There’s always a lot happening on Chicago Med, but it seemed like a lot was especially happening during the latest episode of the show, titled “The Winds of Change Are Starting to Blow.” Fangirlish had a chance to catch up with Nikki Taylor-Roberts, who directed the episode, to discuss trying to balance all the storylines in the hour, how to choose the guiding force of an episode, and directing from a point of empathy.
For Taylor-Roberts, it was, above all things, about “finding the rhythm in between each scene.” There are, she shared, a lot of pieces to a show like Chicago Med. “There’s a lot of humor and there’s heart,” so for her, the trick was in “finding the heartbeat that connects all of those things.”
Not just that, but finding a way to frame it for the audience. “It’s about challenge and triumph, and making sure that each scene was like an arc,” and presenting that in a way so that it all “fits together,” and “feels whole and not out of place.”
One of the characters this episode – and really, this show – revolves around, is Maggie Lockwood. And the storyline Maggie is involved in during this episode is “very personal and close to her,” as a cancer survivor. Taylor-Roberts shared that, as much as she leaned into that, it was also something that Marlyne Barrett brought, and that the director called “an abundance of gifts.” This meant that when she was “architecting these scenes tone-wise,” she could always depend on Marlyne and in turn, Maggie, to set the tone that she needed.
Coming into a show like Chicago Med is, in many ways, playing in these actors’ sandbox. That means that, for someone like Nikki Taylor-Roberts, the process is immensely collaborative, because the actors have been inhabiting these characters for so long and know them so well. In that regard, she shared that she “had some ideas, and they said, no, let’s try this,” and it was “like playing, and it shows,” in the final result, particularly because “they’re so generous with their time and their skills and their intelligence.” And so “they took the ideas and notes and perfected them.”
“I didn’t have to force a collaboration. It was welcome and reciprocated, and it flowed really, really well.”
“The Winds of Change Are Starting to Blow,” in particular, had a storyline that leaned heavily into the messaging about misinformation. Taylor-Roberts gave a lot of credit for this to “the writers, the producers, and the people who run the show,” pointing out there were a lot of conversations during prep about how this storyline and this character. “It was very much well thought out, premeditated. It wasn’t just like, oh, we’re just going to slap this idea and, you know, treat this patient like this and point a finger. No, there are so many sides to why a person may be averse to a hospital or medicine, and I feel that we wanted to show all those layers of life in this one character.”
But there was also a very clear messaging, within the context of a show that deals with facts, about what’s real and what’s not. The medicine is what it is – which doesn’t mean that people’s feelings aren’t what they are or that all problems can be fixed. In the world we live in, it’s important for a show like Chicago Med to be unequivocal about facts, while still trying to tell whatever stories it can tell taking into account people’s experience and how those experiences shape them.
For Taylor-Roberts, that final shot, the fact that this specific storyline has no real fix, is especially important. “It’s like great empathy,” she told us. “It’s a demonstration of great empathy. There are two sides — one that allows a person to walk away, and one that wants to urge a person to get saved – and those are the extremes of empathy. The show kind of lives somewhere in the middle of that.”
And it will probably continue to, as the characters that inhabit Chicago Med make whatever decisions they need to – for their patients, for themselves, and yes, sometimes for the drama. Especially with only a few episodes to go before the season finale.
New episodes of Chicago Med air Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.