Kevin Heffernan (L) and Steve Lemme play firefighters on "Tacoma FD." Photo courtesy of TruTV
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- Season 3 of the TruTV comedy Tacoma FD, premiering Thursday, will culminate in a major fire stunt, creators Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme said. The comedy typically centers around a Tacoma, Wash., firehouse that does not get many calls.
"It's a big fire episode cliffhanger," Heffernan said in a Zoom interview.
In previous episodes, the Tacoma FD would respond to minor calls such as a bag of popcorn burning in a microwave. In such situations, the characters could remove their standard issue self-contained breathing apparatus masks.
Lemme, 52, said the season finale proved comedically challenging. While fighting a real blaze, the characters had no choice but to keep their SCBA masks on, obscuring all the actors' faces.
"You can't crack jokes, you can't do facial expressions," Lemme said. "The trick is to try to figure out how to make it funny."
Before the season finale, Tacoma FD Season 3 scaled back the show. Filming under COVID-19 safety protocols from November 2020 to April 2021, Lemme and Heffernan set many episodes entirely in the firehouse.
Though set in the Northwest, Tacoma FD is filmed in Los Angeles. Heffernan said centering Season 3 episodes on their firehouse set allowed the characters to shine.
"We were able to really dig into a lot of the characters and the fun they can have in the station," Heffernan said. "It was by necessity, but it ended up working out great for us."
One Season 3 episode shows the firemen competing in a pickleball tournament. Heffernan said they learned about the paddleball game from real firehouses.
Heffernan, 53, said he didn't know the rules of pickleball prior to the show. By the end of the episode, Heffernan said, the entire crew was whacking plastic balls across the net.
Heffernan plays Chief Terry McConkey, whose daughter, Lucy (Hassie Harrison) is a firefighter in training. The chief shows Lucy tough love as her boss. Heffernan, who has two daughters and a son, said he's the same way with his 16- and 18-year-old daughters.
"You have a tough exterior, but you're just a softie on the inside," Heffernan said.
Lemme plays Capt. Eddie Penisi. Gabriel Hogan, Eugene Cordero and Marcus Henderson play the other firefighters. They pass the time playing pranks on one another, many of which also were inspired by real firefighters' stories, Lemme said.
"The longer we're on the air, the more real firefighters we meet," Lemme said. "The first thing they do is they start telling us, 'You gotta do this and you gotta do this and you gotta do this.'"
In one Season 3 episode, the firemen try to break Chief McConkey's favorite chair to force him to get a new one. While trying out new chairs, Heffernan manages to break each one with a different creative pratfall.
"We've had all kinds of dumb chairs over our lives," Heffernan said.
At one point, the chief tries sitting on an exercise ball. Heffernan had bad exercise ball experiences from which to draw.
"I actually popped a couple of those exercise balls in real life," he said.
In another episode, Lucy films the chief after oral surgery to remove his wisdom teeth as the anesthesia wears off. The episode culminates with the chief bleeding from his mouth while judging a chili contest.
"That is the best part, the part where he's bloody and covered in cheese," Lemme said.
Lemme and Heffernan are part of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe. With Broken Lizard, they co-wrote and starred in Super Troopers, Club Dread, Beerfest and The Slammin' Salmon.
The two met at Colgate University. They added Jay Chandrasekhar, Erik Stolhanske and Paul Soter to form Broken Lizard after graduation.
Lemme and Heffernan created Tacoma FD apart from Broken Lizard. Soter writes and guest stars in some episodes, and Broken Lizard has more plans together.
"We just had a big Zoom with Broken Lizard," Lemme said. "We're planning to make a couple more movies with Broken Lizard."
In the meantime, Lemme and Heffernan are casting family members on Tacoma FD. Heffernan's 13-year-old son, Buck, stars in one episode, and Lemme's 9-year-old son, Carlos, appears in one scene in another episode.
Lemme also has a 7-year-old son. Lemme says both his sons are fans of Tacoma FD.
"The only episode they ever asked to watch a second time was when my older son said, 'Daddy, can we watch the episode where all the people get their penises stuck in things again?'" Lemme said. "They thought that was funny that there were guys with their penises stuck in things."
Other Season 3 guest stars include Whitney Cummings, Joe Pantoliano, David Koechner and UFC heavyweight and Cleveland firefighter Stipe Miocic.
"Stipe Miocic comes and visits the station and beats up a few of the guys," Heffernan said.
Tacoma FD airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT on TruTV.