“It Felt Organic”

Dr. Jackson Avery has left the building.

After more than a decade, Jesse Williams has officially said goodbye Grey’s Anatomy and ABC’s Gray Sloan Memorial Hospital. The actor signed on for the May 20 season of the film as he watched his alter ego depart for Boston – along with departure star Greg Germann (Tom Koracick) – as the two together came to Boston to fight medical inequality as the leader of the Avery Foundation.

For Williams, the decision to have Ellen Pompeo star was part of a discussion the actor had with host Krista Vernoff about Jackson’s trajectory, which ultimately helped cement 11 seasons of the plot when the doctor becomes his own. “It took shape about last year. We try, whenever possible, to talk about what’s right for the character and what’s not for our other needs and desires. I’m happy to be able to help design that,” said Williams The Hollywood Reporter on Friday.

Below, Williams hinted at leaving Gray’s, how he influenced Jackson’s storyline and what he was most proud of conveying for the medical drama produced by Shonda Rhimes.

You’ve been on the show for over a decade. When do you know that season 17 will end your time on Gray’s And what was the driving force behind your decision to leave?

It appeared this season. It was a combination of trying to figure out with Krista and the team what meant and what came next for Jackson. His pot is bubbling. What does he need to do? He has been on this path of self-discovery off screen, he is troubled with abandonment issues and has unfinished business with his father, after his marriage ended. and April gone, he was unable to maintain real connections and romantic and emotional relationships. . He rushed to work.

Jackson left a few times but was never part of any community either. As an Avery, he was supposed to have surgery. But what else is there? He was never involved in whatever was happening and the world was boiling. He’s been in a bubble his whole life and needs to do something and connect with something he’s passionate about not just his profession. There was a feeling that Jackson had to change his environment and be ready to connect with something. What if he went with his gut instead of his legacy? What if he comes to what is right for him? Observing what is happening on the street and how it affects blacks and browns, he may see that he needs to take a risk and get out of his shelter and try something new – or use Use it to do something he’s passionate about.

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How did Krista and Shonda receive your decision, speak Is writing to you her “honor”?

This is an organic, collective decision; That’s not something I have to tell anyone. It’s something that we’ve found and understood and are trying to honor and do the right thing. It was a team effort all the time. It doesn’t feel like any of us go to the other and have a predetermined outcome. We wrote something together and this is what it was.

And Ellen’s response?

It was quite emotional. Our final scene with Jesse and Ellen was as emotional as Jackson and Meredith. It’s my friend and this is a new side for both of us. I have not always been an emotional person and this journey is increasingly emotional.

How are you related to how Jackson’s story ended, especially with the return of Sarah Drew?

I was so engaged and super excited to be able to spend time with her at the end of the session. I love her and we really collaborated a lot in the world of “Japril” and were very hands on and made sure the work was true to the characters and selfless. Years passed and we fell back into it. It’s really special and I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

Jackson’s breakup coincided with Greg Germann’s breakup with Koracick. Is that something the two of you discussed?

It was a complete surprise for me. Greg is great. And I said this to him but ever since he’s been on the show, all the actors have been pinching themselves with how much fun he is to be around. He is very intelligent in his performance and is a classy actor in front of the camera. I’m glad I had the opportunity to work with him and learn from him during this short time. It’s a pretty noble way to go out.

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Jesse Williams (centre) with co-stars Camilla Luddington and Kevin McKidd
Courtesy of ABC

The episode also features many poignant flashbacks of moments from Jackson’s career. Look back on your time with Gray’sWhat are you personally most proud of having accomplished?

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When I look back at the whole way fans approached me and the respect for a surgeon of color who didn’t fall into any of the boxes, and struggled, was nuanced and vulnerable and he makes mistakes, is fallible and needs to grow and be able to find his flaws and share them – that’s who he really is. People connect with his journey.

It can be secure enough in the workspace that it can make a real-world impact. This isn’t just a doctor of two races in an alternate universe; this is ours The universe. What does he do when he gets home? What obstacles did he face? And how would you feel when you were faced with a conflict of interest about a cop who shot a child and you had to operate on him? What’s hard and threatening about that? How does it feel when you’re in a failed relationship or lost a child but you also have to go to work every day and deal with someone you feel like you’ve failed and struggled with?

I’m really proud to be able to humanize what has always been predicted to be so polarizing and far-fetched in our society. Judging by the way he’s come out in these last few episodes, these are really polarizing themes: racism, police brutality, racial inequality in medicine, racism … these are the things that people bury their heads in the sand, deny and argue about and have been punching politically. And this character and his journey have connected with people from all walks of life.

What Shonda created with Gray’s is a pioneering vision of characters who are human and not just a Black guy. It’s someone with love, childhood, relationships, and it’s hard to stereotype and dismiss real people you can connect with and feel like you know. It’s a beautiful ship and I’m honored and proud of the impact we’ve had around the world. People see themselves or their loved ones or the conversations they dread on screens. And that is forever.

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Jesse Williams and co-star Camilla Luddington
Courtesy of ABC

What’s next for you, post-Gray’s?

Broadway, honey! I’m starring in a play. I’ve signed up for a few movies, I’m promoting a few shows in development and working on a piece of material to direct, and I’ve only directed one episode of the show. [Vernoff’s] Rebellion. I have my business talent and always launch new tech products and games. And I’m launching an educational platform called Assemble for the BIPOC community that’s attracting the best teachers around the country. I’m never not busy with social justice, business, diversity and directing, acting and producing.

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You made your directorial debut on Grey’s Anatomy. After Giacomo Gianniotti come back to the director after his character is killed, will he go back to the director? Or appear on screen during the end of the series, whenever possible?

I’m ready to go back and direct and be on camera again, [that’s] entirely possible. I love working with these people and am open to any ideas and seeing how they come to be.

Do you keep anything from the set?

I’ve been blessed with a bunch of great things from our cast and crew, everyone involved on set writes letters. I received this beautiful mailbox and memorabilia including the original jacket, stethoscope, identification and all this wonderful stuff from Jackson Avery’s world. It’s really touching and heartfelt. I really love those people.

In the end, Sarah Drew said she decided Jackson and April was game over. Where do you stand on this topic?

I like that and think it makes perfect sense that that could happen. They are “people” to each other. No one knows him, loves him, respects him, has seen his worst and can understand him like April. At least they’ll continue to be close friends, but I think they’ll most likely take a sunset walk together to Boston and a new place and raise their baby together. They’ll reconnect in a romantic way, and that’s entirely possible. That’s what the fans want and we try to give them as much as we can.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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