Warning: The following contains major spoilers for Wednesday’s Chicago Fire. Proceed at your own risk!
Chicago Fire officially has a vacancy to fill on Truck 81 following Wednesday’s milestone 200th episode: Leading man Jesse Spencer has exited the NBC drama after playing Captain Matthew Casey for 10 seasons.
The actor has starred on the firefighter drama since its 2012 debut and was one of six remaining series regulars from the first season. (The others are Taylor Kinney, David Eigenberg, Eamonn Walker, Christian Stolte and Joe Minoso.) But after going from eight years on Fox’s House straight into Fire, Spencer is ready for a break and to put his focus elsewhere.
“I realized I’ve been doing TV for a long time. I added it up, and I think this year is my 18th year of network television,” Spencer told reporters during a Zoom press conference. “I called [showrunner] Derek [Haas] and broke him the news, said I thought it was time to leave the show, and he agreed that we should at least get Casey to 200 episodes. It was a difficult decision because I’ve loved the show from the start, but there are other things that I would like to do in the future, and there’s some family that I need to take care of, and 18 years is a long time.”
“I was, of course, wanting to talk Jesse into staying and coming back,” Haas added. “But I was very happy that he gave us five more episodes than just saying at the end of a season, which happens sometimes, too, like, ‘I’m out.’ That let us bring back a storyline from Season 1, which I know Jesse was excited about when we pitched it to him, to bring back the Darden boys and really tie in the pilot to Jesse’s leaving.”
In the 200th installment, Casey told his friends and colleagues at the firehouse that he was moving to Oregon to take care of his late best friend Andy Darden’s sons (at least until Ben gets into college in three years). The life-changing decision made for a “perfect full-circle [moment] and a really reasonable way for Casey to, organically, leave the show,” especially since the firefighter has always wanted to be a father, Spencer said. And after just one call from Deputy District Chief Boden, Casey already had a job lined up with the Portland Fire Department.
In bidding adieu to the Windy City, Casey shared several goodbyes with his firehouse crew and was on the receiving end of a thoughtful speech from Boden (after which the show’s OG firefighters embraced Casey in a group hug). Haas put all of his own feelings about Spencer’s departure into Boden’s words, “so that was a really difficult scene to write,” Haas shared. “Jesse meant so much to me. I wanted to end the episode with that.”
Casey, meanwhile, means a lot to Brett and vice versa, so naturally, he tried to convince her to come to Oregon with him. But his girlfriend was not ready to leave behind the paramedicine program she had just launched. Rather than breaking up, the couple decided to give a long-distance relationship a try, with Casey vowing, “Nothing’s gonna change.” (Famous last words, much?)
After building up to “Brettsey” for three seasons, Spencer admitted that the timing of his exit was unfortunate in regards to the will they/won’t they romance. “We just finally just got there,” he said. “It was difficult because I really like Kara [Killmer, who plays Brett]. We’ve established a really, really nice relationship. I loved working with her… But it was written really well into the episode, because they’re trying to make this relationship work, but they know that he’s leaving. So they’re sort of saying nothing is going to change, but…”
Despite the obstacles against them, Casey and Brett will indeed continue to be committed to each other, even with Spencer no longer on the series. “We’re going to keep it alive,” Haas said of the relationship, noting that things like FaceTime, phone calls and easy flights make that possible. Plus, viewers have very likely not seen the last of Spencer, whose voice will be heard in an upcoming episode. “This is a three-year commitment that Casey is making, but hopefully, we’ll see him before those three years are done,” Haas added.
Spencer, too, echoes the idea that this is not the end for him and Fire: “There is the potential for me to come back. I still am in Chicago right now. I’m not running off to Los Angeles or anything, although I might escape for a little bit of the winter,” he shared with a laugh. “My home here with my wife is in Chicago, and so I’m still going to be here, but I’m just stepping back for right now.”
Fire fans, how are you handling the news of Spencer’s departure? Hit the comments to let us know (after you grade the 200th episode below)!