When the script for “City on Fire,” came across Chase Sui Wonders’ lap, she immediately knew she wanted a part in the series.
“I mean, right off the bat, when you read the names Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. I’ve been an ‘O.C.’ fan my entire life. It’s my comfort show,” Wonders says. “And ‘Gossip Girl’ obviously goes without saying. That’s enough to sign up. But reading Sam as a character, I mean, I love playing characters who present as one way, but who are going through something entirely different and often at odds with how they present towards the rest of the people around them. Sam is totally an example of that. You see her as confident and cool and having all the answers kind of girl. But in reality, she’s just searching for belonging and trying to find a chosen family.”
In “City on Fire,” an NYU student, Samantha, played by Wonders, is shot in Central Park on the Fourth of July, 2003. Samantha is alone and there are no witnesses and very little physical evidence.
Her friends’ band is playing at her favorite downtown club but she leaves to meet someone, promising to return. She never does.
As the crime against Samantha is investigated, she’s revealed to be the crucial connection between a series of mysterious citywide fires, the downtown music scene, and a wealthy uptown real estate family fraying under the strain of the many secrets they keep.
Starring alongside Wonders is Wyatt Oleff, Jemima Kirke, Nico Tortorella, Xavier Clyde, Ashley Zukerman, Max Milner, Alexandra Doke, John Cameron Mitchell, Omid Abtahi, Kathleen Munroe, Geoff Pierson and Beth Malone.
“City on Fire” is based on the novel by Garth Risk Hallberg, who executive produces alongside Schwartz, Savage and Jesse Peretz.
Oleff stars as Charlie who befriends Samantha in the series.
Oleff says Charlie is a nervous young boy who doesn’t know his place in the world.
“I love watching the character go through such an intense character arc,” Oleff says. “And I think that’s what I was so excited about playing Charlie was like, knowing that from episode one to episode eight, he goes from one person to the next – in a very natural way, of course. (I’m thankful) for Josh and Stephanie’s amazing writing. And it was just such a pleasure to create and craft this character who goes through so much and experiences so much and being able to show that in a character in real time and watch him unfold. It’s amazing, it’s really it’s really special.”
Wonders and Oleff enjoyed playing the two characters because each was on a journey of self-discovery.
Wonders says Samantha is under a lot of stress and trying to decipher the competing voices in her ear.
“It was a difficult and stressful head space to occupy,” Wonders says. “But also super thrilling and enjoyable. Part of her is a thrill seeker and she enjoys chasing highs and chaos. Then she meets Charlie.”
Oleff says Charlie is an active character.
“Through Sam, and meeting her and then losing her, he becomes someone who’s like, ‘I need to get to the bottom of this,’ ” Oleff says. “He finds meaning and he needs to get it done. And like, that’s what’s so amazing about his arc for the show is that he goes in, he does the work, he figures it out, or he tries to figure it out, at the very least. Watching him try to go and do that makes you want to root for him. You want to see him succeed and I love that about him.”