Heading into its 13th season, Grey’s Anatomy will be shining a light on the topic of domestic violence.
At the close of season 12, Jo (Camilla Luddington) turned down Alex’s proposal, scared to confess that she couldn’t marry him because she was already wed. In truth, her name isn’t even Jo Wilson, and she had run away from an abusive husband. Season 13 picks up in the aftermath of Alex (Justin Chambers) pummeling DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) following what was ultimately a miscommunication resulting from Jo’s reveal. As Alex faces the consequences of his actions both at the hospital and within his relationship, Jo’s backstory will finally unfurl.
“I don‘t think that I ever think about doing things, like, ‘Oh, we’re doing a domestic violence story as an issue,'” Shonda Rhimes tells EW. “It felt like it was time to tell Jo’s story, and it felt like it was time to tell Jo’s story especially in the context of Alex, who he is and how he grew up. Alex is so defined by who he used to be and who he is trying to become, and so is Jo.”
It’s that commonality over rising above their scrappy upbringings that initially brought Alex and Jo together — and could now ultimately drive them a part. “They bonded over their past,” Chambers says, “and to leave that part of her past out, that’s a pretty big piece of her puzzle. So I think he’s going to feel very betrayed.”
The storyline is part and parcel of Grey’s Anatomy putting focus on the remaining original characters — check out photos of season 13 here — including Alex, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Webber (James Pickens Jr). “Meredith will always be the nucleus because she’s the voice, but to have the four originals still is pretty amazing,” Chambers says.
Truly, this is a storyline that’s several years in the making. Longtime Grey’s Anatomy viewers may remember Jo’s former fling Jason Myers a.k.a Chest Peckwell (The Originals‘ Charles Michael Davis), who landed in the hospital severely beaten after he hit Jo — which makes a lot more sense now knowing her history. “That concept is something that we’ve — the writers — have talked about for years, and have always been like, ‘Is this the right time? Is this the right time?'” Rhimes says. “We’ve been trying to figure out when to deploy that. It felt right at this moment in time because Jo’s backstory has always been very intriguing to us, and this idea that she is now fully who she says she is, and that she is somebody who has reinvented herself.”
“I love her as being somebody who has reinvented herself,” Rhimes continues. “I also love her as being somebody who has overcome a lot of really, really bad things to make something of her life. She’s a survivor. The idea that she’s a survivor and that very act of being that person is threatening to that relationship is interesting. The fact that Alex is a guy who his response is to beat somebody up is a little problematic.”
What’s also problematic is that Jo’s husband is still out there, and viewers may even get to meet him this season. “Meredith suffered a violent attack last year and very much overcame it,” Rhimes says. “This idea that women are often treated in this way is disturbing to me, but it’s also very interesting to me to get to tell the story of Jo from this perspective of somebody who has walked away from a past that happened so long ago, and might have to face it again.”
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Grey’s Anatomy returns Thursday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.