Jay Hayden has captured many hearts in his role as Travis Montgomery in Station 19. We get to sit down to talk about what’s happened and what to look ahead for in Season 2.
When Station 19 officially got renewed for a second season, the Season 1 finale had already been shot. Stacy McKee had decided that whatever the decision, that ending was going to stand. It didn’t matter if it was a cancellation or renewal. The story had been told, regardless. And what an ending it was! And now Jay Hayden has given me an exclusive on playing Travis Montgomery in Station 19 and what the reaction has been to his character.
Hayden did warn me before going into the episode that a previous scene between Travis and Ben would be touched on in the finale. It was something I’d already guessed, as I’d intentionally paused on one part of the promo for the Station 19 finale to see if it was Travis who Ben was calling for help for. But that wasn’t the only shocking and nail-biting part of the episode!
While we have touched on Station 19 Season 2, it’s hard to do so when the cast hasn’t even started filming. In fact, the show only got a renewal order earlier this week and then the news they were moving to a fall show. The writing isn’t even planned out yet! Oh, and Shonda doesn’t let any juicy spoilers out! The cast members on any of her shows know that!
So, because of that, I decided to focus more on the character Travis and how Hayden chose to portray this character.
Travis is one of the only gay men on TV right now. LGBTQ representation is desperately needed more and shows like Shadowhunters and The Magicians have received support from the LGBTQ community for their representation. Now it’s time for Station 19 to sit in there as a show to promote, not just because there is a gay character but because this character makes it clear that sexual orientation does not make someone a different firefighter.
Hidden Remote: I’m so psyched for this.
Jay Hayder: I’m so psyched for this too!
HR: I love Travis. He’s just so awesome.
JH: Aww, that makes me feel so good and I so appreciate that. It is good to play a character who can be funny and grumpy at the same time. It’s one of my favorite things to play, so I’m kinda in the pocket.
HR: Yeah, I mean, the first couple of episodes—and this was the case with all the characters—it was difficult. You were trying to get to know them and it was a bit ‘I’m not sure what to think about this guy yet.’
JH: Yeah, you’re like, what is this guy’s problem? Can he just chill out a little bit?
Well, it’s an extremely difficult job for Stacy and Tia [Napolitano] (and Shonda [Rhimes] to do, because we have all these awesome scenes. And because it’s a firefighter show, doing the fire sometimes takes longer, so their first edit we ended up having like a 70-minute show. So some scenes have to be cut down or eliminated altogether, so sometimes, early on in the show where you might get a little more gratification or understanding of who Travis is, you just get a lot of him yelling at Jason George.
HR: Well, to be fair, Ben needs shouting at sometimes.
JH: Yes, that is true.
HR: So, to look at Travis. How did your family react to your character? I mean, you have a wife in real life but you’re playing a gay character. How did they and even you react to taking on this character?
JH: Well for me, I love the challenge of playing any character who’s not exactly who I am. It’s a thrill for me to find who that person is, what makes them tick, and their thoughts and feelings and all that stuff. As an actor, I love it.
Truthfully, I think it was probably a little hard for my father. He’s from Vermont. He’s this old guy that lives at the side of a mountain and is military. I mean, he went to Vietnam. So when his actor son calls him from L.A. to say ‘Dad, I’m playing a gay firefighter on a Shonda Rhimes show,’ he’s just the best guy in the world and is like ‘Oh, congratulations’ but I don’t really know what’s going on in his head.
The last episode played and I was wondering what kind of phone call I’d get. He called and left a really nice message. I would have loved to have been a fly in the room watching him watch the episode, but he was really sweet.
He was like, ‘I’m really proud of you. You really are a great actor. I’m really watching this Travis guy and I felt a little weird watching you kiss another guy but I think you’re doing a great job.’ And that’s about as close to “I’m proud of you” as I’m going to get from my dad.
We’re changing the world one kiss at a time.
HR: You are an inspiration and role model for those in the LGBTQ space. There are barely any gay men on TV.
JH: Yeah, we need more! So the more that I can continue the conversation and extend that and make it more of just the norm, I’m happy to do it. I’m excited to represent them in any fashion that they’ll have me.
HR: Did knowing you’d be one of the only gay men affect your decisions on how to portray the character at all?
JH: The thing is I don’t really know how to play straight or play gay. I only know how to play somebody who has…I know what it’s like to feel overprotective and what it’s like to worry about someone’s health and wanna make them laugh and be sad. I know how to do that stuff, so when I went into read for the character I just played what was on the page that I know.
I think the actual audition scene was the scene in the ambulance with Ben Warren when he says ‘you could have killed the captain…’ And I know those emotions. It was up to Stacey, Tara and Shonda to decide if my essence was right for who they were kind of thinking of for Travis. That wasn’t my job. My job was to play a human who has those feelings.
Luckily we were the perfect fit.
HR: And that’s the thing with the show. While the character’s sexual orientation will be important to the fans, Travis just fits in and it’s a normal everyday thing in there, which is also important to see. You don’t need to know his sexual orientation when he works in this firehouse. It just all fits in and comes together to look natural, as it should.
JH: Yeah. I think Stacy and I definitely agreed on one thing that regardless of his sexual orientation or anything else about him, he was going to be strong and brave and care about his team and do anything for them. From that base, I felt really comfortable the way she was going to write him. She has done an excellent job.
I had a firefighter come up to me. He’d been a New York firefighter for 25 years and he said that back in the 70s and 80s: “Some of the best guys back in my day were gay and they were just as strong and just as tough and just as heroic. There was no difference between them and it’s sad because they couldn’t come out and couldn’t feel comfortable letting the other guys know they were gay. Then they’d be labeled as something different. They were labeled as a sissy. Not a strong or heroic. Suddenly everything changed because of their sexual orientation, but they could do everything any other firefighter did and there was absolutely no difference. And I really appreciate the way you’re playing the character.”
That meant a lot when that guy said that to me.
HR: When did you know this character was definitely the one that you wanted to play?
JH: I knew very early on. There was some humor in Travis in the audition side and an overprotecting vibe to him that I could relate to and I feel that I have a personal connection to, so I knew pretty early on that this was a character I wanted to play.
And I like tough television. I like to laugh and cry. I like to be upset and shout at the TV. I like to have all these emotional responses and I really feel like the finale has them.
HR: Shondaland has all of that and Station 19 really cemented itself in there.
JH: Yeah, I think the Shondaland brand is a great unique way to tell a story. With Scandal ending its run, I feel really honored to continue on in its place.
And, I mean, Grey’s Anatomy is the flagship and the gold standard. If we can be their close-first-best cousins we’ll be happy to do that. We’ll keep bringing them patients.
HR: There is constantly someone in the hospital. I’m waiting for the pregnant woman to show up in Grey’s Anatomy. I can’t remember her name now, but I can remember her husband. My 5-year-old was watching with me and crying her eyes out because she thought it was Marshall from PAW Patrol!
JH: Oh yeah! I know! That’s the thing. My daughter said, ‘Dad, somebody at school said your firefighter show is coming back for another season.’ I was like ‘yeah, yeah, it is.’ She was like ‘Oh. Do you think you could do Teen Titans GO!?’
I’m like, ‘well, that’s a cartoon and I’m pretty happy where I am.’ She’s like, ‘Alright, that’s cool!’
She keeps me grounded. Really grounded.
HR: Children are the best.
JH: Yeah! Again, we were at Disneyland the other day and a couple of people walked up to me and wanted a picture and wanted to talk about the character. The two parents had a child who’s roughly the same age as my daughter (she’s nine) and the kid goes ‘Mom, Dad, what is this show?’ And before they could answer my daughter said, ‘It’s a grownup show. You wouldn’t have seen it. I’ve seen it. It’s not as good as cartoon.’
HR: My daughter loves it. She’s like ‘Can we watch the firefighters now?’ I’m like, oh now ‘Chicago? Seattle?’
JH: Oh yes! And then you have 9-1-1 on FOX.
Look, they are real-life heroes that actually run towards danger instead of the most of humanity that runs away from danger. People ask me if I think there’s too much but not at all! The more stories we can tell about these brave people is great. I think we should do Alaska Fire next.
HR: And we get a lot of different stories from each one, too. Station 19 has the personal lives and some difficult personal subjects.
JH: Yeah, and that’s the Shonda Thing. These are firefighters who spend a lot of their time together. They spend 24-, 48-, 72-hour shifts together, crammed together into each other’s lives. Sometimes, they’re closer to each other than they are actual brothers and sisters. Shonda uses that setting to drive these relationships. We’re gonna fight, we’re gonna love, we’re gonna bicker. We’re gonna do all these things, which Shonda really does well.
HR: And sometimes have breakfast together.
JH: Yeah, and sometimes have breakfast together. And sometimes walk into restaurants and make-out with each other! How real people act!
HR: Moving to Station 19 Season 2. What can we expect from you?
JH: I think you’ll see a little more Grant and Travis and you’ll see the fire station go through some changes. It’ll be an adjustment for the entire crew. And that’s really all I can tell you. I don’t want to…Shonda will send an assassin to my house.
HR: And to be fair, you’ve not filmed Season 2 yet, either. So maybe I should have asked what you would like to see.
JH: Okay, that…I would like them all to stay together as one big happy family.
HR: We all would, but this is Shondaland.
JH: I know, right?
What do you think of Jay Hayden’s character? How have you reacted after that season finale? What do you hope to see more of in Station 19 Season 2? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Station 19 Season 2 premieres in fall 2018 on Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.