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Grey's Anatomy cast goes three rounds at EW PopFest

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Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly

The cast of Grey’s Anatomy got candid — and maybe a little tipsy — at EW PopFest on Sunday, sharing secrets behind the long-running ABC medical drama while imbibing alongside Entertainment Weekly Editor in Chief Henry Goldblatt. 

Jessica Capshaw (Arizona Robbins), Jason George (Ben Warren), Kelly McCreary (Maggie Pierce), Giacomo Gianniotti (Andrew DeLuca), and Jerrika Hinton (Stephanie Edwards) shared their audition stories, who they’d like their characters to hook up with, and the future of Arizona’s love life. Here are the highlights: 

♦ Capshaw revealed she auditioned for Grey’s four times, first going out for the part of Nurse Rose, who came between Meredith and Derek in an early season, and then for the role of Sadie, played by Melissa George. “Shonda [Rhimes] had conceived of a three-episode arc for a plucky… surgeon,” Capshaw said. “And there I was.” 

♦ George initially auditioned for a Shondaland pilot called Inside the Box — which also starred Grey’s Anatomy actors Martin Henderson, Kim Raver, and Sarah Drew — that never made it to series and that’s how he landed in the world of Grey’s. “Originally I was supposed to do Bailey kind of dirty and then check out,” George said. He eventually went to star on the short-lived Shondaland medical drama Off the Map before returning to Grey Sloan. “Fortunately she didn’t kill Ben Warren, so I got to come back.” 

♦ When McCreary auditioned, her character sides said the character name was Claudette, but once she signed on and came to set, Sandra Oh had resumes for her character that said she’s Maggie Pierce. “Who am I?” McCreary recalls thinking, unaware she’d go on to be Meredith’s half-sister. “Then I met with Shonda and she surprised me with the much deeper backstory.” 

♦ Likewise, Hinton didn’t know who Stephanie was when she first joined the show. Roughly a year ago, she met with Rhimes to build out the character’s backstory, borrowing a story from her cousin — Stephanie was revealed to have a sickle cell disease last season. “My cousin very graciously let me use her life to give Stephanie life,” Hinton said. 

♦ Capshaw was initially hesitant to explore the story about Arizona’s leg being amputated in the wake of the plane crash, but after extensive research, she felt she could rise to the challenge. “Arizona losing her leg was a surprise to me,” Capshaw said, noting that Rhimes had pulled experience from someone she knew who had recently lost a leg. “She called and said she had this very important story to tell… and I was completely terrified of it. My first reaction to almost everything is no. I sat with it and talked about it and it was because it was a huge responsibility, and I didn’t feel like I could do it unless I gave it everything.” 

♦ The cast was asked whether they’ve been mistaken for real doctors over the years, and McCreary said she gets this question a lot: “Have I performed enough surgeries at this point that I feel like I know what to do? The answer is I could cut you, [but that’s about it]” she said with a laugh. Gianniotti revealed his own expertise: “I actually removed a sliver from Kelly’s hand once on set,” he said. 

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♦ What’s the weirdest prop on set? There’s a mold of now-Scandal star Scott Foley’s head that they sometimes use to stand in for patients when they’re not actually laying on the table. The cast also agreed that the fake babies are all very creepy, especially when the prop masters put raspberry jam on them. Meat is also used for the doctors to operate on — and when the doctors need to cauterize them, the smell is said to be disgusting. The blood on the show is made with corn syrup so it’s very sticky. 

♦ Recalling her most memorable moment on Grey’s Anatomy, Capshaw recalled a scene early in the Callie and Arizona relationship. “There was this moment where they just danced,” Capshaw said. “I don’t even think there was dialogue. We had so much fun doing it. I think it was my favorite because it held so much promise. It was that beginning of the relationship that was so exciting and you don’t know where it’s going to go.” Capshaw also said she’s really happy with where Arizona is now as there is so much promise ahead now that Callie has moved to New York and is happy with Penny. “I hope that the fans can allow for that to be the moment that Arizona really gets to move on and find that dancing moment with someone else soon,” she said. 

♦ Who would they like their character to hook up with at Grey Sloan?

Hinton: “Maggie.”

Gianniotti: “Jason.”

McCreary: “I don’t mean this in the hookup way, but I love Catherine Avery. I want Maggie to learn so much from Catherine Avery. I want her to hook up with her to learn from her.

George: “He’s pretty seriously taken.”

Capshaw posed the question to the crowd, to which they yelled “Addison” from Private Practice

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♦ Lastly, the cast shared three words to describe what’s going on with their characters for upcoming episodes.

McCreary: “Transition of power.”

Capshaw: “Flirty. Fun. Incarceration.”

Gianniotti: “Trial. Trial. Trial.”

Hinton: “I’m going to associate myself with ‘transition of power.'”

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. 

Watch panel clips from EW PopFest: