When TV shows feature gunshots, prop guns shoot blank bullets. When a character gets stabbed, a fake knife on a spring plunges into fake blood packets. But when Grey's Anatomy firefighter spinoff Station 19 shows houses on fire, there's nothing fake about the flames. Grey Sloan Memorial doc Ben Warren (Jason George) wanted to trade in his scrubs for a more adrenaline-fueled experience, and that's exactly what the actor playing him is getting on Shonda Rhimes' new addition to TGIT.
The new series follows the lives of the men and women at Seattle Fire Station 19, just a few blocks down from Grey's Anatomy hospital Grey Sloan Memorial. But while Grey's Anatomy takes place at a totally fictional hospital created for the series, Station 19 is modeled after a real fire station in Seattle. While sitting down on the Los Angeles-based set, series creator Stacy McKee reveals to Bustle that scenes from the pilot were filmed on location at Seattle Fire Station 20, and they designed the set almost identically to the real firehouse.
The reason McKee didn't name the spinoff Station 20 was simple: she wanted to make the series its own world and story, so the only connection to the real Station 20 is the design of the firehouse set. All the characters are fictional too, but they do consult with Station 20 to make sure they keep everything authentic.
"This looks exactly like that station," star Grey Damon says, leaning back in his chair in the Captain's office on set. "We modeled it right after it." Miguel Sandoval, who plays Lt. Herrera, makes sure to give a shout out to the production designer Jessica Kender for doing a "fabulous job" in bringing Station 20 to life on set for Station 19. But one difference keeps tripping Damon up during filming.
"The kitchen in the real station is upstairs," he says, noting that the kitchen set is on the first floor for Station 19. "And sometimes, literally today, I ran upstairs because I was told we were going to the kitchen because we shot there the first time. But it definitely throws me off."
Station 19's firehouse is gorgeous to see in person and on camera. All sleek silver metals and modern finishes throughout, it feels right at home for the Seattle-set show. But as series star Jaina Lee Ortiz points out, "Not many fire stations get to look like this."
"But the one in Seattle really does," she adds. "I've done some ride-alongs and the firehouses are not cute. Mold in the bathrooms, the worst living conditions ever." Damon says that's because most fire stations and firefighters don't get the money they need from local governments to keep things in good shape. "We are very fortunate to model it after this very fancy, futuristic looking one with solar panels," he says.
The one downside to modeling a fake fire station after a real one? The lack of privacy. According to McKee, the real Station 20 was very open, adding to the family vibe and dynamic that firefighters share with their team. But this is a Shondaland show, and characters are going to have steamy hook-ups while at work.
While on location at Station 20, McKee kept trying to scout private rooms. "They showed us a supply closet and I was like, 'Wait, what's that room?'" McKee says. "And they were like, 'Uh, why? We don't really use that.' And I was like, 'Does it have a door that closes and locks? I'm writing a TV show, I need to find places people can have sex!'"
Most of the series is shot on the fake set, but the actors aren't wearing fake firefighter gear. And it's for their own safety. According to George, the fire is always real, never CGI. And since the actors love getting as close to the flames as possible while filming, that requires real uniforms and equipment.
"These are called turnouts, the fireproof gear that we wear," George says, standing in the turnout room set. "The pants, the boots and the oxygen tanks. The oxygen tanks are legit. You start realizing there are muscles you didn't know were there. We put on the gear and we sweat our way through a lot of days. It's fun but it's work. It's physically more demanding than anything else I've ever done."
Danielle Savre, who plays Maya Bishop, gets teased for always having candy in the pockets of her turnout jacket, but she loves to pass them out to her cast mates on set. Barrett Doss, who plays Victoria Hughes, loves wearing real gear that actual firefighters wore in the past to help get herself into character for filming.
"We were in used gear for a while and we just, in the last month and a half, got gear that was used and then they fit to us so it's slightly more fitted," she says. "But it is all functional, fire-retardant."
But the downside of wearing real firefighter gear is how heavy it all is. "We're wearing these tanks for the entire day," Savre says. "We only take them off for lunch and that's it. The mental ability to get up and do it again, it's hard."
Firefighting is in Savre's blood, though — her sister is a firefighter in real life. Doss reveals that she's even come to set. "She's [stunt] doubled Danielle a couple times which is pretty cool, so being able to have her as a member of our family is great," Doss says.
And as for those cute teddy bears viewers will see in the turnout room in each firefighter's station? Doss says that those actually have a purpose, both on set and in real life.
"Firefighters actually have these in their kits for kids," she says. "If you go on a scene with a child, you want to have something that can help them feel comfortable if their house has burned down and they don't have anything to hold onto. That's why we have them." If that's making you emotional already, prepare for all the classic Shondaland feels when Station 19 ignites the drama, both on the job and in their complicated relationships. The fires may be hot, but the hook-ups are definitely going to be hotter.