Tommy and Charles’ love story received an unexpected new chapter on Monday’s 9-1-1: Lone Star, which found Gina Torres‘ character resorting to unconventional methods to face her husband’s death on what would have been their 15th wedding anniversary.
“My first response when I get a script like this is that I hope I can pull it off,” Torres tells TVLine of the emotional hour. “I always hope we have the time to do it right, because the pace on TV shows is so fast. You want to give it the breath that it needs so that it doesn’t feel forced. The good news is that I feel that we really earned this moment. We established such a beautiful love story between Tommy and Charles, so it made sense that this relationship would take an eternal form.”
An ill-advised viewing of Ghostbusters led Tommy’s daughters to believe their house is haunted, a notion she initially laughed off until a chance encounter with a healer — yes, the same woman Michelle consulted about her missing sister in Season 1 because, as Torres says, “We like to bring people back” — inspired her to believe that Charles was sending her a message from beyond the grave.
“Anyone who has lost someone, regardless of where their faith is centered, wants to believe that the person is still with them in some way,” Torres says. “People hold on to a piece of clothing, something that reminds them of that person. Even a scent can absolutely bring you back to a place where you were with that person that you loved. For all of those reasons, I loved going here with Tommy. Charles is in every corner of that house. He’s in the eyes of their children. So what does it look like when she gives herself a moment to lean into all of that?”
As it turns out, it looked like Tommy preparing her husband his favorite meal, getting all dressed up and sitting down for a romantic dinner for two… for one.
“I grew up with the practice of putting something out on special occasions, putting out an offering for the person that you love,” Torres says. “It’s really what Dia De Los Muertos is all about, honoring that person and sharing their favorite meal. This was not a concept that was alien to me at all, but I know it’s alien to a lot of people. Some people might not get that, but if someone as pragmatic as Tommy can take that leap, why not, right? And it gives her peace. So if I can in turn give that peace to somebody who may be watching the show and struggling with mourning in their own way, my job is done.”
Looking back on Tommy’s sudden loss of her husband (due to actor Derek Webster being cast on Fox’s Our Kind of People), Torres says, “I was upset, because I feel like I got sucker punched — like most of America! Having said that, it’s another aspect of her to play. We deal with life and death all the time, but it’s usually outside of us. This episode is a reminder of how important it is to mourn, however you need to do it. Feelings are things that we have and should be allowed to have and move through. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. ”
But don’t expect Tommy’s internal struggles to start affecting her on the job. As Torres explains, “one of the reasons Tommy can be so successful as a paramedic is that she has mastered compartmentalizing everything, which is tricky. She has to master her surroundings and her emotions to be able to do what she does as well as she does. When she’s home and off the clock is when it can all come flooding back. You rely on Tommy to be strong, and it’s hard to watch when she’s not.”
As for the episode’s stunning final moment, in which Tommy felt Charles’ presence thanks to some inexplicably reignited candles, she said the contributions of her scene partner can’t be understated.
“I was so impressed with that cat,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve got to tell you, he was great. A consummate professional.”
Were you moved by Tommy’s unconventional anniversary dinner? Drop a comment with your thoughts on the episode below.