Paul’s mother and sister passed through Austin on Monday’s 9-1-1: Lone Star, resulting in a particularly dramatic family reunion, even for this show.
Though this is the first time viewers are being introduced to Paul’s mom Cynthia (played by Cleo King) and sister Naomi (Regina Hoyles), the chemistry is undeniable. It’s as if we’ve been watching these three share the screen since Day 1, something Brian Michael Smith (aka Paul) also felt from their first day of filming.
As Smith tells TVLine, “I didn’t know who I was going to be working with, and when I got to the location of our first scene — it was the one at the RV park — Cleo and Regina were already there. I don’t know if it was the setup with the family eating by the lake or what, but it reminded me of my own family at home. We saw each other and there was an instant connection right out the gate. I’m a fan of Cleo’s work, and I’ve become more familiar with Regina on The Chi. We clicked immediately. This show always brings in really wonderful people. Both of them had that great, open-hearted approach to the work. So much of the episode was about our family’s story, so we joked that we were shooting our own spinoff, Strictly Stricklands.”
Unfortunately, the reunion takes a dark turn when it comes out that Naomi is harboring complicated feelings about her older brother’s transition, telling him, “I was nine years old and had a sister who I worshipped. And she left, and nobody explained to me why. … She left, and you came back — and it felt like you killed her.”
It’s a devastating moment for Paul, one that Smith calls a common occurrence for those in the transgender community.
“What I like about this show is that it takes things that are common but perhaps not often shown,” Smith says. “One of the hardest things to deal with is when you’re not accepted by the people you expect to be accepted by. I know that a lot of my peers have experienced this. And even though this story is tied to a specific character’s experience, it also relates back to a universal experience that everyone can relate to. This is about sibling relationships. Every sibling deals with this feeling in some way when another sibling goes away and the other one sticks around. Animosity can build.”
Smith says that a lot of the dialogue between Paul and Naomi came from conversations he had with the show’s creative team.
“They reached out to me and we had some great collaborative conversations about how we wanted to approach this storyline,” he says. “Siblings having a hard time accepting when someone transitions is common. They feel like they’re losing someone, but what they’re really losing is the idea they have of that person. I’m glad that Paul’s sister was able to express that feeling, because that grief is real. I’m also glad that Paul was given an opportunity to put the truth out there as simply as he could.” (Of the sister that Naomi misses, Paul explains, “I didn’t kill her. She never existed.”)
Paul’s sister is unexpectedly hospitalized towards the end of the episode, ultimately revealing that she’s been hiding her own multiple sclerosis from him for the past two years. Though it’s an unfortunate turn of events, Smith says it’s a “way of lubricating the move towards forgiveness.”
Elsewhere in this week’s family-driven hour: Tommy tries out several new paramedics, only to be pleasantly blindsided with an application from T.K., and Owen and Gwyneth decide to proceed with their pregnancy. Your thoughts on the episode? Drop ’em in a comment below.