Shondaland’s stake in Seattle is expanding with a Grey’s Anatomy spin-off set at a nearby firehouse — and EW has the exclusive first look!
Jokingly referred to as Blaze Anatomy, the still-unnamed offshoot focuses on first responders whose high-stakes rescues have more drama than Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. “Our hero characters aren’t just saving lives, they’re putting their own lives at risk,” says showrunner Stacy McKee.
The 10-episode drama follows a team — including father figure Captain Pruitt Herrera (Miguel Sandoval), charismatic charmer Jack (Grey Damon), and leading lady Andy Herrera (Jaina Lee Ortiz), whom McKee calls an “emotional anchor” for the show — as they complete 24-hour shifts. Grey’s regular Ben Warren (Jason George) launches the new series in March when he trades his scrubs for a spot in the firehouse. How much will the spin-off then cross over with the flagship? Get all the details from McKee below. (Check out more first look photos and our Q&A with Jason George here.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Does the Grey’s spin-off have an actual name yet?
STACY McKEE: [Laughs] Nope, not yet! We don’t have a name. You should see the bulletin board in my office. We have hundreds of Post-its on it with possible names. It’s pretty fantastic.
I heard a temporary name jokingly being thrown around on set is Blaze Anatomy.
As a joke.
What was the first germ of an idea to do a firefighter-set spin-off of Grey’s?
I knew that I wanted to find a show that could match Grey’s in stakes, intensity, and tone. I wanted something where we could be laughing, and crying, and throwing things at our television all in the same episode. I always want to tell stories from characters first, so I just loved this idea of having some kind of big, awesome, hilarious, sometimes dysfunctional work family, and the fire station just seemed to work as a really natural setting for that. Plus, it’s an extension of the existing Grey’s Anatomy world. I mean, how many times have we seen first responders in the background rushing into the breezeway, dropping off patients and leaving? This way, we just get the chance to jump back into the rig with them and drive away.
How do you feel the spin-off is thematically and tonally either similar or different from Grey’s?
The show is different from Grey’s because our hero characters aren’t just saving lives, they’re also putting their own lives at risk in the process. The very nature of their jobs will put these characters out into the streets, on location, immersed in their patients’ lives in a way that’s a lot more visceral and a little bit more messy. It isn’t the perfectly draped body in an OR. They’re responding to a patient on-sight, the scene of an accident, their homes, it’s just a different energy. There’s no safety net there. Gosh, it’s so similar, too. As much as we’re out and enjoying all of the action, there’s just so much heart and humor, and sexy time — all of that, plus this great shot of adrenaline.
How much will the show actually cross over with Grey’s? When Private Practice did it, it was more of a major event, whereas shows from the Chicago franchise do it more weekly, but smaller cameos. Will you lean more toward that?
We’ll see. I don’t know yet. We just finished shooting the pilot, so we’ll see what the crossover potential is. There’s so much, which is so great. The worlds are so rich. Because they coexist, we have the option to do it just a little or a lot. We’re open to all of those possibilities. There’s just a tremendous amount of cross-pollination that could happen. I can’t tell you how many times I would walk into the Grey’s writers’ room and would pitch some crazy, amazing patient story, and everyone would be like, “Yeah, that’s great, Stacy, but all of the cool parts of that happens off-screen. We have to treat them once they get into the hospital.” Now, with this show, I get to do all of that off-screen stuff, so to me, the possibilities for cross-pollination are limitless, because what if we could just do it all if we want?
In terms of the two writers’ rooms, are you talking to each other a lot about how you can interweave these stories moving forward?
Of course. We’re throwing every idea against the wall, and it’s like spaghetti, we’ll see what sticks. What’s fantastic about this show is because it’s Grey’s Anatomy-adjacent, there’s the potential for things to connect really, really easily. With Private Practice, even if we did a crossover, we always had to build into the story that there was a change of location, because Private was located in Los Angeles and Grey’s has always been in Seattle. This show takes place in a Seattle fire station that could, in theory, be just a few blocks down from Grey Sloan Memorial. Plus, I know all the writers over at Grey’s and vice versa, so it’ll be a very symbiotic relationship.
There have been some pretty memorable patients on Grey’s, particularly the two conjoined by a pole. Would you ever consider doing flashbacks to some of those big moments we’ve seen on Grey’s over the years?
I mean, maybe, it’s such a cool idea. I do now! I love it. I’m writing that down. Note to self. Hmm, interesting. I’m going to the room after this. [Laughs]
Ben Warren is moving from the flagship to the spin-off. Can you talk about how that character is the connective tissue between these two shows?
Yeah, he’s definitely a lot of connective tissue. What’s really nice is that, for his character, he’s going to be so new to this whole first responder firefighter world in the same way that any of us, our diehard Grey’s Anatomy fans, will be. So if it’s new for him, it’s new for us, too, which will be a really helpful, fantastic way of storytelling. He’ll be fundamental connective tissue.
What can you tease of other characters we’ll see on the show?
Oh my gosh, they’re so fantastic. I’m giddy. They’re really fun, strong, a little messed up, and completely unique in all sorts of different ways. There’s Andy Herrera, who is played by Jaina Lee Ortiz, and she’s this pretty fantastic, badass firefighter, and she’s going to be a real emotional anchor for the show. There’s going to be firefighters from all different ranks, from captain all the way down to the newest probie. It’s a firefighting team of about seven, and three of them are going to be women; we have all ethnicities, all different sexualities. But at the end of the day, it’s just a real family of characters — not necessarily related by blood, but definitely a family.
Miguel Sandoval is playing the captain, so how does he compare to some of the authority figures we have on Grey’s, like Bailey and Webber?
Oh yeah, he’s definitely a bit of a father figure to this whole group of misfits in the station.
What does being set in a firehouse afford the show to do that you may not have been able to do at Grey Sloan?
We get to go to the accident, we get to run into the fire. There’s just this opportunity for so much more action, stunts and big set pieces like that, which is really, really fun. And a firefighter shift is literally 24 hours long, so you have these characters who are both working together — saving lives together and saving each other’s lives together — and living together for a minimum of 24 hours at a time, so they’re all up in each other’s business. Plus, we get to ride on firetrucks, which is everybody’s dream. I mean, don’t you want to ride a firetruck? It’s the best!
What kind of consultants do you have on this show compared to Grey’s?
We basically have the equivalent of that, but for firefighting. We have firefighters and EMTs, who are both on set and consulting on the creative side, so we have a tremendous amount of resources in that way. We’ve also been in communication with firehouses both in Los Angeles and in Seattle, because some of the firefighting specifics are regional, so we’ve been trying to make sure that what we do is Seattle specific.
So a lot of rain then?
[Laughs] Well, as much as you can do when you’re filming in L.A.
Grey’s has been hinting at Ben’s decision to change jobs, but how will the show really start to introduce this spin-off as we head into the back half of the season before its launch?
Yes, they’ve definitely been setting the stage for Ben on Grey’s this season, and a little later this season, there will be an episode where we’ll actually get to meet one of the characters from the spin-off, just as a story within the episode. It’ll be Jaina’s character, Andy Herrera, and it’s going to be such a fun, fantastic introduction to her character. It will also showcase a really lovely story for Ben, where we get to just juxtapose his two worlds and see his reaction as he transitions from one world to the next. We’re actually shooting it right now. It’s going to be so good.
Ben has been training for this, but how might he struggle taking on this new profession?
This is Shondaland, you know we’re not going to make it easy for him ever. He’ll definitely struggle and he’ll thrive. My goal is for him to have ups and downs, and to experience things that just give him such an adrenaline rush, and help him get so excited, and then in the next breath, he’ll face things that will rock him to his core. If we can do that for Ben, and then go on that journey with him, it’s going to be a pretty fantastic ride.
When it was announced that Jason was moving to the spin-off, a lot of fans thought that would spell bad news for Ben and Bailey. Do you want to give fans some hope?
I don’t think anyone should feel hopeless.
Grey’s Anatomy is in season 14 and just hit its 300th episode. Is that added pressure in launching this show, or less considering this strong foundation?
I don’t think about the pressure at all. I mean, I was there at Grey’s, I was an assistant on the pilot, I started as a writer in season 1, I was there for almost every one of those 300 episodes, so truly all I feel right now is excitement. I’m just so thrilled about this show and it moving forward and how it can connect to Grey’s and how it’s just an extension of the universe to me. I’m just geeked out. I’m basically a fan first and a writer second, and I just think it’s going to be fantastic.
The Grey’s Anatomy spin-off will first launch in an episode of the flagship slated for March before debuting sometime in the spring. Check out more first look photos and our Q&A with Jason George here.