Tonight, Fox’s 9-1-1 will wrap its first season. The crime drama, from Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear, has served as a bridge series while Empire is on hiatus and has been able to keep — and even exceed — Fox’s viewership levels on Wednesday while the network’s flagship drama series is off. 9-1-1, Fox’s highest rated new series since the launch of Empire, will finish its freshman season as the #1 show among Adults 18-49 on Wednesday (3.0 Live+7 rating), tied with Empire and ABC’s Modern Family, and as the most watched program on the night (10.7 million in L+7). It is Fox’s most watched show this season with 14.3 million multi-platform viewers, the #2 new drama of the season in adults 18-49 and highest-rated new scripted series among African-Americans.
9-1-1 marks Murphy’s return to the procedural genre 15 years after his breakout FX medical drama Nip/Tuck. (As a thread that connects the two, both feature a signature phrase that sets up the case, ‘Tell me what you don’t like about yourself” and ‘What’s your emergency?”). 9-1-1 came out of an old idea Murphy had had about doing a show centered on first responders which he shared with long-time close collaborator, Fox TV Group chairman Dana Walden, when the duo was brainstorming what would work on broadcast. The series quickly became a family affair as Murphy partnered with his American Horror Story teammates Falchuk, Minear and director Bradley Buecker and signed up AHS alumni Angela Bassett and Connie Britton for the two female leads, joined by Peter Krause.
9-1-1 came together very quickly last spring.The original plan was to do the series for fall 2018 but Walden insisted on getting it on the air in January 2018. 9-1-1 launched in January to strong ratings, swiftly earning a second season renewal.
In a brief interview with Deadline, Murphy discusses 9-1-1′s success, reveals details about the upcoming second season, including what it will focus on, whether all cast members, including Britton, will return and if there will be new cast additions. He also reveals preliminary talks about a potential 9-1-1 spinoff and addresses his own involvement in the show going forward in light of the blockbuster deal he recently signed with Netflix, which starts on July 1.
DEADLINE: Were you surprised by 9-1-1’s success?
MURPHY: I was surprised. I was surprised at how it premiered strong and really hung in there. The consistency of the ratings, that’s what I love because I feel like that is key to an even more successful season two; I think people have fallen in love with the characters, and I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful that Dana pushed us to get it on the air in January, which I think was a really smart counter programming move, and it’s unexpected because I hadn’t done a procedural for so long. I’ve particularly never done something about first responders, which is something that I think people would not expect coming from me. But I was thrilled that it caught on, and I’m thrilled that it continues to do so well.
It’s an interesting thing because of the last two network shows that I’ve done, The New Normal and Scream Queens, Scream Queens went for two years. I wouldn’t say that was a huge success. I loved it, but this feels like a bigger success to me, a bigger network success. We have a five-year plan, we’re in it to win it. There’s talk of spinoff already, so the fact that it went from such an intimate collaboration with my boss, Dana, to a success story makes me happy and proud for everybody because we all really rolled up our sleeves and dug in on it so that we could get it on the air in January.
DEADLINE: You mentioned a potential 9-1-1 spinoff. What will it be about?
MURPHY: Well, I don’t know. We’ve been talking about it but we haven’t figured that out. It’s something that we probably wouldn’t do for another year, but there’s been mention of it. For me at least, the network game has been hard to crack, so I’m pretty thrilled with the fact that it has proven to be successful enough that there’s been mention of that at Fox, like what would you do and what would it be. I don’t know what the spinoff would be, but we’re talking about it.
DEADLINE: What about the cast, is everybody coming back next season? I believe Connie Britton had a one-year deal.
MURPHY: Connie and I are talking about her coming back. Connie had just come off Nashville, and she didn’t want to do another show right away. I said, ”well, why don’t you just do a one year deal’, so Connie has a one-year deal, and we all knew that going in. But the show has become such a success, successes are good, and Connie and I both realize that, so we’re talking about her coming back in some capacity to season two if we can make her deal work.
We’re adding other cast members for season two. This season was about growing the firefighter family, the first responder family. We spent a lot of time in that firehouse, we spent a lot of time with them around the table, so the second season will be about introducing new 9-1-1 operators and their dilemmas and their personal emergencies. We’re casting those right now, and Connie will, hopefully, definitely be a part of that.
DEADLINE: What about your personal involvement next season as you are preparing to transition to a deal at Netflix in a couple of months?
MURPHY: As I’ve said, I really still want to be involved in all of the shows that I’m doing, I don’t want to leave them. I think that I will eventually get into a transitional point — I have very strong number twos, I have a very strong lieutenant, and I am going to go off and create my next two shows that I’m doing after Pose, which comes on in June. I’m doing The Politician with Ben Platt for Netflix, and then I’ll do Ratched with Sarah Paulson for Netflix (both via Fox 21), and then even more creative stuff for them, but hopefully, I’ll continue on with my shows. All those people, all those actors, the crew, they signed up because of me and my relationship with them, so I want to keep going. Everything that I’ve created, I want to be a part of going forward.
DEADLINE: For 9-1-1 fans, what would you tease about tonight’s Season 1 finale?
MURPHY: The only thing that I would like to tease up is — I would like to see Peter Krause and Angela Bassett both have some romantic luck on the show because their stories have been a little tumultuous. So that’s one little thing that I’ll say — the finale is moving those two characters towards maybe a happier romantic place.