The newest firefighting cast member of “9-1-1” faced some very personal fears when she joined the hit Fox series about first responders.
“I’ve been terrified of fire my entire life. Yes, I did sign onto this job. But, my house burned down as a kid,” Arielle Kebbel, 37, told The Post, adding that she was around 4 years old at the time.
“I watched my mom carry my brother out of the house; my sister and I grabbed the animals. I have vivid memories of the smells of it, and the sound of the ambulance,” she said. “[The firefighters] saved our lives. So, when I first got this job, my family’s response was ‘How do you feel about that?’ because everyone knows that fire is hard for me. But, I felt like it was time to literally walk into the fire and face it.”
Now in its fifth season, “9-1-1″ (Mondays at 9 p.m.) follows the personal and professional lives of various LA-based first responders and the emergencies they face on the job. Among others, there’s patrol sergeant Athena Grant-Nash (Angela Bassett) and her husband, fire station 118 captain Bobby Nash (Peter Krause); caring, impulsive firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley (Oliver Stark); Buck’s sister, Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt); loyal and even-tempered paramedic Henrietta “Hen” Wilson (Aisha Hinds); and lighthearted firefighter/ paramedic Howie “Chimney” Han (Kenneth Choi).
Kebbel plays Lucy Donato, a firefighter who works with the 118 team. She’s bold and confident, and in her introduction in the March 21 spring premiere, sparks flew between Lucy and Buck as they shared a kiss.
“Her backstory is that she has three brothers and comes from a family of cops. She’s the black sheep. She’s a firefighter instead, and she’s very proud of that decision,” said Kebbel. “Everyone’s had a lot to say about that Buck kiss. I’m excited in the episodes coming up [because] Lucy has some big rescues. A lot of her stuff is with Buck, but there’s also a nice moment between Lucy and Chimney.”
She hinted that if the show is renewed for a sixth season, the plotline leaves room for more developments with Lucy.
Kebbel, a veteran actress who’s been in a slew of movies and shows, including “John Tucker Must Die,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Gilmore Girls,” “90210,” and “Midnight, Texas,” said she’s no stranger to the level of physicality required by her “9-1-1” role.
“I grew up doing sports, and I used to want to be a professional horseback rider as my career. It’s naturally who I am, and I’ve enjoyed bringing that piece of athleticism to my characters,” she said. “But specifically, on ‘Midnight, Texas,’ because I played an assassin, I had to be so aware of set safety, and what it meant to have weapons on set, whether they were real or fake. I was excited [for ‘9-1-1’] because I’ve never played a firefighter before, and it’s the most physically demanding job I’ve ever done.
“They use real fire on the set. We have all of our gear on and are breathing out of oxygen tanks, and they’re very heavy,” she said. “It’s staged, but it’s real fire. So, what prepared me the most is learning how to speak up and be present and safe while we’re doing these stunts.”
She said her first fire stunt was “a big moment for me, emotionally and physically,” thanks to her past experience with fire as a child, but she felt supported by the cast and crew.
“I didn’t know what I was walking into [joining the show]. I was aware it was Season 5, I wasn’t sure if the cast was close … It’s like the first day of school, all over again,” she said. And I am so impressed with this cast and crew. It’s truly one of my favorite projects that I’ve ever been on. It’s hard mentally and physically, so the cast and crew’s camaraderie is the glue that holds things together.”