How (and why) 9-1-1: Lone Star killed off Lisa Edelstein's character
The first responders of 9-1-1: Lone Star know how much things can change in an instant — but it still came as a shock (to the characters and viewers alike) when T.K. (Ronen Rubinstein) received a phone call at the end of last week's episode informing him that his mother, Gwyn (Lisa Edelstein), had died.
Monday's episode begins with a 9-1-1 dispatch recording that reveals how Gwyn died — but for those who can't wait for the Fox drama to air tonight, EW has an exclusive clip of that phone call below.
Ahead of tonight's episode, we asked star and executive producer Rob Lowe (whose character, Owen, is T.K.'s father and Gwyn's ex-husband) and co-creator Tim Minear to share what fans can expect from tonight's emotional episode, why it was time to say goodbye to Gwyn, and if we've really seen the last of Edelstein on Lone Star.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tease about tonight's episode?
ROB LOWE: It deals with the immediate aftermath of finding out that my ex-wife, Lisa Edelstein's character, was suddenly struck by a [bike] and killed in New York. And T.K. and I are dealing with that sort of emotional story and trying to figure out how to get to her funeral. On the flight to the funeral, there's a massive malfunction on the airplane and it turns into a mid-air drama.
Why have her death take place off-screen and relayed through a dispatch call?
TIM MINEAR: It was an experiment on my part, something that I've been wanting to do for a long time. I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, and there's one called Sword and Scale. And it uses a lot of audio and a lot of 9-1-1 calls. And it's just incredibly compelling to just hear this stuff. And it interested me to just hear the call and never see anything except the text on the screen. I wanted it to almost feel like it was going on almost too long. Like, you can't quite believe that the first two minutes of this network show is just sound and text scrolling. So I did that. But the episode is really about Gwyn saying goodbye to her son — and the way that we accomplished that was by telling two stories. One's a flight to a funeral and one's a flight to rehab. And it all culminates with a goodbye.
What's it been like working with Lisa on the show for the past two seasons?
LOWE: Lisa and I have always worked well together. I thought we had really special chemistry from the minute I met her, in the pilot episode of The West Wing. I love any time I get a chance to work with her. And she was a great lift on the show.
What does it mean to T.K. to lose his mother?
MINEAR: This is based on my own mother, who died a year ago, and the experience I had when she took me to rehab. Now, it wasn't nearly as dramatic, and it wasn't as far — we didn't fly across the country. She put me in the car and drove me to Cerritos from Whittier. But it was a very similar thing, where I was 20 and I went to my mom and I told her what was going on with me. And she didn't judge me. She didn't cry. She put me in the car and drove me to a place and said, "You walk through those doors, if that's what you want to do." She gave the strength to do that. I've been sober ever since. So that's what it was based on.
And Rob, what does losing Gwyn mean to your character, Owen?
LOWE: Starting with losing his entire firehouse on 9/11, Owen's whole life has been marked by loss. And although it's his ex-wife, this is still the loss of a whole chapter of his life and it's the loss of the mother of his son. And so this is definitely an issue that Owen has to struggle with. But I think his real concern is "what does it mean for his son?" Because at the end of the day, T.K. is losing a parent.
Why did you decide to kill Gwyn off?
LOWE: We felt like this was the best resolve of her character's arc. You know, she lives in New York, she has a significant other in New York, she's [just had] his baby. Those are stories that certainly wouldn't fit in the 9-1-1: Lone Star, Texas universe. She lives a separate life there. So it had kind of run its course. The question was, "what's the most fulfilling, dramatic, juicy thing, way to service that story?" And you know, there's nothing more dramatic than an unexpected death, as opposed to her just being on the phone every sixth episode or something like that.
MINEAR: It's sort of me saying goodbye to my mom and also it's a tribute to her. Lisa never met my mother, but there's so much of her in that performance. Lisa is sneakily brilliant in this episode — in a look, everything is there: She is angry, despairing, loving, compassionate, she's all those things. She's true mother love, like tough mother love in this episode. And it's a real tribute to her skill as a screen actor, I will tell you that.
MINEAR: But that wasn't really your question. Your question was, "Why now?" Well, why not? I don't want to crap on the poetry of what we did by talking about physical realities of production, but Lisa Edelstein is a guest star on [Lone Star]. She doesn't play a first responder on the show. And what often happens in our universe is when you have a character that is not on the front lines of being a first responder, they end up moving to Haiti. There's nothing for them to do, and so they can service the stories, but I can't necessarily count on them to be there whenever I want them for an episode. They have to be available. I have to be able to afford them for an episode. I just don't want people just spinning their wheels on screen. I want to give them something to play. I want to give them something to do. And it was time for me to explore T.K.'s sobriety, and this just felt like the right way to do it. It's just full of emotion. It's my favorite episode this year so far, and there have been a few that I've loved. I wanted it to feel like a tragedy feels. Tragedy isn't planned for often. Sometimes it just happens. Sometimes a piano just falls on your goddamn head.
We've seen Gwyn show up in flashbacks and in some surreal moments where she's not actually there. Have we seen the last of Lisa on the show?
LOWE: I have a sneaking suspicion that there should be, there could be a very wonderful, unexpected return. We're cooking up something super special for our season finale. And when Tim Minear is ready to tell everybody about it, I'm sure everybody will know. But if we go with his brilliant idea, I think Lisa would probably play a part in it.
Well, Tim, what say you? Have we seen the last of Lisa on Lone Star?
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
9-1-1: Lone Star airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
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