‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Boss Teases ‘Nostalgic’ Dynamics After Major Character Exits

Note: This story contains spoilers from the “Grey’s Anatomy” Season 20 premiere.

“Grey’s Anatomy” hit the reset button in the aftermath of its traumatic Season 19 finale, including the exit of one of their own. By the end of the Season 20 premiere, Dr. Nick Marsh (Scott Speedman) announced he’d be leaving Grey Sloan Memorial to reunite with Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) at her new home in Boston.

His last move as residency director was passing the torch to the now Catherine Fox award-winning Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), effectively bringing the series back to basics with her taking charge of teaching the hospital’s latest class of interns.

“I feel like if anyone can bring these interns back from what just happened, it’s the person who helped create doctors like Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang and Alex Karev,” showrunner Meg Marinis told TheWrap. “Bailey doesn’t always get the credit that she deserves. She has helped raise world-renowned surgeons, so if anyone can do this, it’s her.”

The interns were left reeling after last year’s mixed bag of finale cliffhangers — though Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) survived her near-death emergency — but Marinis said upcoming episodes will see all the show’s characters finding joy in their work again. For Bailey, that means going back to some of her old teaching ways.

“We’re going to see some nostalgic Bailey. But also, she’s had 20 years of experience now, so she knows what works and what doesn’t,” Marinis said. “This is a different group of interns, but she’s seen it all. Meredith put her through everything. So I think that she’s going to make them work for it, and there’s a lot of fun in that.”

TheWrap spoke with Marinis about kicking off the show’s landmark 20th season, the premiere scene that “erupted into applause” during filming and the anticipated return of Jessica Capshaw’s Arizona Robbins.

Midori Francis, Harry Shum Jr., Niko Terho, Adelaide Kane and Alexis Floyd in “Grey’s Anatomy.” (Disney/Anne Marie Fox)

TheWrap: Where did you hope to take the show next as you were crafting this season?

We left everything in kind of a big, big mess, not knowing that it would be such a long time before we would air again. But I love messy stories. I love seeing how our characters come back from that, so I was so excited by the way we ended last season.

I also have a deep love for the show and for the longevity of the show. It’s a fan’s dream to watch your favorite show go on and on and on, and I wanted to honor that.

So that’s why a theme for this season was going back to basics, seeing why people love what they do. If you’ve seen the premiere, that comes through — [we see] a lot of people start to have this reset.

The premiere ended with Nick Marsh sharing that he is leaving to go to Boston with Meredith [Speedman has been on recurring status since Season 19]. Will we see him again too as Meredith returns for visits this season?

I think you’re going to have to stay tuned and see who pops up.

I loved the final scene after Nick tells the interns Bailey is taking over as residency director, and she revisits her “I have five rules” line. Nostalgia all over the place.

In every take [of that scene] everyone just erupted into applause. We have a lot of crew that have been here for 20 years so just hearing that, and how amazing Chandra is… When she read the scriptures she was like, “I see what you’re doing.”

I’d have to double check with her, but I think she told me that the original “I have five rules scene” might have been one of the first scenes they shot for the pilot.

Speaking of nostalgia, fans can’t wait to see Jessica Capshaw reprise her role as Arizona this season (set to air April 4). What inspired you to bring her back for a visit this season?

With the history that we have after 20 years, there’s opportunities that we have for people to come back. It’s really, really fun. We don’t want to do it all the time, because then it wouldn’t feel as special. But the writers are constantly pitching [ideas] to bring back characters, and Arizona came up and it just seemed really right… I think people will be really happy, they’re going to get a lot of what they loved about Arizona — badass doctor, her friendships and teaching and that laugh that we all love.

Jo (Camilla Luddington) and Link (Chris Carmack) finally got together, which feels like years in the making. Though they hit a snag in the premiere with Sam’s death, it seems like Jo is finally ready to give the relationship a go, where do they go from here?

They’ve never done this before. They’ve been best friends, they’ve been apart for many years. They slept together a couple of times, but it didn’t end up going well. So the question is, can they do this? Can they be best friends, co-parents, live together and work together? It’s a huge thing to suddenly be facing… They kind of went from zero to 60 really quickly.

I think there’ll be a lot of fun exploring what that looks like, what the challenges are for them. But it’s also a chance to make them a little happy.

Ellen Pompeo in “Grey’s Anatomy.” (Disney/Nino Muñoz)

We know Meredith makes a few more appearances this season (reportedly in four out of ten episodes) and she’s still doing the voiceover. How is her involvement behind the scenes?

Ellen and I have a great relationship, we’ve known each other for years. Her voice is in my head all the time. When I’m writing a story that Meredith is not in I still think, “what would Meredith think about this? How would her class view this differently from this class?” Meredith will always be one of my favorite characters.

We work well together and we’re trying to work with her schedule. Ellen cares very deeply for the show.

“Grey’s Anatomy” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. Episodes are available to stream the day after premiere on Hulu.

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