PASADENA, Calif. — A "life-and-death experience" with heroic first responders inspired Ryan Murphy to create the new Fox drama, 9-1-1.
The new drama, which premiered to strong ratings Wednesday, stars Angela Bassett as a police officer, Peter Krause as a firefighter and Connie Britton as a 911 dispatcher.
Murphy, known for such acclaimed anthology series as American Horror Story and American Crime Story, saw paramedics at work in 2015 when his son Ford, then 11 months old, stopped breathing one night.
"They were incredibly calming and nurturing. … I was struck by what great people they were and how strong they were," he told the Television Critics Association's winter TV press tour.
His son, who had a tracheal blockage, survived. "If they hadn't shown up, I think my son would have died."
Murphy says he's excited to produce his first "procedural" series since his first FX hit, Nip/Tuck, which followed plastic surgeons and their patients.
As with Nip/Tuck,9-1-1 stories are based on true cases, and "within that world, I was interested in creating a show where the emergencies at the heart of the show were from the lead characters" in their own lives.
The actors said they were impressed with the skill and dedication of first responders. Britton, who spent several days at a Los Angeles 911 call center, was initially daunted by the technical equipment that operators use.
"The first day I was at a loss. I think I announced, 'I'm not the right actor for the job,' " she said.
Krause had a more specific fear, dealing with a giant python in a scene in which a snake was strangling a woman.
"When I actually had to handle that snake, I really started to sweat. I was pretty nervous," he said. "The snake handler said if she started to fight me, I should just let go."
Murphy said he doesn't want the show to be political, but he acknowledges it's a response to current times.
"We live in a dark, cynical Trump era now. I was looking for something that was a relief from that … a blue-sky show," he said. He wanted to showcase people "who do good deeds while battling their own demons (and create) a family where they could."