Interview with the cast of Fire Country

TV Interview!

The cast of "Fire Country" on CBS.

Interview with stars Max Thieriot, Billy Burke, Kevin Alejandro, Diane Farr and Jordan Calloway; and Executive producers Tia Napolitano and Tony Phelan of “Fire Country” on CBS by Suzanne 9/16/22

This was a TCA panel, so there were a lot of journalists there, and we’re only allowed one question (more or less). I’m not allowed to give you a transcript or video, so below is my summary of the panel. I really enjoyed the first episode, so I’m adding this show to my watch list. It’s a unique idea and very well done.

Max Thieriot, Creator/Star/Executive Producer
Billy Burke
Kevin Alejandro
Diane Farr
Jordan Calloway
Tia Napolitano, Showrunner/Executive Producer
Tony Phelan, Executive Producer

Virtual via Zoom September 16, 2022
© 2022 CBS. All rights reserved.

This was the first panel of the day, so we heard a general CBS introduction from Phil Gonzales, Senior Vice President, Communications, CBS Entertainment, and he played a promo for their shows. Then we heard from another executive, Mallor Mason. She told us, “We’d like to welcome you to the “Fire Country” panel. The drama inspired by series star Max Thieriot’s experiences growing up in northern California fire country premieres Friday, October 7th on CBS and streaming on Paramount Plus.” That’s right, the star of the show, Max Thieriot, is also the creator of the show, and it’s based on his own experiences! Also, he’s an executive producer (of course).

Then showrunner Tia Napolitano said, “We are so excited to bring you “Fire Country.” We’ve got a fun show that is about redemption and family. It’s a character driven thrill ride. We have had so much fun making it. I got excited just watching the sizzle reel again. It is inspired by the reality of the fires in California, and our characters are the heroes that are custodians of a community deep in fire country in California. Let’s get this started. We’re so excited to be here.”

Billie Burke and Diane Farr in "Fire Country"Most of the press asked Max questions, but I really love Billy Burke (ever since I saw him in the “Twilight” movies! And he’s been great in many shows I love, such as “Revolution” and “Major Crimes”), and Diane Farr (who plays Sharon) is also great. They play spouses in this show. There’s a bit of familial reveal at the end of the first episode, too. I asked them if they could speak a little bit about their characters’ relationship, and their relationship with the main character, Bode (Max).

Diane was very funny but really didn’t answer my question. She spoke more about working with Billy than about the characters. That’s fine – it was very entertaining. She revealed that it was fun to work with Billy because he’s “really not a morning person.” She made a funny noise and said that’s the noise he makes when he works. Then she compares him to Max, who comes in very bright, cheery and friendly. She said that he’s “Jesus, who was born in the manger” and then added, “And the juxtaposition of those two men is where I live.” She did say that she was just joking. She went on to speak more seriously about how she and Billy worked well together because they both have strong personalities, are veteran actors, “we negotiate our scenes. I usually want more emotional stuff, and he wants a little more action, and we literally negotiate, “Okay, if you kiss me here, I’ll do that thing you asked for.” Like, we barter for who’s going to give what.” I found that to be very interesting. She also praised Max for being such a great guy and full of heart.

Billy replied, “I’m going to go ahead and let you guess who wins most of those negotiations”. Then he praised Diane for making the acting easy and interesting. He’s very happy, he said, as long as he “feels like there’s something happening there.” He then went on to praise the entire cast, saying that they’re the best cast he’s worked with in a long time. He conceded that he does sometimes arrive in the mornings grumpy (or as he put it, “I’m all grumbly”) but working with them all makes things “a whole lot better.” They joked around a bit more. It was very fun to watch them play together.

The rest of the press had their own questions. The first one asked about how Max had to negotiate (there’s that word again!) his work on this show with his work on “SEAL Team,” where he’s also a part of the cast. Max admitted that it was a little difficult to “juggle,” but what helped is that they were already shooting season 6 of “SEAL team” before they started on “Fire Country” in earnest. He was able to make it work during breaks in the shows. He explained, “It’s been crazy, but, you know, life’s crazy, and I got a couple kids to throw in there, and I’m moving around, up to Vancouver to shoot a TV show…but I’m young, and I can keep up, and … I like staying busy, so it works for me.”

He added that when he started working writing this show, it was the start of COVID, and he didn’t know “how long this process would be.” He’d never tried to pitch an idea to a studio, and he’d never finished writing anything. He joked about being “a little bit of a hummingbird where, like, I’ll start on something and then I’m off to, like, another idea.” This started like that, but then he felt “locked into it.” He theorized that this is “just because it was personal.” He wasn’t sure whether he would play Bode, but then the producers convinced him that he needed to.

Max was also asked where he grew up in Northern California, and why he thought it would make a good TV show setting. The reporter also wanted to know whether the show will have self-contained episodes or be more serialized. Max answered that he grew up in Occidental, although he was born in Los Altos because his family was staying in a friend’s garage unit at that time. He told us that Occidental, which is in Sonoma County, only has about 1,000 people in it. He left there to work in the big cities, so he didn’t value how interesting the small town could be. He looked back on his life there and realized how different it is. He described it as “the comfort that you have and the familiarity you have with everybody and how close this community is. You know, in times of struggle and when everybody needs to come together, they really do, and they all support each other.” He felt that this would be a good “core foundation for the show.” Diane chimed to say that this is why she calls him Jesus Christ, because he was born in a manger.

Tony answered the other question, saying that it’s somewhat serialized, but he believes that it will be easy for the audience to catch up if they miss some episodes. He conceded, “There are obviously fire events, rescue events. Our firefighters battle wildfires from the Oregon border all the way down to Mexico..they also do water rescue, they do search and rescue. So there’s all sorts of stories to tell.” Their personal lives, and the mysteries involving them, will be the more serialized parts.

Billy was asked whether playing a fire captain on “911: Lone Star” helped him prepare for this role. Billy replied that he did a movie called “Ladder 49” (2004). He joked that maybe he’s a “closet pyro” because he loves fire. Then he thought about it and said that it’s really the characters he cares about, more than the world they’re in. His character on 911 was “just this despicable yet somehow likable guy,” which is completely opposite his character here of Vince. He’s not sure that he’s ever played a character like this one before.Manny and the other firefighters of "Fire Country" on CBS.

The same reporter asked Kevin (who plays Manny) about his role. He’s played a lot of cops, but here he’s more of a “fire cop.” Kevin is very honored to have played by many cops, but he’s new to the world of fire fighters. He shared that they, as actors, “dive as deep as we can to kind of figure out and respect not only the script but respect the job that’s put in front of us.” He’s really enjoying playing the role, but he feels that “it’s still a mystery to me. He just wants to do his best to represent firefighters on the show. He praised their “fire consultants” that show them how to do things. They have to stick close to the real firefighting but within the boundaries of entertainment. He agrees with Max about the small-town aspects of their show. He enjoys that aspect of “community and understanding that heart.”

The cast was asked whether anyone is afraid of fire in real life. No one thought that anyone there was. I mean, even if an actor had that kind of fear, I would think they wouldn’t want to admit it because they might lose their job (as long as they were able to conquer it and not let it interfere with the role). Max responded by talking about great their visual effects team is. Sometimes they have real fires in front of them, and sometimes it’s just visual effects, and their team “makes that look much scarier than it is.”

Max was asked about whether he’d experienced any great fire storms when he was living in Sonoma County; specifically whether his family ever had to be evacuated. Max revealed that there was one that happened when he was two, but he doesn’t remember. It. Most of his writing was based on the fires of the past few years, where a lot of Santa Rosa was destroyed by the fires. That one affected him the most emotionally because of all the damage and lives lost. He described to us that it came very fast, so the firefighters only had time to try to save lives and nothing else. He was texting with his friends who work as firefighters in that area and some of their stories were “pretty horrific.” He lives by the beach, but his mom lives up there, as well as friends. She had to be evacuated. How scary! She has horses and other animals on their faimly farm, so he had to go up and help them get the animals out and go to a safer area, like the dairy land in the southern part of the county.poster for "Fire Country" on CBS

Diane was asked about her past fire experiences on the movie “SuperFire” and in “Rescue Me” – specifically comparing real fire with CGI fire, and how it’s less risky now. She did agree that they’re much safer now.

She told a great story (she really should be on a podcast or writing) about her jobs. In the movie, she “had to learn how to fly a Cessna.” Then, with the series, “I had to learn everything because nobody thought I could be a firefighter. I trained with three ladies in three states. It was super hard.” She said that didn’t know anything before this series about Cal Fire (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) or about the different types of fires. She alluded to climate change making the world hotter and creating more fires, and how scary that is. She went back to the original point, saying that she doesn’t get to do too many dangerous things as an actor. However, she does “ride a motorcycle in real life,” which they wrote into the show. She thinks it’s probably too dangerous, but when a large stunt man tried to take it away, she didn’t let him, so we will see her riding that.

Actor Jordan Calloway (Jake) is most known for playing Khalil/Painkiller on “Black Lightning.” He was asked how “the physicality of that role” helped to prepare him to play a firefighter. Jordan said, “I’m still laughing after Diane. She’s hilarious. That’s mama bear on set.” He went on to explain that the two roles are very different. With the earlier show, “there was a heavy martial arts, heavy weaponry work.” He mentioned that Max probably has that on “SEAL Team” as well. He praised the real life firefighters for what they do, such as carrying around a heavy oxygen tank all day, as they had to do in one episode, as well as having to run around, check their surroundings, and deal with forest fires. He said admiringly that those are long days they have to stay fit and focused. He has some firefighter friends that deal with the fires in California because he’s from the Altadena area, which is in the mountains north of Pasadena. He remembers a big fire they had in 1996 where they had to evacuate. He laughed, telling us a story where his mom was up on the roof, watering it to make sure it wouldn’t catch fire. She also had “12 gauge shotgun” to keep looters away. However, they found out later that it wasn’t even loaded.

He went back to talking about how tough it is physically for the real firefighters, who spend long hours fighting the fires that can change very quickly. The stunt guys have it much easier, since the fire is fake, but he praised them for how great they are. He said they’re “crushing it.”

The journalist replied that he’s “been evacuated three times,” so he knows what it’s like for the real firefighters. He asked Max how he handles his heavy workload and whether it’s ever scared him. Max doesn’t think he’s ever been scared of the amount of work. He likes to “give a hundred percent” at whatever job he gets. He said that it may seem like his time is very “divided,” but compared to his “grandpa who farmed corn for 72 years,” it’s no big deal. His grandpa said, “Make hay while the sun shines.” He doesn’t shy away from the hard work. He enjoys “the sense of accomplishment in completing things.” He revealed that, “I have my work jeans on right now underneath my fancy shirt because I’m going to go out and finish my chicken coop that’s in the back as soon as we Max Theriot, star, creator and EP of "Fire Country" on CBSget off this call.” Whether he’s filming or working at home, it’s no different for him. He just has a bit more work than he’s used to, and he’s getting “a lot more emails” than he’s used to from his “Fire Country” co-workers, so he has a hard time keeping up on that, but he enjoys the work.

Actor/comedian Richard Kind, who was on the next panel for “East New York,” arrived early, so Diane Farr said, “I just want to welcome Richard Kind to our Zoom meeting. Richard, I’m so glad you can join ‘Fire Country.'” He didn’t seem to know where he was, so he asked, “Is that true? Am I with all you guys?” So she told him that he was. He replied, without missing a beat, “Well, I look forward to putting on my suit and wearing a big hat. Really big. How do I do that?” It was pretty hilarious.

Then they let Max give some closing remarks. He talked about how much he loves everyone on the show and how great they are. He’s excited to share the stories of the heroic firefighters.

MORE INFO: Trailer

"Fire Country" key art


Inspired by Series Star Max Thieriot’s Experiences Growing Up in Northern California Fire Country

Series Also Stars Billy Burke, Kevin Alejandro, Diane Farr, Stephanie Arcila, Jordan Calloway and Jules Latimer

“Pilot” – Max Thieriot stars as Bode Donovan, a young convict seeking redemption and a shortened prison sentence by joining a prison release firefighting program in Northern California where he and other inmates are partnered with elite firefighters to extinguish massive, unpredictable wildfires across the region. It’s a high-risk, high-reward assignment, and the heat is turned up when Bode is assigned to the program in his rural hometown, where he was once a golden all-American son until his troubles began. Five years ago, Bode burned down everything in his life, leaving town with a big secret. Now he’s back, with the rap sheet of a criminal and the audacity to believe in a chance for redemption with Cal Fire, on the series premiere of FIRE COUNTRY, Friday, Oct. 7 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+*. Series also stars Billy Burke, Kevin Alejandro, Diane Farr, Stephanie Arcila, Jordan Calloway and Jules Latimer.


Max Thieriot


Billy Burke


Kevin Alejandro


Diane Farr


Stephanie Arcila


Jordan Calloway


Jules Latimer



Marcelo Arroyo


Michelle Choi-Lee


W. Tre Davis


Aleita Northey


Ty Olsson


Kaylah Zander


STORY BY: Joan Rater, Tony Phelan and Max Thieriot

TELEPLAY BY: Joan Rater and Tony Phelan

DIRECTED BY: James Strong

GENRE: Drama

*Paramount+ Premium subscribers will have access to stream live via the live feed of their local CBS affiliate on the service as well as on demand. Essential-tier subscribers will have access to on-demand the day after the episode airs.


Proofread and Edited by Brenda

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cast shot for "Fire Country" on CBS