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Everything Chicago Med Fans Should Know About The Hit Medical Drama

You can't flip through the TV listings without stumbling over at least one channel playing a Dick Wolf show, and one of his most successful franchises is "One Chicago," of which "Chicago Med" is a vital part. While he might be most known for the "Law & Order" franchise, "One Chicago," which debuted with "Chicago Fire" in 2012, has also found massive success.

The "One Chicago" universe consists of the original "Chicago Fire," which tells the story of people working at Station 51 of the Chicago Fire Department, along with three spinoffs. While one of those spinoffs — "Chicago Justice" — only lasted for one season, "Chicago P.D." and "Chicago Med" are highly successful, as well as remarkably immersive and connected. The viewers are sucked into a world where all of these emergency services rely on each other and interact, so the popularity of one show powers the success of the other two and vice versa.

The shows strengthen crossover bonds by having sibling work in different departments, like the "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago P.D." brother/sister duo of Gabby (Monica Raymund) and Dawson (Jon Seda), as well as the Halstead brothers. Jay (Jesse Lee Soffer) appears on "Chicago P.D." and Will (Nick Gehlfuss) serves as the male lead for "Chicago Med." There's even the occasional cross-series flirtation and romance!

If you're a fan of "Chicago Med," you might think you've seen it all and then some, but there are many untold truths about this show and this franchise. Below, we'll share some of these little-known secrets with you.

It all started with a backdoor pilot

Backdoor pilots are a clever way of testing audiences for a new series by working the potential characters and setting into an already established one. They are a staple of the television industry. Dick Wolf and the "One Chicago" universe are no strangers to them, given that each new series – including "Chicago Med" – has been introduced via a backdoor pilot on an already existing series (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Show creators first planted the seeds of "Chicago Med" in the 2015 "Chicago Fire" episode "I Am the Apocalypse." This episode sees a mixture of "One Chicago" characters, both from the fire brigade and police officers from "Chicago P.D.," quarantined inside Gaffney Chicago Medical Center after a suicidal patient declared that they were carrying a deadly and airborne disease. At the same time, an electrical situation happening inside the hospital requires the attention of some "Chicago Fire" crew.

The episode helped to establish the hospital setting itself, and viewers were able to draw some lines between characters, such as the connection between Will Halstead and his brother, "Chicago P.D." fave Jay Halstead. Other "Chicago Med" characters are woven throughout the storyline. We see Dr. Daniel Charles (Oliver Platt) and Sharon Goodwin (S. Epatha Merkerson) working to calm and contain the suicidal individual. Meanwhile, Will and April (Yaya DaCosta) focus their attention on the other patients, and Hannah (Laurie Holden) helps save a fireman's life.

Ratings for the episode event were solid enough that "Chicago Med" premiered as a standalone show only seven months after the airing of "I Am the Apocalypse" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

It really does take place in Chicago

If you live in Chicago and want to do a real-life tour of memorable "Chicago Med" spots where the series is filmed, you'd better clear your schedule for a few days. The show is filmed almost entirely in the Windy City. This definitely makes "Chicago Med" stand out from the norm because many shows and movies are filmed in entirely different locations than they are set. It's hard to even count the number of filming locations that have been used, but we can discuss a few of the big ones, such as the hospital itself.

While Gaffney Chicago Medical Center isn't a real hospital, the building used for filming exteriors and roof shots is actually part of the Rush University Medical Center. Molly's Pub, where the exhausted doctors and nurses frequent, is also a real Chicago bar called Lottie's. The real Lottie's is located in Bucktown, though you won't catch any cast members hanging around filming these days because the production actually created a replica of Lottie's on-set to film with. Interiors are filmed at the Cinespace Chicago Film Studios. If those guys haven't sent Dick Wolf a fruit basket for keeping them busy with all of his shows, they really should look into that.

"One Chicago" cast members are vocal about loving the city for all that it has to offer. Oliver Platt said to the Observer, "Working here is fantastic. There's a lack of pretension. A roll up your sleeves, grounded attitude towards the work people do here which is incredibly refreshing."

One actress had to be replaced with three

Everything was not smooth sailing in those seven months between the backdoor pilot that aired as a "Chicago Fire" episode and the "Chicago Med" premiere. The cast was originally envisioned to have fewer characters. The idea was to focus more closely on the presumed stars of the show. Specifically, the drama would revolve around Laurie Holden, famous for her role in "The Walking Dead," and Nick Gehlfuss, whose character had the benefit of being the brother of Jay, a fan favorite from "Chicago P.D."

Unfortunately, that wasn't meant to be. While Gehlfuss was locked in and ready to commit to the demands of filming, Laurie Holden was not. "Chicago Med," like its sister shows, films in Chicago — which means the stars have to, at least temporarily, relocate to the windy city. Entertainment Weekly reported Holden did not want to have to uproot her entire family, nor was she a fan of living away from them for large chunks of the year.

"I am so grateful to Dick Wolf, my fellow cast members, NBC and the entire 'Chicago Med' team for their understanding," Holden said in a statement she released (via Deadline). "Sometimes we must make tough choices and, for family reasons, not doing 'Chicago Med' is one of those for me at this time. I know the show is going to be a huge success and I'll be watching."

All was not lost, however. Upon her departure, the show opted to replace her not with a different actress but to kick the show off with three additional female characters. These characters were a pediatric nurse Natalie Manning (Torrey DeVitto), a charge nurse Maggie Lockwood (Marylene Barrett), and a first-year resident Sarah Reese (Rachel DiPillo). Fans of the show and those characters would likely argue that it was a solid trade-off.

The episode titles hide a strange pattern

If you've ever looked at a list of the episode titles from any given season of "Chicago Med," this sneaky little Easter egg may have passed you by. However, if you take the time to look at a list of every episode title from every season in sequential order, it probably stands out more clearly. The writers seem to have a hidden naming scheme that not many fans have caught on to. We'll let you in on this little secret — the number of words in every episode title matches the season that they're in.

That means every episode from Season 1 has a one-word name, every episode from Season 2 has a two-word name, and so on. By Season 8, this method gives us titles like "(Caught Between) The Wrecking Ball and the Butterfly" or "Winning the Battle, But Still Losing the War." Showrunners Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider have not commented on the episode titling practices, but it does seem noteworthy that this pattern is specific to "Chicago Med." Neither "Chicago Fire" nor "Chicago P.D." have any discernible pattern to their episode titles.

If the "Chicago Med" crew is titling these to build to a specific point, they wouldn't be the first show to use that clever tactic. CBS's "The Good Wife" did a similar thing, but with an important variation. In "The Good Wife," episode title lengths reflected the number of seasons only up to Season 4. In Season 5, the episode titles went back to three words. In Season 6, they were two, and in Season 7, they were one-word titles. This was done with the full knowledge that the show would end after seven seasons, and there would be no Season 8.

Chicago Med faced a big pandemic-related challenge

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most filming was halted, and when it resumed, the showrunners had a decision to make. Were they going to offer some pure escapism by completely ignoring the realities of a pandemic world, or were they going to let the show mirror reality?

The "Chicago Med" team decided on the latter. Season 6, filmed in 2020 despite multiple production pauses due to cast testing positive (via ET), saw the staff at Gaffney have to deal with isolating themselves from their families to keep their loved ones safe, trying to connect with patients despite wearing masks, and the heartbreak of losing patients to the coronavirus.

Beyond just altering the emotional tone of the show, the writers chose to focus on factual disruptions to patient care from the administrative and supply-based side. In Episode 2 of Season 6, two doctors are shown arguing over which patient would be the one to get the contrast dye they'd need for surgery. There simply wasn't enough for both patients, which meant one doctor had to improvise at a much greater risk to the patient.

The show also chose to highlight the realities of what pandemic education has done to students. One resident has issues completing a basic procedure because he completely missed out on the portion of medical school where he'd have been able to learn how to do it in a real-life setting with appropriate oversight. Instead, he was taught how to do it virtually without having actually touched a patient in the process. Here's another fun fact for you: "Chicago Med" has made some medical history itself. The show was used in research on how media handled the COVID-19 pandemic in the Journal of American Medical Association.

Cast shake-ups are commonplace

Making it to multiple seasons is impressive for any show, but Dick Wolf and the crew behind the "One Chicago" shows definitely know what they're doing. This includes occasionally making some decisions that the fanbase may question or just not expect, all in the name of keeping things feeling fresh.

Season 7, in particular, was an era of change in "Chicago Med." The show lost two series regulars, including Dr. Natalie Manning, who was one-half of the show's most popular romantic duo, and nurse April Sexton, whose character growth and development were crucial components of the show's development. Two new characters were added to fill their places — Kristen Hager's Dr. Stevie Hammer and Guy Lockard's Dr. Dylan Scott.

Later, Season 8 brought even more changes to Gaffney. Relative newcomers Dr. Scott and Dr. Blake (Sarah Rafferty) parted ways with the hospital. The new face around Gaffney is a first-year surgical resident student who does whatever the opposite of hitting it off is with the rest of the staff. In terms of the familiar face returning — well, she was only away for one season, but who didn't miss April? We certainly did.

Life can imitate art in the worst way

Sadly, one "Chicago Med" actress has to endure a similar life development to what her character had to go through on the show. Marlyne Barrett, who has played charge nurse Maggie Lockwood on the show since the first season, talked about her battle with cancer in September 2022 (via CNN). Barrett told People that she has a "football-sized tumor on her uterus and left ovary," and she has been undergoing an aggressive chemotherapy regimen. In addition to the chemotherapy, she has undergone a hysterectomy.

Barrett's character on the show had breast cancer and had an emotional storyline in which she suffered quietly before confiding in her coworkers. While Barrett views herself as a very private person, she says that she felt like she had a responsibility to share her cancer journey with the world. "When my character went through breast cancer, I had a sea of people reach out to me through social media. They brought me courage, and so I felt a sense of inevitability to meet their hearts where they met me," she told People.

She and her husband Gavin Barrett have young twins together. Barrett told People that she shaved her own head in front of her children so that she could take away the power chemotherapy had over her.

Chicago Med made a young fan's dreams come true

"Chicago Med" made one young disabled girl's dream come true and she documented it for all to see on her YouTube channel "Discover with Dallas." Dallas Placzek was born extremely premature. She suffered a massive brain bleed. This caused her to develop hydrocephalus, and she was eventually diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy (via Love What Matters).

Fortunately, physical disability does not stop Dallas from going after what she wants — even if that's a speaking role on a hugely popular television show! She auditioned for "Chicago Med" and was cast as Carly, one of the children featured in the season seven holiday-themed episode "Secret Santa Has a Gift for You."

While the show hadn't originally been planning on casting a disabled child for the role, Dallas won them over. On her YouTube channel, you can follow Dallas through her costume fitting, hair, and makeup. You can even see her wheelchair get a fun makeover on Instagram, as the crew covered it in stickers to mask the visible logos before adding some decorative tinsel for that festive touch.

Dallas and her mother were even given a special tour of the studio, allowing Dallas to interact with some of the props and letting her in on some of the special Hollywood magic that goes into the set dressing.

One show's failure led to Oliver Platt joining the cast

Oliver Platt has accumulated a lot of accolades over his decades in Hollywood. He's won Emmys, been nominated for a Tony Award, and generally just seems to have a knack for picking projects that are not only going to be winners but will make him one, too. In addition to his numerous film and stage appearances, he's had notable guest roles on shows like "Nip/Tuck," "The Good Wife," and "The West Wing."

Of course, they can't all be hits. In 2000, Platt starred in a newsroom drama called "Deadline" that only aired for thirteen episodes before being canceled. How does this relate back to "Chicago Med"? Well, "Deadline" was created and produced by none other than Dick Wolf.

While the show itself may not have stood the test of time (or even a full season), it did do two meaningful things. It started Platt's long-lasting friendship with Dick Wolf and instilled in Platt a love of television acting, as he explained to Outsider. Both things converged beautifully when Wolf approached Platt to star in one of his new shows, a medical drama. "When Mr. Wolf calls," Platt told The Hollywood Reporter, "you pick up the phone. I was only too thrilled to get that call." This resulted in him being cast as Dr. Daniel Charles on "Chicago Med."