Fear not, Grey’s Anatomy fans — George O’Malley’s return doesn’t mean Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) has seen the last of Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). Showrunner Krista Vernoff opened up about upcoming episodes of the ABC medical drama during a joint interview with T.R. Knight after the Thursday, December 3, episode.
“Eventually, [Meredith and Derek] get to have deeper, richer conversations as Meredith and George did,” Vernoff told Deadline. “We worked with Patrick for two days. We had two days to capture four episodes, and so that’s why you’re not getting the full meal in one episode.”
During Thursday’s episode of the series, Meredith reunited with George, who died during season 5, in a dream as her battle with coronavirus worsened. The surgeon saw her late friend on the same beach where she reunited with late husband Derek during the season 17 premiere.
“We had a whole day to do [T.R.’s] scenes in one episode, and that is just about production realities and how many days we’re budgeted to be out on that beach, and now that the days are shorter, going to the beach, we get five hours of daylight. There are so many moving parts,” Vernoff continued. “You want more, tune in. It’s like you had a little taste before dinner and come back for dessert.
Knight referred to George’s return as a “soup” course.
“George is a very complicated person and that’s what made him such an amazing pleasure to play, but Meredith is seeing the best of George: she’s seeing his humor, his kindness, his generosity, and in this brief moment that you get to see him, it’s such a great way to remember him,” he explained. “We all know George also had his faults. He stumbled a lot. Literally and metaphorically, he was a little passive-aggressive, had some anger, held a grudge a little too long, but that’s what made him such a brilliant character to play, so to be able to get back into that world was … There’s a better word than profound, and I’ll get there someday.”
While Meredith previously only saw dead characters on the beach, the doctor and George were joined by Richard Weber (James Pickens Jr.) and Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) during Thursday’s episode. Pompeo, Pickens Jr. and Wilson are the only three remaining original cast members still on the show, which premiered in 2005.
“You’ve seen that sometimes when people sit in Meredith’s room and talk, they appear to her on the beach,” the producer explained. “So the beach throughout the season exists not just with very special guest stars.”
Knight added that “it’s hard for [him] to put into words” to film with the three actors again. “It was incredible, it was just an overwhelming feeling of love in that moment,” he said. “We were apart from everybody quite a bit because that was a drone shot, and so it was just the four of us, and the sun was setting, and this big fly buzzing around our heads, and it filled me with just a lot of joy.”
As for Meredith’s battle with COVID-19 – and future visitors — Vernoff played coy, telling Deadline, “What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen? I don’t know. You have to tune in.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.
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