Laughs.] And I like Tommy! I am a Tommy fan, so I’m not talking bad about Tommy, but I do think that [Buck and Eddie] would be cute too.

Even after all they’ve endured, Maddie and Chimney are able to find the humor in any situation together. Kenny, where do you think Chimney’s unshakeable resilience and zest for life come from?

Choi: He’s been a fighter his whole life. His trajectory resembles my own personal trajectory. Personally, I wanted to be an actor since I was 10, and I told my dad [that] when I was 10. Being a very traditional, strict Korean father, he said, “You’re never going to do that. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Ever since that moment, I sort of became insular, and I knew that I was on this independent journey of my own. I ended up running away from home for five years, and I broke off contact with my family so I could pursue this journey.

Chimney has the same sort of impetus. His father really wasn’t there for him, so he’s always trying to prove himself. And when a human being is trying to prove themselves and they’re away from parental influence and support, then you have to figure things out on your own. … You either suck it up and you figure things out, or you drown.

Chimney is a survivor. It’s not just these physical confrontations; there’s a lot of emotional roadblocks that he’s had to overcome in his life. Chimney is someone that’s always going to overcome [adversity] with humor, which is his sharpest weapon. He is going to overcome any situation. He always wants to make things better in his life. Sometimes, they don’t go that way, but he tries his hardest, and I think that’s why he’s sort of a fan-favorite. People love him because they love seeing him trudge up these hills and then the writers push him back down to the bottom, and then he’s got to get back to the top.

Maddie has not had an easy relationship with either of her parents (Dee Wallace, Gregory Harrison). Jennifer, do you think Maddie has been able to heal her inner child and mend her relationships with her parents in some way through raising her and Chimney’s daughter, Jee-Yun?

Hewitt: I do, for sure. Maddie is constantly apologizing for the early days with Jee, which was a complicated thing. Maddie didn’t get to have a super happy, easy pregnancy because [of] Covid. I know that [feeling personally]. I also had a pregnancy during Covid, and it made it tougher. There were things about it that were hard and complicated, and then having the postpartum that she did afterwards and having that distance and that strain, I feel like Maddie is constantly, with love, apologizing to Jee for maybe not being her best mom self when they met.

I feel like Jee is the most non-judgmental, loving, open space who’s like, “I don’t need an ‘I’m sorry.’ Just snuggle me!” It’s a really beautiful relationship, and I truly adore the girls that play her. They’re the sweetest little people ever. When I have to be away from my own kids, it makes me so happy to be with my TV kids.

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At this stage of the game, do you still have any unanswered questions about your character’s past that you hope the writers will be able to address and answer in future seasons?

Choi: I’m wondering one day if the writers will do something concerning the relationship with his father, because as I just expressed, I had a big falling out with my father in my personal life, and then after that five-year absence, we rekindled everything, and my life became so much better and so much richer as a person. One thing that’s always missing from Chim is the love and support he feels from his father.

I know individuals whose fathers were never there their entire life from birth, and there’s a point where they say, “Well, I really don’t care about him.” And that’s not always entirely true, is it? What they mean is they got to a point where they got tired of feeling so bad or so insecure or so upset about it that [they] start to build up an armor. That armor is the thing that makes a human being say, “I really don’t care about the person because they were never there,” but they actually do. So it would be interesting to see if Chimney can actually truly resolve things with his father.

Another dramatic turn would be if his father leaves this earth, and he doesn’t patch things up [and] what that does to a human being. I know people who have had estranged relationships with their parents and they passed, and they will forever regret that they never resolved it. 

Hewitt: For me, the unanswered question about Maddie is, what made her enter the relationship with Doug? What truly was going on with her at that moment? We’ve never done a “Maddie Begins” episode. We have done [an episode about] what happened with her and Doug and all of that stuff. But I think for that storyline, because there’s so many women in the world who are actually in those [abusive] relationships and have found themselves in those relationships, I think it could be really interesting to find out what was going on in Maddie’s life at that moment that made Doug the person she was going to survive with in that way. What made her marry him? What was going on at home? What was her relationship with Buck? We knew that she had distance with [Buck] because of the abuse that was going on in her life. One thing that I would still like to explore is what that was, because I think that’s an important piece to the abuse storyline that we haven’t told.

I do truly want Maddie to be happy, and I know that the audience does as well. I think that people who have the kind of history and trauma that Maddie has — this sounds awful, but I hope that it will always show up for her in weird ways. And the only reason that I hope [for] that is because I think that’s honest. I think triggers are triggers, and trauma is trauma, and I think Maddie has moved through her trauma beautifully, but I don’t know that she has fully let all of it go or dealt with it all. I think she’s just moved through it.

I think those stories are fun for me to play, and they’re fun for the audience to feel. So I hope that even in her happiness, that we will always be able to go back and find those parts of her that are a little bit broken because it keeps that storyline not just like a TV storyline [where something happens and is never addressed again], but it gives reality to the realness of what people deal with. 

You just began filming the penultimate episode of this 10-episode season. What can you tease about what is to come?

Choi: Episode 9 is a very Bobby Nash heavy episode. I’m super excited to see that because it’s going to push Peter Krause in all sorts of different directions, and he’s one of my favorite actors ever. I’m [also] excited to see Episode 8 where he’s going to have a lot of conflict to deal with.

There’s going to be a storyline with Eddie that I’m really excited to see; there’s one scene in particular that I’m excited to see him do. I think Ryan has been doing such strong work, and there’s this scene that he calls this perfect, beautiful disaster. When I read it, I thought, Oh, he’s absolutely correct. I’m so excited to see what Ryan’s going to do with that.

9-1-1 airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC. Episodes stream the next day on Hulu.

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