In the last scene of the Tuesday, Aug. 15, episode of FX's firefighter drama "Rescue Me," Johnny Gavin (Dean Winters, "Oz"), the NYPD brother of the FDNY's Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary), was lying on a New York street, shot three times in the back while standing outside his car at night.
At the same time, Tommy's boss, Chief Jerry Reilly (Jack McGee, a former FDNY firefighter), keeled over from what appeared to be a heart attack following a romantic liaison.
The fate of both should be revealed in the episode "Hell," airing Aug. 22.
"A lot of actors forget that our job is to tell stories," Winters says. "Ninety-nine percent of people in this business are so caught up with themselves that they lose sight of the fact that we're storytellers, and people die in stories."
The shooting of Johnny Gavin could mark the end of a run for Winters that began near the beginning of "Rescue Me." Prior to that, Winters had spent six seasons on HBO's prison drama "Oz," playing inmate Ryan O'Reily. In that, he co-starred with his real-life brother, Scott William Winters (soon to be seen in two episodes of Showtime's "Dexter"), who played Ryan's also-incarcerated brother, the mentally deficient Cyril O'Reily.
Season six of "Oz" comes out in a DVD box set on Sept. 5, including a episode that features commentary from Dean, Scott and their other brother, "Oz" writer Bradford Winters, on an episode called "A Day in the Death," which features Cyril facing the electric chair.
"When I first signed on to do 'Rescue Me,'" Winters says, "I was a little nervous, because I'd just finished working with my real brother for six years, and to jump into this thing with this guy ... I didn't meet Denis until the third or fourth episode of the season, because all of our stuff was on the phone.
"My craziest day was that first day. When you see me, I'm leaning on the roof of a police car, drinking Pepto Bismol. I'm talking to Tommy on one line and my nephew on the other line. That was crazy for me, because we shot down on Avenue D and 4th Street on a hot summer night. It doesn't get crazier than that.
"And it was my first day. I didn't know where I was going or what I was doing, and I had page after page of dialogue, yelling into a phone. That was my first day, and I was like, 'This is going to be fun.' That's the way I like it. I like working like that."
With the last "Oz" DVD box set coming out, Winters is also reflecting on that experience.
"I miss those days," he says. "I think every actor probably has that 'It'll never be this good again' job, but 'Oz' was ... That ended four years ago, and the further I get away from it, the more powerful it becomes. It just resonates. I turn on the TV, and I read scripts, and everything just pales."
While it doesn't have quite the unfettered license to use profanity, nudity and violence as "Oz" had, "Rescue Me" pushes a lot of boundaries. Most recently, in an episode called "Sparks," Tommy had a sexual encounter with his ex-wife, Janet (Andrea Roth), which many reviewers and vehement Internet posters categorized as a rape.
Now Janet is pregnant with a baby that could be Tommy's or could belong to her current lover, Johnny.
"Rape is not the right word [for that]," Winters says. "The whole situation is so ugly, and everyone in it is baring their ugly side and their fangs -- it's a very intense show. Denis and Jim definitely went for it. People came up to me on the street, and they were like, 'What was that?'
"In defense of Denis, that happens. S**t happens. The great thing about 'Rescue Me' is that it's a very honest portrait, maybe sometimes too honest. People have issues with this one and that one, with this storyline and that storyline, but you know what, they're striking chords."
Even if Johnny dies, that doesn't necessarily mean we won't see him again. FX has picked up a fourth season of "Rescue Me," and all through the show, Tommy has talked to the dead, especially his cousin (James McCaffrey), a firefighter who died on 9/11.
"I don't know if I'll be back," Winters says. "I'm open to it. At the end of the day, it's up to Denis and Peter [executive producer Peter Tolan] if they want me back. You never know."
As for the fate of Chief Reilly, Winters says, "You know what, I am not 100 percent sure, because I left in episode 11. I didn't read episode 12 or 13, so I don't know what happens, to be honest with you. I don't know where it's going."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times