In a 'Grey' Area

"Grey's Anatomy" ended its second season in May with Burke getting shot, Izzie quitting the surgical program and Meredith caught literally between McDreamy and Finn after a dalliance with the former in the hospital. Among other things.

With all that happening, it feels a little bit as if the show has written itself into a corner. That's not the case, "Grey's" creator Shonda Rhimes insists, but she's not upset to hear that either.

"I have to say, I love that you think we've painted ourselves into the corner, because that's pretty much the goal every season," Rhimes says on the show's stages in L.A.'s Los Feliz neighborhood. It's late July, and the cast and crew are shooting the season's second episode (even though they hadn't yet filmed the first one at the time).

Before returning to work, Rhimes adds, "There are a lot of shows that say, 'Let's save this for season four, let's save this for season five, let's hold onto this.' I was like, 'Let's just throw it all out there.' That's what we did in the first season, and it worked. We threw everything out there that we had last season, and now this season, we're going to do the same thing."

This season's everything begins Thursday, where ABC has moved the show in an effort to make a big splash on one of television's most lucrative nights. "Grey's Anatomy" will be airing against CBS' hugely popular "CSI," and the ratings race between the two shows is being closely watched.

Rhimes, writing on the "Grey's" writers blog this week, admits to being "freaked out" about the move, but the show's star is pretty optimistic.

"I'm really excited about that," says Ellen Pompeo, whose Meredith is facing a choice between her colleague Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and veterinarian Finn (Chris O'Donnell). "I think it's the best night on TV, and the network obviously has a lot of faith in us to put us on Thursdays. To put us up against a great show like 'CSI,' it must mean we're just as good."

Rhimes is famously tight-lipped about developments on the show, a rule that she imposes on cast and crew members as well. So Pompeo, Katherine Heigl (Izzie) and Sandra Oh (the super-competitive Cristina), can't say much about the new season: "I have no idea what's happening with my character," Heigl insists.

Per Rhimes' blog and ABC, we do know that Thursday's premiere will pick up shortly after the events of the season two finale, with everyone dealing with the fallout. Beyond that, though, no one's talking.

Pompeo doesn't mind that so much, actually. "I like to stay really present and focus on what's right in front of me," she says. "I get so much work to do that I can't think about future episodes, because I have to focus on this one. If there's anything major, Shonda will tell me."

Meredith's romantic entanglements and Cristina's struggle with her feelings for Burke (Isaiah Washington) are ongoing issues, but Izzie went through the biggest upheaval last season when her frantic efforts to save her soulmate, heart patient Denny, backfired and resulted in her quitting Seattle Grace's surgical program.

The character's desperate act caused a fair amount of "Dear God, why" reactions among people who follow the show -- including Heigl herself. "Why did she cut the wires? Couldn't she think of anything better than that?" she says.

Still, she says she understands why Izzie did what she did. "I think the only reason she got to that place was because of all the pain of the year and losing patients and people dying, not being able to handle it well," Heigl adds. "I think she was beyond reason. Nobody was going to reason her into not doing it. ... She was so committed to saving his life and saw no other option. It made perfect sense to her."

All three actresses mention that despite the intense pace of working on an hour-long drama and the occasional hassles that come with fame, they couldn't be happier to be working on the show. Oh also marvels at the breadth of "Grey's Anatomy's" popularity.

"It's really, really satisfying to come every day to work and to know at this point that people really respond to it," she says. "For some reason our fans are such a huge, amazingly wide range [of people]. It blows me away. That makes you feel really good about the work you're participating in."

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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