When Grey’s Anatomy returns, some doctors may be on the rocks, while others will be finding new relationships—oh, and there will also be some new doctors coming to Grey Sloan Memorial, according to executive producer Shonda Rhimes, who gives EW a rundown of what’s in store for the second half of the season:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Derek (Patrick Dempsey) is leaving for Washington D.C., so how will he and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) handle a long distance marriage?
SHONDA RHIMES: We end them in a fairly dark place. He’s walking away and she’s sort of pushed him out the door. It’s like, you call someone’s bluff and push them out the door. He’s having a hard time, she’s having a hard time with this. I love the echoes of her mother that are in there and what that means for her. I love the idea that this could possibly mean that for the first time in her life at the hospital, she has neither Cristina [Sandra Oh] or Derek, and therefore is essentially alone and how she’s going to cope with that. It’s going to be very interesting for her.
Is Derek actually going to D.C.? Is the show taking place in two different locations?
Rhimes: Those are two different questions.
Which one do you want to answer?
Rhimes: The show is not taking place in two different locations. It’s highly possible that you might not see Derek for a while.
Is Patrick Dempsey off the show?
Rhimes: There will be a time when you see him again, yes, but it’s probable that you will not see Derek for a while.
What can you tease for April and Jackson’s upcoming baby struggle? It’s been said there’s no hope for this child, so is this a test of faith for April?
Rhimes: Yeah. It was very interesting. I was the person in the room who was like, “April and Jackson should get pregnant!” Then it was really interesting for Sarah Drew to come up to me and say, “I’m pregnant!” “That’s amazing because your character is too!” It was perfect timing. Sarah Drew was the one who came to me and pitched this story. A very pregnant, very Christian Sarah Drew came to me and pitched this story. I was like, “We’re not doing it, it’s so horrifying.” I was like, “We can’t, the karma!” But the reasons why she pitched this story were really, really beautiful, which were about a character who has this religious faith, a doctor who has this religious faith, who both knows the medical side and the religious side having to really wrestle with that. I’ve seen doctors on television wrestling with their religious faith in other ways, but this was a really unique one. The way it’s handled, the way she handles it, the way her character comes through it is quite beautiful actually. I’m actually really proud of how we told the story.
Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) are working on finding themselves separately, so what can you tease of their story lines in the second half of the season? Will we see some new love interests?
Rhimes: Right when we started the second half of the season, I really was resistant to the idea of sticking them together with somebody else. As sensitive as I am about just sticking Owen [Kevin McKidd] with somebody is how sensitive I am about sticking Arizona or Callie with somebody. But I love playing: where does the love go? If you break up with somebody, it’s not like you don’t love them anymore. They’re right there. There’s a lot of the pull of who they are together now. Are they friends? What’s that mean? Are they still there for one another in times of need? Arizona is really focused on her education that she’s getting from Dr. Herman [Geena Davis] and that grows more intense as time goes by and turns into a really amazing story. Geena Davis is incredible. Her focus is really there. Callie’s focus is really on trying to grow herself. We’re just reaching the point in our storytelling—and I will tell you I’m on episode 13 or 14 in the scripts, not in the shooting—and they’re actually starting to date other people and figure out what that is, but that part is just beginning.
As a Calzona fan, that makes me nervous.
Rhimes: It makes me nervous too. I have to tell you, it makes me nervous too. I am still a staunch believer that they can figure it out. I’m not saying they’re going to, but I am one of their fans as a couple because I love their story together. I love who they are together. I want them to work out their crap and get it together.
We saw the first spark between Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) and Owen. Are you moving forward with that dynamic? What can you tease for their story lines both together and separately for the second half of the season?
Rhimes: We’ve been doing really great things with Amelia as she’s coming into her own as a neurosurgeon. She’s trying to fill her brother’s shoes, which is not an easy thing to do at the hospital and in terms of the medical of it all. Those of the fans who watched Private Practice know who she is and know what her past is–how those elements of her past will come into play, how those elements of her past might be affected when April has to go through what April’s going through. If you watched Private Practice, you’re going to be rewarded with a little extra something if you know about Amelia. If you didn’t, you still get this deeper understanding of who this character is. And she and Owen, I would say they’re moving slowly. I’m not throwing people together. There are some really serious episodes, so we’re also trying to give some comedy and let things be lighter. The Owen and Amelia thing is not some big, heavy, dark thing. It’s lighter at this point in time. We haven’t had them take any giant steps.
What’s the next step for Alex (Justin Chambers) and Jo (Camilla Luddington)?
Rhimes: I cannot tell you what’s going to happen with Alex and Jo. That feels very spoilery. I will tell you that Jo’s weird relationship with Meredith—which I find to be hilarious—the idea that Jo can’t figure out how to have a relationship [with her]. Meredith feels like she’s coming in between their relationship, but not really. I find a charm to it. You start to understand that Jo kind of idolizes Meredith, so how do you deal with the fact that your idol is your boyfriend’s best friend? That whole aspect is very charming. Alex and Meredith’s friendship strengthens. There’s a lot great stuff happening with them.
What’s next for Maggie (Kelly McCreary)? Will she bond more with Meredith? Finally reconcile with Richard (James Pickens Jr.)? Maybe get a love interest?
Rhimes: First of all, Kelly McCreary is terrific. We’re definitely going to see more of her. She and Meredith’s friendship definitely deepens. They’re still trying to figure out what they are to one another. Are they just going to be friends? Are they going to be sisters? How are they going to be with one another? And how she fits into the world. She and Richard have some work to do together as well. She still has some stuff to learn. She still doesn’t know everything there is to know about Ellis [Kate Burton]. She still doesn’t even know Ellis had Alzheimer’s because she doesn’t know a lot about her past, which I think is important. We’re doing a little love interest stuff, which I think is going to be great.
Somebody we know or somebody we’re going to meet?
Rhimes: We need some more boys, I feel, so we’re bringing in some men.
Rhimes: Possibly. I’m not saying that these new doctors are going to be new series regulars. I’m just saying we need an infusion of men. Suddenly I was like, “We have a lot of chicks and don’t have anybody to date.” Also, Bailey [Chandra Wilson] and Ben [Jason George] are having some really interesting struggles as a couple, and that’s going to be interesting.
Grey’s Anatomy returns Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.