Rescue Me fans have laughed at Sean Garrity for five seasons, but with the revelation in Tuesday's episode that Garrity has kidney cancer, Steven Pasquale's character will be more than just a punch line.
Despite the heavy subject matter, Pasquale says playing this story arc is "great fun." He particularly enjoyed the emotional breakdown at the doctor's office when Garrity learns his problems are more serious than just back pain. "I've been playing such comic relief on the show for so many years that it was good to get back to having some really serious material for a couple of episodes," Pasquale told TVGuide.com.
But don't look for Garrity to stay weepy for long. "We thought this health scare would be taking Sean in a dramatic route, but once we got into the playing of it, we realized there's even more comedy to be had, having the world's greatest moron with a health scare. It ended up being largely comedic," Pasquale said.
Those laughs may not necessarily come from the firehouse, because Garrity will hide his sickness from the guys as long as possible. Instead, he will call on his "affectionless" mother and older brother to be with him through his treatment. "The Garrity family gets together for about eight to 10 episodes, and that's a spin-off right there," Pasquale said. "My big brother is clearly [the mom's] favorite, and neither of them are shy about rubbing that in my face. But there's a totally stereotypical 10-year-old, 14-year-old behavior - picking on [each other], slap fighting, farting and all that."
While one recent storyline dealt with Franco's 9/11 conspiracy theory, this one will give attention to firefighters who can't use their FDNY insurance to treat health issues related to 9/11 without being taken off the job.
"Everything we write is really taken from life, and a lot of these guys who were rescue workers on 9/11 are getting the kind of health issues that you get as a 50- and 60-year-old fireman. That's when the department is kind of prepared to take care of you," Pasquale said. "But when it happens to a 35-year-old guy, they really don't know what the hell to do. So, many of them are getting denied the care they need, according to sources that I've spoken to."
While trying to fund the operation he needs on his own, Garrity will look for cash in other places - namely the cash drawer at the bar the men of 62 Truck just opened. Will that cause Sean any stress? "I don't think he has any qualms about it," Pasquale said. "He has to deal with his health, and he'll deal with the fallout with the guys later on in the season."
Pasquale said Sean's health battle will continue all season, but the actor said he doesn't think Garrity is going anywhere.
"By the end of the season I'm on light duty. I'm not running into fires and saving people - I'm bringing Gatorade to guys on hot days basically," he said. "I think when we get back to Season 6, I will be fully healthy and ready to fight fires and be the moron hero.
"If Rescue Me is going to end next year, I want Sean to go out in a blaze of glory - true hero firefighter style," Pasquale added. "What's so crazy about this job is that these guys can be gone in a heartbeat, and I think that would really leave people reeling in a good way."