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Grey's Anatomy cast offers hope for couples of Grey Sloan

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Richard Cartwright/ABC

Can the couples of Grey’s Anatomy survive?

The cast of the ABC medical drama gathered at PaleyFest Sunday afternoon for a panel moderated by EW’s very own Henry Goldblatt. Ellen Pompeo, Justin Chambers, Kevin McKidd, Caterina Scorsone, Jerrika Hinton, Kelly McCreary, Jason George, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens Jr, Jessica Capshaw, Jesse Williams, Sarah Drew, Martin Henderson, Giacomo Gianniotti, and executive producer Debbie Allen revealed scoop about the upcoming Ellen Pompeo-directed hour, whether there’s hope for Jackson and April, if Meredith will finally take the next step with Riggs, and much, much more. Here are the highlights:

Pompeo’s directorial debut: After screening the upcoming Pompeo-directed hour, the actress credited Allen with getting her to direct her first episode. “This force of nature wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I’m forever grateful to her for that,” Pompeo says. Though this was the actress’ first time directing, she notes that she wasn’t nervous about landing the emotional weight of the Maggie-centric hour, but rather just the technical aspects. “I have the best cast in the world,” Pompeo says. “I wasn’t really afraid of anything.” However, Pompeo adds directing herself was “not fun, but I was lucky to have Debbie Allen right with me every step of the way, so when I was tired or confused, she jumped in.”

Maggie’s mom returns: LaTonya Richardson Jackson returns as Maggie’s mother ahead of the Pompeo-directed episode, therefore setting up the episode to heavily feature her treatment for breast cancer — so yes, Maggie will finally be in the know. However things shake out, her mother’s illness is certainly going to affect Maggie. “Major life events like this enable you to shift your perspective and reevaluate what’s important to you,” McCreary says. “For a long time, being one version of herself was the right way to do things.” Judging by this comment, it sounds like she may try to shake things up soon.

The future of Meredith and Riggs: While it looks like the duo might be heading toward an actual relationship, the question remains how Maggie will feel about that since she’s harbored feelings for Riggs since last season’s finale. “Women have to stick together,” Pompeo says. And if Mer did choose her sister over Riggs, Henderson says he’d understand. “I would respect it, but I think it would be sad because all men know that it’s impossible to be a great man without a good woman by your side.” Whether Meredith and Riggs explore a relationship or not, Henderson hopes we’ll get much more information about his character soon. “It’s been wonderful to play a character that’s polarizing,” he says. “There’s this mystery and enigma as to, ishe a good guy, is he a bad guy? … As an actor, after a couple seasons on the show, I’m looking forward to the opportunity for Nathan to be a in a relationship — whether it’s platonic or not  — to see who he is deep down.”

Will Jackson and April reconcile? After a steamy hookup in Montana, there’s hope that Japril might get back together, but Drew stays relatively coy about the future. “I honestly think the main takeaway is that these two people, there’s so much love there, there’s so much respect there, they know each other so well, so whether it continues toward romance or stays platonic, we know these two people are going to be OK,” Drew says. As for whether Jackson’s father, Robert Avery (Eric Roberts) will return, Williams says, “I hope so.” Adds Allen: “We planted a lot of seeds this season, and that’s one that could resonate in a lot of ways, but there’s more coming.”

Can Amelia and Owen’s relationship survive? Their relationship status is currently marked “it’s complicated” since Amelia now no longer wants to have kids, which is basically the one reason the relationship between Owen and Cristina (Sandra Oh) didn’t survive. “He desperately wants a baby,” McKidd says. “Owen’s really struggling. He’s a very tortured guy — he thinks the thing that’s going to fix him is to have a family with this woman, but she doesn’t want to right now. He’s waiting and he loves her and he’s tortured and we’ll see what happens.”

What’s next for Jo and Alex? Though the two have been on the outs since Alex beat DeLuca within an inch of his life, now that Alex knows that Jo was married to an abusive man, he understands why she was hesitant to marry him. “He wants to marry her,” Chambers says. When asked whether he’d like Alex to end up with Jo or with — twist — Meredith, Chambers says, “Anything is possible, especially on Grey’s Anatomy. Who knows? He might end up with Catherine. I’d like to see how it fleshes out, the relationship with him and Jo.”

The relationship at the center of “Civil War”: Ever since the show introduced a replacement for Webber, the hospital has been at odds over Dr. Minnick (Marika Domińczyk) — well, except for Arizona, who has found romance with the new doc after ex-wife Callie (Sara Ramirez) moved away last season. “It’s been interesting, it’s been new,” Capshaw says, explaining that the show got to a point last season where viewers could “happily permit both of them to be happy without each other,” hence paving the way for Arizona’s new romance with Minnick. “I find myself at a point where there’s something exciting happening for her, there’s a newness. This season I feel like is the beginning of creating something new.” However, Capshaw hedges, “I have no idea if she’s the one.” For what it’s worth, when asked what her favorite ‘shipper name on the series was, she says, “I think I have to go with Calzona.”

The future of Grey’s? When asked what she thinks about the future of the show and where she’d like to see Meredith end up, Pompeo says, “Maybe why I’ve been able to do this show for so long is because I try not to have expectations. I do the same thing in my life, I try not to look down the road too far because we’re going to miss what happens right now today… I try to enjoy every moment with an open heart and an open mind… Life will tell me where I”m going. I don’t want to think about what’s next, I want to enjoy this moment.”

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