Why ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Just Killed Off One of Its Beloved Doctors

[This story contains spoilers from the March 11 episode of Grey’s Anatomy, “Helplessly Hoping.”]

Grey’s Anatomy parted ways with a beloved member of the cast during Thursday’s mid-season premiere, and it did so in a relatively rare way for ABC medical drama: with a character’s death .

Giacomo Gianniotti’s Dr. Andrew DeLuca was killed after a heroic battle to stop a sex trafficker in a storyline that stretched from last season and ultimately limited the actor’s seven seasons on Shondaland . DeLuca, who was stabbed and eventually died in surgery, became only the fifth series regular in Grey’s Anatomy Their story-driven history ends in a fatality and is the first since the shocking departure of Patrick Dempsey nearly six years ago.

In an ending that suits her plot, DeLuca roams Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) magical beach and is able to say goodbye to her ex before heading into the sunset. DeLuca joins George (TR Knight), Derek (Dempsey), Mark (Eric Dane) and Lexie (Chyler Leigh) as series helmers (according to Wikipedia) to leave the show in death. Out of a total of 33 regular teams in 17 seasons of Gray’s, 13 characters are still alive. And of course it’s worth noting that several other characters were killed for Gray’sthough those actors were once guest stars or recurring players.

Below, host Krista Vernoff and star Gianniotti chat with The Hollywood Reporter about how DeLuca’s death contributed to a season that brought COVID-19 to the top of the show’s charts and what’s next.

Meredith is on the rise and that’s the last beat until the show returns tonight. Why is it important for viewers to see this iconic character for three months? She’s still on the vent during the mid-season comeback.

Krista Vernoff: It’s the mid-season finale. Sometimes stories tell about themselves and things happen in very powerful ways. As an image, work on people’s psyches and help them understand that this pandemic is ongoing and profound and impacts communities in really painful ways. It’s a powerful image to help people remember why they’re at home. If this thing can hit Meredith Gray, it can hit anyone.

This season has brought COVID-19 to the top of the charts, with candid depictions of everything from infected doctors, others struggling with emotional weight, and in the mid-season finale Award, the hospital has reached capacity. When it aired, that episode was sadly heralded. How is the rest of the season going in terms of how close to what’s happening in the world right now?

Vernoff: What’s very interesting when it comes to advance is that we told the truth in that episode about what happened in May 2020 in Washington state and it happened again in Los Angeles in December, when the episode was broadcast. wave. We didn’t know in advance; We are telling a story that happened in the early stages of the pandemic. It’s amazing that we broke the show, we thought we’d be home in two weeks and now it’s a year later and we’re looking at this this way. It still amazes me. We are not aiming for some imaginary future where COVID is a thing of the past. We’re still setting the scene in the past in the second half of the season. It was one of the decisions when we decided that Meredith had COVID and that would last the whole season. We don’t want Meredith in bed with COVID for 11 months. We’re still in the creative phase like May/June 2020. We’re not jumping ahead so we don’t have to try to keep up with what’s happening now; We’re looking at what’s going on then.

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In an exploration of COVID, why is the death of the first protagonist of the part irrelevant? Is this the finale of last year’s season?

Vernoff: There were no plans to kill him at the end of last season. I really didn’t want to kill DeLuca last season because he was going through a mental health crisis and he’s going to get through it. I wanted to show that one can go through a mental health crisis and step out onto the other side and become a competent, contributing member of the hospital staff. This story of DeLuca meeting her trafficker and following her out of the hospital and refusing to give up and it became part of Station 19 and track it down and just when you think he’s got her, someone punches him. You think he got punched but you turn around and realize he’s been stabbed, and then he’s on the beach with Meredith. My reaction to [the story idea] What was it?! Damn it! No! Really!? This is what I’m doing?! No!” Many times after I introduced it to the writers and we designed the season around this story, I started to get confused and second guessed myself. ?! Can he live?! He can’t.” We’ve done a lot of near-death and save them since I took over the show.So now people are expecting that. This is the story. It shocked me as much as it did you.

GREY'S ANSWER - STEFANIA SPAMPINATO, GIACOMO GIANNIOTTI

Giacomo, what was your reaction when you received the call that Andrew had been killed?

Giacomo Gianniotti: Krista and Debbie Allen, our executive producers, called me into the office and said they’d tried different ways and kept returning to the human-trafficking storyline from last season. The plot was well received, and for that, they knew they had to keep exploring it. They saw an opportunity to tell a beautiful story highlighting human trafficking and let DeLuca be a hero and take this truly noble act to stop this killer but that unfortunately will cost them. cost him his life. I’ve been on the show for seven seasons and think it’s a great way to get out. Krista, running Station 19 as well as had the idea to turn it into a crossover so we could talk about it in two episodes and spend time with DeLuca. I’m a storyteller and the best story always wins, and I think this is the best story.

What’s the bigger point you’d like to make with DeLuca’s plot? He died a hero, which is a bit of a taboo for a Gray’s death.

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Vernoff: I’m processing [grief] myself when this story came. As we go through this shared pain of COVID, quarantine and away from the people we love together, I want all the other tragedies in the world to stop. It seems unfair. The Alexandria House, a charity I support in LA that shelters disabled women and their children – who have been traumatized – in its first week of closure, The House Alexandria is on fire. It’s like, “What?! COVID isn’t enough?” But everything else doesn’t stop because of COVID and we all have to deal with other things, and terrible tragedies that come to life. That’s part of where this story was born. All of these people will die from COVID but sometimes others die too. And it was horrible. Part of DeLuca died this way… watching this episode, watching his mother greet him on the beach and feeling that grief, I cried watching this episode more than I’ve cried since George O’ Malley passed away. I thank Giacomo for playing this character so wonderfully and so powerfully that through DeLuca’s death, I believe there is an opportunity for all of us to release our collective grief.

Will DeLuca reappear on that beach again this season?

Vernoff: No. I think him leaving with his mother is the strongest ending for that character. But you’ll see him again, just not on the beach.

Gianniotti: Even though his life is over, there are still ways to show how our characters have passed. I look forward to telling some other stories in those ways. There may be flashbacks or other situations where we could see DeLuca. That’s all I can say. But it’s not a drill; he is definitely dead.

What was it like filming on that beach when those scenes meant something to the viewer?

Gianniotti: Ellen and I kept pinching ourselves. Being able to shoot on the beach is amazing. It’s great to be a part of that and DeLuca has his moment and says his part to Meredith. There is a lot of unfinished business between them. Maybe if Meredith doesn’t have COVID, the first part of this season could be them picking up the parts they left off in their romance. But circumstances do not allow that. It’s nice that DeLuca at least has to thank her for everything she’s given him.

How do you think Meredith will respond to DeLuca’s death?

Gianniotti: It’s hard to say because you think about the dream and what happened at the end of the episode and wonder if Meredith correlates that with the metaphor: If he joins his mother, what does that mean? that he would leave me and move on. Maybe that will lead to her waking up? Who knows? Or it will be a big surprise when she wakes up. There is a very clear, obvious comparison to the fact that so many healthcare professionals have lost their lives to COVID. It’s a direct representation and reflects that. It also helps everyone in the industry feel seen. It looks different and it sends a shockwave through all the characters at the hospital – and probably Meredith at most.

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Knowing Meredith is battling COVID, it feels like one of two outcomes there. How does the COVID story you’re telling impact the different endings you’re creating, considering the show’s uncertain future?

Vernoff: More will be revealed as you watch the show. (Laughter.)

Without spoiling anything, how would you describe other people who would visit Meredith on that magical beach?

Vernoff: There are some really nice surprises coming up. It’s one of the things I enjoy as a spark in the dark of the storytelling that COVID needs. That beach is a ray of light and the surprise of those you see there are flashes of light. And I don’t want to take that away.

Can you confirm that there will be other people appearing on that beach that viewers haven’t seen there this season?

Vernoff: Right.

Giacomo, you have to make your directorial debut on Gray’s this season. After seven seasons, is there anything you’ve wanted to do on the show but never had the chance?

Gianniotti: This feels like a gift. They rolled everything I wanted to do into two volumes; they wrote my dream exit plot. I must have an action movie about Station 19 Chase the killer and don’t wear scrubs. It’s fun and not something I have to do Gray’s for obvious reasons. All the scenes where we have to spend time and be with Ellen and Meredith on the beach are a good way to tie the loose ends. As for the mental health story, it’s been an honor and a privilege to tell that story. Ultimately, it’s a matter of representation, and it’s huge for people to see someone bipolar who can be a participant in and command an entire department at a hospital.

GREY'S SOLUTION - GIACOMO GIANNIOTTI, ELLEN POMPEO

Do you keep anything?

Gianniotti: I did not! Maybe next time I’ll go steal my stethoscope!

What’s next for you? Any plans to come back Gray’s as a director?

Gianniotti: Definitely invested a lot of time in directing and hope to continue to do so here and abroad. I’m looking for a lot of opportunities in Italy and Canada as a director and actor and there are a few things coming up that I’m happy to share.

Interviews are edited for length and clarity.

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