Audiences at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event were treated to a trio of stars from Fox’s hit new procedural 9-1-1. And for Connie Britton, Angela Bassett and Peter Krause, part of the joy of taking the show—created by Brad Falchuk, Tim Minear and Ryan Murphy—was in meeting the real first responders whose lives the series puts under the microscope.

“I was fortunate to meet one of L.A.’s finest,” said Bassett, who plays LAPD officer Athena Grant. She had lunch with a lieutenant who had been on the force for nearly a quarter century. “You’d never know, sitting there, that she had a gun at her hip. Of course, I had to ask the question, ‘Have you ever had need to use it?’ And no, she hadn’t, in 23 years.”

The Contenders Emmys 2018

But the lieutenant had come up in the LAPD at a particularly difficult time. “She came up through the Academy here in L.A. when there were very few women, and of course very few black women,” Bassett marveled.

Unusually for an emergency services procedural, 9-1-1 also shines a light on the telephone operators who take those first emergency calls. Britton plays 911 operator Abby Clark. “I spent a lot of time at the L.A. call center,” she explained. “The skills they have, with these six computer screens in front of them, each screen doing something completely different, and they’re controlling all of them. They have to do it in a matter of seconds, and they have to be at this clip all the time, but with a completely level voice.”

Over the course of the season, the 9-1-1 characters were faced with emergencies like a stopped roller coaster, a collapsed floor and, in Episode 4, a spectacular plane crash. Filming the crash was Krause’s highlight, even if it did mean being submerged in water and battered by wind as the overnight temperature dropped to 27 degrees.

“We spent some really cold, wet nights,” he laughed. But it was a bonding experience like no other, with co-stars Aisha Hinds and Oliver Stark. “We were huddled together for warmth and we’d get up against the fuselage just to get out of the wind.”

Check out our conversation above.