Derek Haas is redefining the word “multi-task.” The executive producer and co-creator of “Chicago Fire” began showrunning his second show last year with the launch of “FBI: International,” the first Dick Wolf series shot entirely out of the country.
During a phone interview with Variety, Haas — currently on set in Budapest — explains that he’s been on location four times since the show began production.
“We travel around a lot. We’ve shot in the Swiss Alps, Paris, Prague. So we can usually send a crew for a couple of days, and we strategically write it so that maybe just a limited amount of our cast is in those locations at any one time,” the executive producer explains. “It’s really easy here. It’s not like in the United States where you’ve got to go find another crew. Instead, we can just branch out for a day or two. Everything’s either a really easy flight or you can actually take take the train to Prague.”
Based in Los Angeles, Haas admits that the time difference is the biggest challenge, since it seems like “a 24-hour production is going on” with Chicago and Budapest being seven hours apart.
“With ‘Chicago Fire,’ you might have an idea for a new scene that is going to shoot the next day and I can just quickly email pages. In Budapest, if you have any changes, it’s 4:00 in the morning,” he says. “Those are the those kinds of things that make it a little more difficult.”
Other than that, the juggling act is been nothing but exciting: “As far as creativity, it’s fun because you get to wear all these hats. ‘Chicago Fire’ has always been fun because every episode comedy and romance and drama and action. And then this show we get to solve the crime.”
Thanks to casting director Jonathan Strauss, with whom Haas has worked closely for years, they’ve managed to cast dozens of international actors and crew members — as well as some from the U.S., like guest star Elizabeth Mitchell, who will be back on Tuesday’s episode.
“When we first wrote the mom showing up, he said, ‘What do you think about Elizabeth Mitchell?’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? If we could get Elizabeth Mitchell, I would freak out.’ I did a FaceTime with her in Washington and we hit it off. She’s from Texas, so we had that going for us. And I said how do you feel about going to Budapest? She said, ‘I would absolutely love it.’ So we got her on a plane,” says Haas. “It’s not easy getting people back and forth, especially with COVID and all of that, but actors for the most part are game because how often you get to do an international setting on a domestic show?”
In the Wolf universe, there have often been major crossovers — something that has taken a backseat due to the pandemic. “FBI” star Zeeko Zaki was able to come to Budapest for the show’s launch, and the team is hopeful that next year, a bigger crossover will take place.
The same goes for the “One Chicago” universe, especially in the event of a big gathering, such as a wedding, which would often feature stars from all three shows.
“We are on scope for a wedding episode this season. I would write it down — maybe not in ink, but as close to ink as you get,” Haas hints when asked about Stella (Miranda Rae Mayo) and Severide (Taylor Kinney), who recently got engaged.
Of course, a “Stellaride” wedding could also mark the return of a familiar face. Jesse Spencer exited the show In October but his character, Casey, is still very much a part of the story as Severide’s best friend who has temporarily moved away.
“I would be mortified if there was a wedding that didn’t include Casey,” Haas says, before adding that he is really enjoying Casey being part of the story via his long-distance relationship with Brett (Kara Killmer).
“It would have felt like cheating after having them building that relationship over so many seasons, and then just throwing it away, because of production demand,” he explains. “So we thought it was realistic, especially in this day and age, that people can keep a relationship going. It’s been fun for us because we love Casey so much as writers that we want him to keep his presence.”
“FBI: International” airs on CBS Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET. “Chicago Fire” airs on NBC Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET.