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How Chicago Fire Keeps Otis' Memory Alive

Since the premiere of "Chicago Fire" in 2012, numerous characters have come and gone from the fictional Firehouse 51 of the Chicago Fire Department. This has included a bevy of lead and supporting actors whose personalities on the show helped create the engaging dynamic of the series that has endured for 11 seasons. Sometimes actors leave the series for a number of reasons, which gives the showrunners the opportunity to plan and tease surprise re-appearances years after a character leaves the CFD (via NBC). But other times, some beloved firefighters or first responders meet their untimely ends, such as Brian "Otis" Zvonecek (Yuri Sardarov).

When it occurred during the Season 8 premiere in 2019, Otis' death devastated fans, which was made all the more traumatic as it came out of nowhere. Just when viewers thought all was okay after his rescue by the team, the character passed away while in the hospital. His humor and carefree personality made an impression on both his fictional colleagues at Firehouse 51 and the audience at home. In the three-plus years since Zvonecek's passing, the show has made several blink and you'll miss it efforts to keep the beloved firefighter's memory alive. Here are the details.

Joe Minoso points out the small ways cast and crew pay homage to Otis on set

Speaking to Us Weekly in 2022 about unexpected character fates on "Chicago Fire," Joe Minoso (who plays Joe Cruz) revealed some intriguing details about how cast members remember those departed, including Cruz's best friend in the program, Brian Zvonecek. The actor shared how naming Joe's son after Otis was intentional on the writer's part. The actor stated, "[That was] definitely 100 percent the writers' call on that one, but at the same time, I remember [creator] Derek [Haas] pitching it to me and I was like, 'His name's Otis, right?' It just felt right." 

This also shows that screenwriters pay attention to audience engagement with characters. Minoso then shared, "And I think everyone sort of knew that. Even right before Chloe [Kristen Gutoskie] gave birth. There was a whole thing on Twitter where people were like, 'If this kid's name isn't Otis, I'm gonna lose my mind.'" 

The actor also pointed out some small details viewers can keep an eye out for when it comes to Cruz paying homage to Otis. If you pay attention closely to the scenes where Joe is simply at the department working, you can sometimes spot the character using Otis' old coffee mug. You can also spot some of the departed fan favorite's toys and memorabilia in Cruz's apartment as well. Characters may come and go on "Chicago Fire," but their memories certainly live on.