Tommy Gavin

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Tommy Gavin
"This ain't a's a calling."
First appearance Guts
Last appearance Ashes
Portrayed by Denis Leary
Nickname(s) Tom, Tommy Gun, T, Asshole
Gender Male
Occupation FDNY Firefighter, 1st Class (Senior Man)
Family John Michael Gavin (father, deceased)
Martha Gavin (mother, deceased)
Johnny Gavin (brother, deceased)
Peggy Sue (Maggie) Gavin Garrity (sister)
Timo Gavin (brother)
Rosemary Gavin (sister)
Liam Murphy (half-brother)
Teddy Gavin (uncle)
Jimmy Keefe (cousin, deceased)
Micky Gavin (cousin)
Eddie Gavin (cousin)
Damien Keefe (first cousin once removed)
Spouse(s) Janet Gavin (wife)
Children Colleen Gavin (daughter)
Connor Gavin (son, deceased)
Katy Gavin (daughter)
Wyatt Gavin (uncertain paternity: could be son or nephew, as possibly the son of his late brother, Johnny)
Shea Gavin (son)

Thomas Michael "Tommy" Gavin is a fictional character and the protagonist of the FX television series Rescue Me. He is portrayed by Denis Leary. For his portrayal, Leary was nominated for the Golden Globe Award (2005) and the Primetime Emmy Award (2006, 2007) for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. The character was created by Denis Leary and Peter Tolan,[1] after Leary met a Bronx NYPD Officer named Tommy Gavin.


Thomas Michael "Tommy" Gavin (born December 19, 1960[2]) is a third generation New York City Fire Department Firefighter.[1][3] He is a tortured character[4] and a relapsed alcoholic, as well as a chain-smoker and prescription-drug addict due to what he saw as a first responder to the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11.

Tommy followed in his father's footsteps and became a firefighter in 1986. Tommy was first assigned to an Engine Company as a "Probie" or Probationary Firefighter in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. Throughout his career, Tommy has transferred several times to firehouses in both Brooklyn and Uptown, Manhattan.[5] Tommy is currently the Senior Firefighter of New York City Fire Department Ladder Company 62, also known as "62 Truck", quartered with Engine Co. 99 and Battalion 30 in the northern Harlem section of Manhattan. During one season of the show, Tommy was temporarily transferred to Engine Co. 336/Ladder Co. 73 on Staten Island. Tommy's company, Ladder 62, lost four men during the attacks of 9/11, one of whom was Tommy's cousin, best friend, and fellow firefighter, Jimmy Keefe. Tommy also personally knew fifty-six other firefighters killed on 9/11. Tommy is also a motivational speaker/consultant for the FDNY Fire Academy, as seen in the pilot and final episodes.

Tommy is married to his high school sweetheart Janet Gavin, who became pregnant with their oldest daughter when she was only seventeen. The two are "separated" numerous times, but the announcement is occasionally followed by Tommy stating that they never filed for divorce, making the couple technically still married throughout the entire series. Their relationship is mostly unstable, however at some points they appear to be united. They have five children together, two girls (Colleen and Katy) and three boys (Wyatt, Shea, and the late Connor). Connor was killed in a hit-and-run accident, putting further strain on Tommy and Janet's relationship, and causing Tommy to become a fully relapsed alcoholic. Wyatt, however, is strongly believed by both Tommy and Janet to be the product of Janet's affair with Tommy's brother, NYPD Detective Johnny, though a paternity test was never done. Tommy is also throughout the series in an off-and-on affair with his dead cousin's widow, Sheila Keefe. The two are seen sleeping together numerous times on the basis of sharing mutual grief over Jimmy Keefe's death, fueled by Tommy's rocky relationship with Janet.

Throughout the series, a recurring theme is that of Tommy is very mentally and emotionally disturbed as a result of 9/11, being visited by "ghosts," deceased people from his past - most frequently his cousin Jimmy - as well as fire victims he could not save. It is left ambiguous whether these are really ghosts or figments of Tommy's imagination.

Tommy claims to have voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election in the episode "Vows", Season 7, although he expressed interest in voting for John McCain prior to the 2008 election.

Season 1

Throughout the first season of Rescue Me, Tommy is living across the street from his estranged wife Janet. His cousin, Jimmy Keefe, a firefighter from Tommy's company who died on 9/11, visits him as a ghost.[6] Tommy and Sheila (his cousin Jimmy's widow) start to have an affair with each other. When confronted about their relationship, he refuses to end it because Sheila is pregnant. At the end of the season, he requests a transfer after a breakdown during a rescue that threatened his co-worker, Firefighter Franco Rivera's life. His wife and children leave their home and move.

Season 2

Tommy is working at a different firehouse on Staten Island at the start of the season. Sheila miscarries, but does not tell him. He and his brother Johnny discover that during their childhood, their father had a long-term affair that produced two children. They suspect that their half-brother, a priest, is a pedophile. Tommy and his family reconcile. Tommy's son Connor is tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident a drunk driver. Johnny finds out that the driver may not do time, so Tommy's uncle, retired FDNY Firefighter, Teddy Gavin kills him, and is thus sent to jail.

Season 3

Tommy is again living on his own. He discovers that his brother Johnny is having an affair with Janet,[6] and that his co-worker, Firefighter Sean Garrity is in a relationship with his sister Maggie Gavin. During Janet's affair with Johnny, Tommy also sexually forces himself on her. Thus, when Janet becomes pregnant, the paternity of the baby is in question. Johnny, is killed while investigating a drug case as an NYPD detective.[7] In the last episode of the season, Sheila drugs Tommy, rapes him, and then accidentally sets her house on fire.[4]

Season 4

Tommy is living with his wife and children again. Janet is suffering from postpartum depression, so Tommy "sells" her son to Sheila. Tommy then shares custody with Sheila. Afterward, Tommy begins fighting fires during his off hours wearing Jimmy Keefe's gear, prompting FDNY Battalion Chief Sidney Feinberg to write him up for a department section 8. The last scene in the last episode shows Tommy and his father, also a retired FDNY Firefighter, watching a baseball game. Tommy tries to get the attention of his father only to realize that he has passed on, so Tommy puts his arm around his father and continues to watch the game.

Season 5

Tommy has his section 8 hearing and the doctor, who has a bitter history with Feinberg, lets Tommy off without thinking twice. His wife, Janet, has a new lover, Dwight (Michael J. Fox), who has a disability from an accident that occurred years previously. Tommy is disdainful towards Dwight, but does not accept Dwight's drug addiction. Tommy has completed one full year without a drink, but relapses due to grief at a restaurant near the site of the September 11 attacks when being interviewed by a French journalist interested in writing a book about Tommy's and other firefighters' experiences during the 9/11 tragedy. Tommy leaves behind his honorary 12 month chip at the bottom of his glass. After a failed intervention by his family to stop his relapse, Tommy ends up convincing most of them to start drinking again as well. This results in the death of Teddy's wife, Ellie in a car crash. Teddy holds Tommy responsible and shoots Tommy twice in the shoulder at the bar where they work after hours, and forces his friends at gunpoint to watch him bleed out on the floor.

Season 6

Season 6 deals with the aftermath of Tommy's near-death experience, including his battles with alcoholism, his oldest daughter's own drinking problem, and an increasingly strained relationship with his wife. During this season, Tommy struggles to make things right and become a better person, having realized that he might wind up in hell after what he saw during his near-death experience. Storylines also center around the possible closing of the firehouse where Tommy and the crew work. Near the end of the season, probationary firefighter Damien Keefe, Sheila's son who recently was assigned to his late father Jimmy's and Tommy's company, Ladder 62, suffers a traumatic head injury while fighting a fire, which leaves him severely brain-damaged and unable to walk or communicate.

Season 7

Season 7 deals with Janet's fifth pregnancy, and the unlikely reconciliation and friendship between Sheila and Janet. When Tommy gives an interview about Jimmy to a news reporter, the reporter asks cheap-shot questions which lead to Tommy to go on a rant involving swearing and obscene gestures on national television, leading to Tommy's indefinite suspension. His suspension was later lifted with Sheila's help, as well as Tommy's hockey opponents on the NYPD who have dirt on the reporter. Tommy walks his daughter Colleen down the aisle (alongside Teddy) as she gets married to Black Shawn. Moments later, Janet and Tommy renew their vows after Tommy promises to quit drinking, smoking, and reluctantly retire from active firefighting and take a safer job in the FDNY. A day after the wedding, during one of Tommy's last tours of duty as a New York City Firefighter, the crew responds to a devastating 4-alarm fire. They initially have a means of escape, but they hear children inside and Tommy attempts to run in after them (with the crew boldly following Tommy's backside). After the crew finds the children, they lose their point of extraction and try to find another way up to the roof. But after busting open the trapdoor, they find out the exit is sealed by a brick wall. Chief Nelson makes the call to evacuate the building, as the crew of Ladder 62 try to find their way out. As Tommy goes up to find an escape, Lt. Lou Shea, Tommy's best friend, tells Tommy "Just go, we'll be fine, Trust me." Seconds later, an explosion guts the building.

It is revealed in the series finale that Lt. Ken ("Lou") Shea is killed in the explosion, with the other members of Ladder 62 survived with relatively minor injuries. After he assumes the Lieutenant's position and completes the scene of the fire report, Tommy puts in his retirement papers and announces his intention to retire from active duty. An altercation at a playground to which he had taken Wyatt calls into question his ability to adapt to civilian life. After delivering his infant son at the family's apartment, Janet encourages Tommy to return to 62 Truck. The final scenes following Lou's funeral show Tommy giving a passionate speech about courage and the call of being a firefighter to a group of FDNY recruits at the New York City Fire Academy, as the other members of 62 Truck look on. Tommy turns over the floor to his new commanding officer, the newly promoted Lieutenant Franco Rivera, who begins to berate the probies as Tommy drives off in his truck while having a conversation with Lou's ghost.

Controversial storyline[edit]

The character was involved in a controversial storyline in Rescue Me's third season. In the episode "Sparks", first aired on June 20, 2006, Tommy sexually forces himself on Janet. At first Janet fights back, but then appears to accept the situation and enjoys it. Tommy smirks when he leaves the house. Television reviewers, bloggers, and fans complained about the scene. There was debate about whether Tommy had raped Janet. Janet's reaction and Tommy's expression caused as much reaction as the assault itself, with critics saying that it made rape look unimportant, unrealistic, and that Tommy's actions were condoned. Leary did not apologize, saying that what happened between the characters was not rape, and that the scene made sense in the context of Tommy's dysfunctional relationship with Janet.[4][6][8] In other episodes, Tommy is drugged and sexually assaulted[7] by Sheila on two different occasions.

Peter Tolan, co-creator of Rescue Me and co-writer of the episode, discussed the storyline in a forum on the website Television Without Pity. He defended the scene, but acknowledged that some viewers may not have interpreted the scene in the way he and Leary had intended.[8] John Landgraf, the president of FX, stated that he knew that the scene might be controversial when the scripts were being written. Leary stated that he was glad the show was on FX rather than a broadcast network that would not have supported the storyline.[6]


  1. ^ a b Denis Leary Profile, E! Online.
  2. ^ Rescue Me episode 4.3 "Commitment"
  3. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (2006-05-30). "Rescue Me, With Denis Leary, Returns to FX for Its Third Season". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  4. ^ a b c Collins, Scott, 2007-06-13, 'Rescue Me's' Leary dismisses protests over rape episode, Pittsburg Post-Gazette.
  5. ^ Rescue Me episode 1.1 "Guts"
  6. ^ a b c d Denis Leary plays with fire on 'Rescue Me', 2003-08-03, MSNBC.
  7. ^ a b Steinberg, Jaques, 2007-06-12, He’s Cornering the Market on Misfit TV Heroes, New York Times
  8. ^ a b Porter, Rick, 2006-06-26, Controversy Over 'Rescue Me' Rages On, Zap2it.

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