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The Chicago Fire Showrunners Had an Important Reason for Killing Off Otis

Otis was a beloved character on Chicago Fire for the show's first eight seasons. 

By Jackie Manno

Chicago Fire fans will never forget the fateful moment when Otis Zvonecek (Yuri Sardarov) tragically died after sustaining injuries from a mattress factory fire at the beginning of Season 8. While viewers miss his presence dearly, his death and Sardarov's exit were written into the show for a very concrete reason. Read why, below. 

Why did Yuri Sardarov leave Chicago Fire?

In a 2019 interview with TV Line, Chicago Fire co-showrunner Derek Haas explained his thought process behind the decision to kill off Otis and have Sardarov leave the show. 

The choice, ultimately, lied in showrunners wanting to remind viewers there are real stakes involved in the cases Firehouse 51 handles every day — and those stakes can sometimes lead to deaths of characters. To illustrate this, they chose to kill off a historic character like Otis instead of someone like, say, Ritter (Daniel Kyri), who was a new kid on the block during Season 8. 

​​​​​"When we decided it was going to be Otis [who dies], there was some talk about, 'Do we make it Ritter?'" Haas said. "But it felt like that was almost not as serious. It almost wouldn’t be the same situation or effect, because he was such a new character that the audience would think, 'Oh, we were just doing that intentionally from the beginning,' because it wouldn’t have had the stakes that it would have if it were a core cast member. And then we just decided it would be Otis because he lives with Cruz (Joe Minoso) and Brett (Kara Killmer), and he’s on Casey’s (Jesse Spencer) truck, and he’s in Boden’s (Eamonn Walker) house, and he’s best friends with Mouch (Christian Stolte), and owns a bar with Herrmann (David Eigenberg)… There are a million feelings that everybody has from a guy who’s been on the show from almost the first scene." 

Chicago Fire's Yuri Sardarov

How to Watch

Watch Chicago Fire on NBC and Peacock.

RELATED: What Happened to Gabby Dawson on Chicago Fire?

Haas told TV Line Sardarov completely understood the decision. "From a personal standpoint, it’s really difficult as a showrunner to tell an actor, 'Hey, this is what we’re thinking,' when you not only know them as a really great actor but also as just a good person and friend," he said. "But I called Yuri and told him what we were going to do, and I’ve never had a call as professional and as gracious, and I think, in the back of my head, that I know why, which is that he’s a writer himself, and he understands that you, as a writer, have to surprise the audience and give them something that they weren’t expecting." 

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