Grey's Anatomy star Camilla Luddington previews emotional domestic violence story line
It’s a story two seasons in the making: Jo Wilson will finally be faced with her abusive estranged husband during Thursday’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
Viewers first learned in the season 12 finale that Jo Wilson had long-ago escaped her abusive and manipulative husband, Paul (Matthew Morrison) — she couldn’t wed Alex (Justin Chambers) because she was still married, and her name isn’t even Jo Wilson! Now, in season 14, the show will finally tackle this story head-on in a powerful hour titled “1-800-799-7233,” which is the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
As teased in the closing moments of the fall finale, Paul has finally tracked down Jo, likely because she decided to officially file for divorce earlier this season. How will Jo handle his return? EW turned to Luddington to get the scoop on the hour:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How will Jo react to Paul’s return?
CAMILLA LUDDINGTON: You see her obviously absolutely horrified that he has infiltrated her world. When she initially runs into him, she feels like everything is completely turned upside down. It picks up exactly with that same beat walking out of the elevator, and you see her paralyzed. Jo is honestly trying to get ahead of the situation and do any damage control that she knows he will try and do. That’s, in general, how you see Jo handle the rest of the episode.
Paul is very manipulative, so is she worried about what he could say to the hospital?
He is super manipulative, and you’ll see that he will attempt to manipulate everyone around her. So, for Jo, that’s always been what has happened in their past. That is the pattern of who they were as a couple. Everyone always believed him. He intends to always undermine her. For Jo, that’s terrifying, because she finally has this life that she’s built herself that he then may come and destroy again.
How might the hospital gather around Jo in her time of need?
We’ll at least see Alex of course jump to Jo’s defense in any way that he can, and that he is absolutely by her side for the episode.
Paul returns with a fiancée, so is Jo somewhat worried about this woman?
Initially, it’s very confusing to her. Me, Camilla, I imagined that he was single, so it was a shock to me that not only is he with somebody else, but he’s proposed and maybe about to enter into “forever” with somebody else, and he’s the most scary person to her that could possibly be in a relationship with somebody else. So I think it throws her when she initially meets her. I think she is terrified for her, and she is wondering if his fiancée’s experience is her experience. How can she help her, if she can? I think those are questions that Jo initially has in meeting her. I think it’s all very confusing in that very first instant.
This feels very relevant given our current climate, and yet the story line was years in the making. How did that feel working on this episode amid the headlines?
The headlines had just started when we were just filming. These conversations for us have been happening for so long; they have been happening for certainly over a season. It’s a long time coming, but now that it’s airing right as TimesUp is happening, I just feel like it’s serendipitous. Really this story is about a woman that is no longer feeling silenced and finding the strength to use her voice, to be heard, to be believed, to feel empowered. I think that’s the heart of this story at the end of the day, and that’s exactly what’s going on right now. It just feels crazy that it’s airing during this particular moment, but now I feel like it was meant to be, too.
What kind of research did you do or who did you talk to in preparation for this big domestic violence story line?
Krista [Vernoff], and myself and all the writers, because it’s been such a long time coming, there have been so many conversations with domestic abuse organizations. We ended up feeling like even just the words and the dialogue that we wanted to use in several scenes, we were just particular with it, because at the end of the day, we wanted to tell this story right, and also educate people that have misconceptions about domestic abuse, who it happens to, and what it looks like. Conversations have been going on for a very, very long time in order to tell this story the right way that we felt like got the message across that we needed to get across with it.
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, call 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org.