Credit: Mitch Haaseth via Getty Images

WARNING! This article contains spoilers about the Grey’s Anatomy fall finale. Read at your own risk!

Advantage, DeLuca! In Thursday’s episode, a ferocious windstorm knocks out the power and leaves Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) stranded in the elevator with Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) — one of two men vying for her affection at Grey Sloan. Here, Gianniotti talks to EW about whether DeLuca will outwit and outmaneuver the equally formidable and handsome Link (Chris Carmack).

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know at the start of the season that DeLuca would be vying for Meredith’s affection this season?
GIACOMO GIANNIOTTI: To be honest, it started earlier in the season 14 finale, at the wedding, when DeLuca — in a low moment, after a few too many beers and tequila shots — misreads a signal and tries to kiss Meredith, which doesn’t really go his way. It was a slightly charming moment. That was something for the writers to explore. We had that whole summer hiatus to have articles be written, for fans to talk, for the writers to talk and say, “Okay!’ Do we like this? Do we not like this?” Everybody responded to it really well so when we came back for season 15, we definitely decided to explore something romantic between DeLuca and Meredith.

So are you saying the fans had a say here?
I mean, as much as writers and producers want to say that. That’s only true to a certain degree. We all have a curiosity about our audience. While they don’t write with them in the forefront of their minds, they still pay attention to it and it certainly affects conversations that happen in the writers’ room.

Have the writers matured DeLuca?
I don’t know if it’s just myself and the character catching up to each other after a lot of years of figuring out who he is and how he works — I just understand him more and we’ve had so many talks, especially at the beginning of this season, about where all of this is going to go. I definitely think that in the last season, DeLuca has had some growing up to do and I think he’s done it. He’s getting to a point where he is very confident in himself, in his body, in his profession, in his friendships. Although competing for Meredith’s love is a great mountain to climb, I think he is up to the challenge. He’s excited about the challenge. He doesn’t want the easy road.

So he legit likes her? It’s not just about competing with Link?
Having someone vie for the same person you like might force you to accelerate your declaration [of affection] to that person. But I don’t necessarily think that’s what is happening here. I think it’s just a coincidence that, as DeLuca is figuring out that he has feelings for her, that somebody else also is figuring out he has feelings for her. I think it just adds a challenging and comical layer. It’s fun for Meredith, having these two guys falling at her feet. But we are also exploring a friendship between DeLuca and Link. They like playing guitar together. I don’t think there is disdain or hatred between these two men. They’re just in the situation they are in — they both like the same girl.

What is the age difference supposed to be? Is this a serious May/December situation and will that come up later?
We are definitely not tiptoeing around that. That’s the whole point of the story. At the beginning of the season, executive producer Krista Vernoff came to me to talk about exploring something between us. She said we have been doing a lot on the show to empower women by showing strong, female characters who are sexy and successful in their own right. She wanted to make a comment that in the media, it’s normal for men to always be with younger women. It’s become this normal thing that we don’t really think about. But when the role is reversed in a film or TV show, and the woman is the older one, there is suddenly this weird double-standard, like, “Oh, she’s robbing the cradle,” or “What is she doing?” Krista was interested in exploring that and flipping it on its head by saying, “Why can’t it be sexy and empowering for a woman to be with a younger man? Why is that wrong? Why can men get away with it but women can’t?”

Credit: ABC/Mitch Haaseth

So what does DeLuca have that Meredith wants or needs?
There was already a physical attraction between Meredith and DeLuca. But physical attraction is not all there is. We need to have Meredith not just see him being heroic but being kind and sweet and empathetic. Those are the things that are going to make Meredith fall in love with him. So we’ve been trying to build those moments. In the last episode, he had the sweet relationship with the little girl. That was attractive to Meredith. In Thursday’s episode, we saw a declaration for sure. DeLuca is done tiptoeing around it. He’s done playing games. He’s feeling good and brave. It sets us up in a nice place so, when we come back in mid-January, fans will be very hungry about wanting to see where it goes. I think Meredith is conflicted for a lot of reasons.

Do you know how this will all turn out?
I don’t. I know we are working it day by day. We are doing episode 11 right now. I can’t really say where it progresses to but the train is definitely moving forward. There are moments when the train stands still a little bit and it’s moving inches instead of miles, but it’s definitely pushing forward. But it’s also pushing forward for Link. The triangle is still there. It’s like a chess game between Link and DeLuca. He might have a move where he beats me and is ahead of me but then I take him later. It’s like a push and pull. It will be interesting to watch.

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

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