Chicago Fire has proved time and time again that it’s not for the faint of heart, for reasons ranging from the suspenseful stunts to the reality that the NBC drama isn’t afraid to kill off characters. One of the most heartbreaking was the death of Brian Zvonecek, a.k.a. the lovable Otis. The character was part of Casey’s Truck 81 crew from the very beginning until he was one of several whose lives were in jeopardy at the end of Season 7, only for Season 8 to premiere and kill him off. Actor Yuri Sardarov has shared his feelings on Otis’ death, and why it was actually necessary.
The death of Otis was a tear-jerker at the time and no less sad now, if you want to revisit the Season 8 premiere streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription. Yuri Sardarov’s beloved character was injured early on in the episode, and Otis was dead by the first commercial break after regaining consciousness just long enough to say his last words (in Russian) to Cruz. Sardarov spoke with Tell-Tale TV about the fateful twist for his character back in 2019, sharing that he’s spoken with then-showrunner Derek Haas at the end of Season 7, and he continued:
Sardarov was still a very young actor when Chicago Fire premiered back in 2012, and spending seven full seasons in primetime on NBC meant that most of his professional acting career by the time of Otis’ death had been set in One Chicago. When I spoke with showrunner Derek Haas about the character’s demise in 2019, he commended Sardarov for being “so gracious and professional” in agreeing to come back for the Season 8 premiere to finish off Otis’ story. The actor went on in sharing his own perspective:
As somebody who went through her fair share of tissues while watching the Season 8 premiere, I can agree that it packed a punch to see somebody as warm, sweet, and funny as Otis die! His death was also one of the most gruesome across the One Chicago shows, as the camera actually lingered on the severity of his burns. Derek Haas shared with CinemaBlend that there was a reason why Chicago Fire went so gruesome for Otis’ death, and there’s no denying that Joe Minoso – whose Cruz went through some serious growth afterwards – turned in a fantastic performance in reaction to it.
Yuri Sardarov did actually return to Chicago Fire after the Season 8 premiere, although not because Otis was magically resurrected. Otis appeared in the midseason finale of Season 8 (which also featured the return of Monica Raymund as Gabby Dawson) via flashback, with Sardarov reprising the role. While he hasn’t been back since, Cruz named his son after his fallen friend, and the memorial to Otis at Firehouse 51 is still standing. The actor did return to the Dick Wolf TV universe, however, with a guest appearance in Season 2 of FBI: International on CBS earlier in 2023.
If you want to revisit Otis’ time on Chicago Fire (or his tragic death), you can find the full run of the hit series so far streaming on Peacock. While Fire (along with Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med) was renewed for the 2023-2024 TV season, the WGA writers strike and SAG-AFTRA writers strike began before production could begin on new One Chicago episodes for the fall in the 2023 TV schedule, and the wait is on for when the shows will actually be back.