Peter Krause On ‘9-1-1’ Season 5, Episode 16, ‘May Day,’ And the Show’s Vision of Family

"It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what gender you are, what your sexual orientation is—you all get to be a part of a family."

Peter Krause as Bobby FOX

This article contains spoilers for the May 2nd “May Day” episode of 9-1-1.

After losing his first wife and two children in a fire that he had inadvertently caused years ago, firefighting captain Bobby Nash (Peter Krause) saw his worst fears realized once more when he discovered that his stepdaughter, May (Corinne Massiah), was trapped in the burning 9-1-1 call center with her colleague, Claudette (Vanessa Estelle Williams). Hellbent on saving their lives, Bobby donned his turnout gear and rushed into the building with Lucy (Arielle Kebbel), while Buck (Oliver Stark) teamed up with Eddie (Ryan Guzman) for the first time in months to help an electrician injured in the power surge that had caused the building to go up in flames.

With the fire preventing him from making a beeline to the room on the third floor where May and Claudette had been ordered to stay after exchanging words in front of the other dispatchers, Bobby was able to create an opening in one of the walls to reach them in the eleventh hour. But after Bobby handed Claudette off to a couple of other firefighters, he and May were crushed under the debris of the collapsing roof, forcing the members of the 118—Buck, Eddie, Lucy, Hen (Aisha Hinds) and Chimney (Kenneth Choi)—to come back together to dig them out from under the rubble.

Thankfully, Bobby and May were found alive, leading to one of the show’s most harrowing and heart-stopping reunions to date. “Alright, 118, let’s get to it,” Bobby tells his firefighters as they walk arm-in-arm with May to safety. Claudette, however, was not as fortunate and mysteriously succumbed to her injuries on her way to the hospital, setting up a cliffhanger that will implicate Jonah (Bryce Durfee), Chimney’s former paramedic replacement, in the next episode.

In a recent phone interview, Krause—who serves as both an actor and an executive producer on 9-1-1—spoke with Observer about the emotional reunion of the 118, the continued evolution of Bobby as a father figure of the firehouse and the Grant-Nash family, and the unexpected person who will be there for Bobby in the final episodes of the show’s fifth season.

What was it like to film the scenes in this episode with not only Corinne but also the other past and present members of the 118?

Peter Krause: It’s been great, and I do want to say what a fantastic young actor Corinne Massiah is. She’s been performing this season while being a freshman at U.C.L.A., so she’s had two jobs—one as a student, and one as an actor. Corinne and I had a fantastic time doing this episode together. Usually, she’s either in the call center or at Athena and Bobby’s house. So while we were performing these action scenes, several times she would turn to me and say, “This is so fun! This is so cool!” It was really the two of us together, and she was just having the time of her life, which was really fun for me to see.

[The scene with all of the 118] was really wonderful because this season, the character of Eddie had to stand down and the character of Chimney was searching for Maddie [Jennifer Love Hewitt], so they were gone, and I was trying to find some new members to bring into the 118 family. And as we’ll see, as the season progresses from this episode, some of those things don’t entirely work out. I will say that from the very beginning, if I can just think about the 118 as characters, me as the captain and then Chimney and Hen have always been together, like my first mate. Buck is very much like my son, and Eddie is a little bit of a reflection of Bobby in some ways. They’re both self-critical, and they’re damaged in some ways. And this season, it’s really interesting to see what goes on in between Bobby and Eddie, and there’s a scene upcoming where Eddie sort of absolves Bobby of some things that have gone on that Bobby feels responsible for. And I do want to highlight what a fantastic job Ryan Guzman has been doing this season. He’s been very dedicated to being both the best actor and the best person that he can be, he’s a recent father of two kids, and I’m really proud of everything that Ryan’s been doing.

Peter Krause (l) as Bobby and Ryan Guzman as Eddie FOX

How do you think Bobby’s painful past influences the actions he makes in the present?

Like many people, Bobby is very self-critical and sometimes feels like he doesn’t deserve the good things in his life, particularly because of some of the things in his past. But family is obviously important to Bobby—it’s also important thematically to the series. To have the 118 come together at the end of this episode, it felt really good. Chimney has a line in there about “We’re all back together”—I can’t remember exactly what it is, but it’s a nice moment when May and Bobby get dug up from beneath the rubble by the whole team together. And basically, they’re off to the next emergency.

An interesting element of Bobby, too, is his religious faith, and he does have a connection to a higher power. Forgiveness is very important to Bobby, and of course, the most difficult person for Bobby to forgive is himself. But he does view May as his daughter—that’s the way I’ve been playing it anyway—even though it’s obviously his step-daughter, and he’s very respectful of Athena (Angela Bassett), May’s mother, and Michael (Rockmond Dunbar), May’s father. I think that emotionally, Bobby feels like this is his child, and he’s not gonna let anything happen to her. Because of things that happened in the past, he carries around a lot of guilt. But he’s still driven to save people, whether it’s a stranger from an emergency, or any of his family members at the 118, or any of his family members in Athena’s larger, extended family. He feels very protective of everyone, and I love that about Bobby.

Angela Bassett (l) as Athena and Peter Krause as Bobby FOX

Bobby and Athena have truly become the parents of the show, and there’s a calming, grounding quality that you and Angela bring to the screen. What is your favorite part of that onscreen dynamic?

I would say that her strength and also her calm are really wonderful for Bobby. But at the same time, it’s her acceptance of him for who he is, which I think is the cornerstone of the relationship. Bobby is so grateful to get to be a part of not only his work family, but to get to have another family. And I think that, at least the way I’ve been playing it, he doesn’t feel like he deserves it, but he’s so incredibly grateful that she would take him into her family and that he gets to be a parent again. He feels very protective of everybody in the family, including Michael and [his fiancé] David (La Monde Byrd). I try to play all that as quietly as I can.

But that playful union that we get to see between Bobby and Athena once in a while when they’re alone is also really fun. And when they have fun together—some of the caper cases and things that we’ve done in the past, [like] when Bobby got dosed with LSD or that woman’s animal collective and the wild cat—there is sometimes a heart-to-heart element to the Bobby/Athena relationship, which I personally enjoy. I like all aspects of the show, but I think when we’re at our best, it has to do with action and comedy. I do get into the character studies of each individual and obviously the drama and the emotion. But for me as a viewer, what I really enjoy is when the action and the comedy are both happening [at the same time].

I heard Angela always likes to talk to everyone on set, so do you have any fun things that you do on set to pass the time in between takes?

We’ll just kind of chat and share personal stories, private stuff. But it’s a really fun bunch, I have to say—both with her in that family world, but then also with the firehouse and that family. It’s a tight bunch, and I’ve always wanted to see everybody around me shine, so I really enjoy being part of an ensemble, going all the way back to Sports Night, Six Feet Under, Parenthood. I think this is a really good group on 9-1-1, and the show is hard to make. [It] takes a long time to get everything in the right spot with the cameras, fire, hoses, and all the action that we have to do. So I’m very proud of the show, especially when I hear from you or from somebody else that they liked a particular episode, and I look back and I think, “Oh yeah, man, that was a tough one to make. I’m glad it came together and that people really like it.”

‪A lot of your characters from past projects seem to be fathers who put the feelings of their family and friends before their own, and that certainly applies to Bobby as well. Has that been a deliberate choice on your part?

I’ve always been interested in playing characters who are trying to be the best version of themselves and have to overcome obstacles, because I think that is the essence of the human journey. In this particular case, I also think that 9-1-1 really is a comic book about first responders come to life. And instead of superheroes, these are everyday heroes doing super things. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what gender you are, what your sexual orientation is—you all get to be a part of a family. I hope that quiet message that we’ve been trying to deliver since the very first episode has some resonance in a culture that is sometimes divided tribally for no good reason.

From left: Kenneth Choi as Chimney, Oliver Stark as Buck, and Peter Krause as Bobby FOX

What can you preview about the last two episodes of the season? How heavily will the events of this episode weigh on the 118 going forward as they start to come back together?

They’ve got some rough things to go through. And looping back again, it’s interesting that it’s Eddie who comes back to Bobby and kind of is the agent of forgiveness when it comes to Bobby. Bobby is having a tough time forgiving himself about some choices he’s made, and it’s Eddie who comes and allows him to forgive himself. And looking forward to next season, I think Bobby and Athena may go on a vacation, and what could go wrong? [Laughs.]

After five seasons, the writers have already mined a lot of stories for Bobby. What parts of his life—and maybe his past—would you like to explore going forward?

We’ve explored so much of that, and it can keep looping back around. But I do think that moving forward, you’re gonna continue to see Bobby be grateful that he has this wonderful work family and he has a wonderful family with Athena, and that he’s gonna continue to want to be a good father to both families. And over the years, I just want to say the incredible friendships that have developed on the show are a real treasure. Just in terms of leadership on set, Angela is great, Kenny and Aisha have been really wonderful too, and everybody treats the guest cast with tremendous respect, and they’re welcomed in for the brief time that they’re going to be a part of the family. I’m proud of how everybody has been treating everybody who comes on to the set of 9-1-1—they’ve been doing a really great job.

Do you think Bobby ever wants to be promoted to a chief position, or is he happy where he is at the moment with this group that Athena once described as the “island of misfit toys”?

[Laughs.] I think that both Athena and Bobby want to be where the action is, I really do. That’s the way both Angela and I have been playing these characters. And it’s not your typical procedural—you, as a person who’s watched it, kind of know that. [It] leads us to some long work days, but the dedication we have to making these action scenes work and also to pepper the show with comedy—it’s just been a lot of fun. And this episode was written and directed by Juan Carlos Coto, and then the final episode is written and directed by [co-showrunner] Kristen Reidel. [It] can be such a nice thing to have the writer be on set as the director, because then you can make some changes on the fly that end up making the episode richer.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

9-1-1 airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX. Peter Krause On ‘9-1-1’ Season 5, Episode 16, ‘May Day,’ And the Show’s Vision of Family