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“9-1-1” boss on that surprise character return in the season 7 premiere

“Sometimes we feel abandoned when people that we love die," co-creator and showrunner Tim Minear tells EW of brining back [SPOILER].

Warning: This article contains spoilers fror 9-1-1 season 7, episode 1, "Abandon Ships."

When 9-1-1 co-creator and showrunner Tim Minear promised some returning faces in season 7 of the first-responder drama, a deceased spouse was probably not what fans were thinking.

But in the second half of Thursday’s premiere episode, Shannon Diaz (Devin Kelley) — Eddie’s (Ryan Guzman) estranged wife, who died from injuries sustained in a car accident in the penultimate episode of season 2 — appears as her son, Christopher (Gavin McHugh), reads a letter she wrote him years earlier.

Minear tells Entertainment Weekly that he relished the opportunity to bring guest star Kelley back on the show (something that hadn’t happened since an Eddie flashback episode in the middle of season 3), but also felt it was a chance to show Christopher’s development over the past four seasons.

“As I was coming back into the season and seeing how much Christopher had grown, it occurred to me that in the early days of Christopher's story, he was so little. At one point he's asking Santa Claus to bring his mom back,” Minear tells EW. “So he was just very guileless and wasn't blaming Shannon for anything. He just wanted to see his mom again. Now, I feel like he's at an age where not only does he realize that she left because of her own volition, but it's now time for him to kind of wrestle with that question of why she left.”

<p>Disney/Chris Willard</p> Oliver Stark and Gavin McHugh on the '9-1-1' season 7 premiere.

Disney/Chris Willard

Oliver Stark and Gavin McHugh on the '9-1-1' season 7 premiere.

"I'm always on the side of my own characters, so I wanted to justify Shannon," Kelley says of why she was excited to return again. "To give the audience this little nugget that maybe people hadn't seen before just made me feel a bit vindicated.

"The last I saw Gavin was right before the pandemic, and he's grown up so much," she adds of reuniting with her onscreen son. "At the risk of sounding like a very stereotypical mom, he has just come into his own. It was so cool to dip back in, and just be like, 'Wow, time has passed.' He's so hilarious and sweet. We just reconnected immediately. Ryan was on set that day too, and so we had a very sweet family reunion. I was taking pictures, and it was great to reconnect with Gavin's real mom because I hadn't talked to her in a while."

Shannon’s return also allowed Minear to explore Christopher’s grief: “Sometimes we feel abandoned when people that we love die. So I think he feels doubly abandoned, and I think he's conflating those two things. He's still dealing with his mother's death, but now he's getting to an age where he's understanding the losses that he has suffered.”

Minear felt this was particularly important to explore as the action-adventure series moved from Fox to ABC for the new season.

“It's a question of coming onto a new network, starting a new season after we've been off the air for so long: ‘What are the important things that kind of define these characters?’ And for me, that not only defines where Christopher is, but it allowed me to come in a cheeky way where it felt like, ‘Oh, this is going to be a fun little story about Christopher being a player and having a lot of girls on the line, when really what it's about is he going to take his trauma that he suffered as a kid, and is that going to be something that manifests itself as he gets older, and what is his relationship to women?’”

The co-creator says he chose to highlight this story in the premiere because it also provided insight to Eddie and his best friend Buck (Oliver Stark).

“This also defines Eddie, because Christopher defines Eddie, and protecting his son and raising his son and making sure his son is okay and safe and healthy and happy is really what defines Eddie,” he says. “And, of course, Buck feels a familial duty to both those guys. He feels almost like an uncle or a second dad to Christopher. I thought [it was] a great way to reveal corners of the dynamics of that triad.”

But don’t worry, as indicated by Eddie’s smile seeing Christopher turning the photo of Shannon back upright on his desk, we aren’t in for a dour Eddie season.

“I believe that we're going to see Eddie smiling a lot more,” Guzman has told EW of his character in season 7. “We're going to see less crying and crazy Eddie and the drama and trauma that Eddie's gone through. We're going to see a little bit more of him rounding the corner and showing his funny side.”

But will we see Shannon pop up more as the series continues?

"Maybe Shannon can really go off to rest in peace, or maybe she'll come back in some other iteration," says Kelley. "We don't know, but I'm game for all of it."

9-1-1 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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