Jennifer Love Hewitt returns to 9-1-1 after going on maternity leave to give birth to her third child, son Aidan James, with husband Brian Hallisay. On the show, viewers last saw Hewitt's Maddie in an October episode, where the 9-1-1 operator was seen leaving her and Chimney's baby at the firehouse. Ever since then, Maddie has been missing in action.
On Monday's episode, titled "Boston," Chimney (Kenneth Choi) is determined to find a missing Maddie among the chaos of St. Patrick's Day.
"People have figured out that's where she is. And the good thing is that in one episode, everyone will have all of the answers they've been waiting for," Hewitt teased to ET's Denny Directo. "I needed those answers as well by the way because I've been on maternity leave: 'Where was Maddie? What happened?' But yes, they will know everything that they've been wanting to know in this one episode, I promise."
The 42-year-old actress spoke with the writers about Maddie's storyline as she prepared to go on maternity leave and knew what it "was going to be for a while."
"I knew when we started the storyline where it was going to end up. And taking the break to go have a real baby and then come back to it was strange and a little daunting," Hewitt acknowledged. "It was really important to us to tell the real story. PPD, postpartum depression, has been done on other shows, it's something that's out there. It's something that people talk about. But it's usually a lighter version of what that looks like. Or the diagnosis is lighter than what Maddie has dealt with."
"Hers is a really extreme version of what postpartum can cause in someone's life, heightened by having a baby in a pandemic on the show and everything else that she's been through as a character," she continued. "So I was really excited and proud of the show and proud of Fox for really getting in there and telling this story for all the women who are out there that might be suffering from this at the moment or have had that in the past, because it's a real thing."
Hewitt related to Maddie's struggles as she shared her real-life journey with "versions of" postpartum depression throughout her three pregnancies.
"But what made this part interesting is having to go back to work with a four-and-a-half-month-old, five-month-old baby," she reflected. "I was so very much in my own postpartum journey. Having to play Maddie in the middle of hers, which is a little bit different than mine, but having to do that every day -- it was really hard. But it was also very cathartic and really interesting. I feel it kind of helped me in my own journey, sort of pushed through faster and be able to have a place to put it and to understand all those things that we could go through as women."
"It was scary for sure because I was like, 'Wow, this is intense.' I know the storyline a little too well at the moment... and being a mom with two other kids, you have to come home from doing all that stuff during the day and then you have to be smiley and have rainbows shooting out of your eyeballs because they need joy and happiness," Hewitt added. "It was a lot to balance, but it was very, very important to me, for the audience, to tell the story. For women out there to tell the story and the story really handles more than just postpartum depression. It handles depression in general and it handles people that feel maybe suicide is an option for them. We really run the gamut. We talk about all of the things that wrap back into the story and it was very important."
When asked what she's learned about herself since returning to work as a mother of three, Hewitt said she realized "that [she] could do it."
"As simple as that sounds, there's this thing where we -- of course, we're moms and we're women. So we're like, 'Of course, we can do it.' But there's this thing that takes over you," she said. "The couple of nights before you go back to work where you're like, 'Can I do it? Can I actually? I've said I could do it but can I really?' And you just have to put one foot in front of the other. I will say, I've been really blessed with amazing children that want me to work and allow me to do that."
She couldn't help but marvel over her newest addition to the family, saying Aidan is quite "determined." "I had heard this about pandemic babies, but I'd also heard this about the third [in the family] in that they're watching the other two be able to go around and do all these things. So they think they can do it right away. He's about to be seven months and he is convinced that he can run down the hallway and you're like, 'Buddy, we're not there yet. We're just not there. And please don't rush!' But he is just determined. He's like, 'I can go over there, I can walk over there and hang out.' And you're like, 'You can't yet!'"
Hewitt's castmates have all met little Aidan and she credited production for being a supportive environment for a mother of a newborn. "He has given them lots of smiles," she gushed. "And they're so cute!"
But Hewitt hopes when fans tune in Monday that they remember that the show is "honoring Maddie and Chimney exactly where they are" -- and to have a drink right before.
"We're not forcing anything and we're not promising anything. But we are letting them be where they are," she explained. "I think that has been the beautiful part about Maddie and Chimney. It's important for people to remember separately what they've been through as people, which has been a lot. And then together they have been through a lot. The best relationships are not always the perfect ones, but the ones that remind you over and over and over again to choose each other and to choose love. That's who Maddie and Chimney are. No promises, but it's going to play out the way that it's supposed to."
"I would drink before to get ready. That's all I'm going to say. I will be," Hewitt hinted.