Warning: This post contains spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy.
Grey’s Anatomy wrapped up its 16th season on April 9 with an episode that very much felt like a season finale, even though it hadn’t been planned as one. The show, like the rest of Hollywood, was forced to shut down production due to the coronavirus pandemic, which meant the final four episodes were never shot and won’t be seen.
Shortened or not, the show’s season ended in true Grey’s fashion—with a lot of drama. The Grey-Sloan team finally figured out what was wrong with Dr. Richard Webber—thanks in no small part to Dr. DeLuca, who’s still struggling with his mental health—and performed a lifesaving surgery. Meanwhile, Amelia gave birth to her and Link’s son. Owen discovered Teddy cheated on him with fellow doc Tom Koracick. And Meredith is still sort of flirting with the hot doc, Cormac Hayes, that Cristina Yang sent her way earlier this season. And, of course, fans are still recovering from the sudden departure of Alex Karev after Justin Chambers left the show.
The creative team behind Grey’s Anatomy is already looking ahead to next season, even if they’re not yet sure when they’ll be able to resume shooting. Showrunner Krista Vernoff spoke to the Hollywood Reporter about what’s next and said the writers will start working again in early May.
“We’re waiting to see what happens with the world,” Vernoff said. “I will start a season 17 writers room in May, and at that point, I imagine our conversation will be about starting our story from where we left off in season 16. But I don’t think we can take unproduced scripts that we didn’t shoot and shoot them. We’re going to have had a break and have new ideas. We’ve been texting each other ideas already. Some of those things that we had decided, we’re changing because we’ll have had a break and have come up with better ideas. And some of it is going to have to change because you’re taking what was going to be a regular episode and have to turn it into a season premiere and that will require some reimagining.”
Here’s everything else we know so far about season 17:
The premiere date. Grey’s Anatomy season 17 will premiere Thursday, November 12, with a two-hour episode.
The return to production. Vernoff says Grey’s may have an easier time getting back to set, simply given the nature of their hospital-centric show. “You can’t be in a hospital without a mask right now,” she told THR. “So that’s actually gonna, I think, allow us to get back to work safely before some other shows can.”
On August 5, Ellen Pompeo tweeted an update that the cast and crew are hoping to get back to work in a few weeks.
She also said Meredith’s story line will be “worth the wait.”
The cast. “There are no notable cast member departures happening between seasons,” Vernoff said. Phew.
The lost episodes. Vernoff revealed they probably won’t release the four episodes they had previously written into season 16 but may carry through some of the ideas. I’m going to hold on to them for now because I imagine we’ll play out a fair amount of them in season 17,” she told THR. “It’s not lucky that there’s a pandemic and we had to stop our storytelling four episodes short, but it’s lucky that where we had to stop wound up as a pretty perfect season finale.”
The name of Amelia and Link’s baby boy. Apparently, this story line was supposed to play out in an episode we will never see, but Vernoff says we won’t find out the name until the season-17 premiere. However, she did reveal what the name is not. “I will tell you that the name is not Derek,” she said. “I’ll give you that the line in [season 16, episode 22] about Derek was that Link pitched it and Amelia said, ‘I don’t want to cry every time I look at my baby, so no.’ But the name is meaningful, yes.”
The coronavirus pandemic. Yes, the show is going to tackle COVID-19 in its upcoming season. “We’re going to address this pandemic for sure,” Vernoff said during an emmys.com panel, per Entertainment Weekly. “There’s no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes.”
“Every year we have doctors come and tell us their stories, and usually they’re telling their funniest or craziest stories. This year it has felt more like therapy,” she continued. “The doctors come in and we’re the first people they’re talking to about these types of experiences they’re having. They are literally shaking and trying not to cry, they’re pale, and they’re talking about it as war—a war that they were not trained for. And that’s been one of our big conversations about Owen, is that he’s actually trained for this in a way that most of the other doctors aren’t.”
“I feel like our show has an opportunity and a responsibility to tell some of those stories,” she said.
Vernoff went even further on the Hollywood Reporter’s Top Five podcast. “They [the show’s medical experts] really convinced me that it would be irresponsible to not. To be kind of the biggest medical show and ignore the biggest medical story of the century felt irresponsible to them, to the medical community,” she said, per E!. “These doctors are traumatized. They are not trained or wired to hold the hands of dying people all day who are alone without their families.”
“They were saying things like, kids, their first year out of medical school, are seeing more death in the first year than many doctors see in a decade, and it just felt like we had to tell this story,” she continued. “We have to tell this story, and so the conversation became, how do we tell this very painful, brutal story that has hit our medical community so intensely—and as they keep saying, permanently changed medicine? How do we do that and provide some escapism? How do we do that and create romance and comedy and joy and fun?”
On September 4, Pompeo implied that covering COVID-19 was a no-brainer for the series after being asked about it by a fan. “Yes,” she replied. “The biggest medical crisis the world has ever seen? Yes we are meeting the moment and telling some stories.”
The new season begins “one month and a half” into pandemic. Actor Giacomo Gianniotti, who plays Dr. Andrew DeLuca, teased details of season 17’s coronavirus storyline, telling Entertainment Tonight the series will start “about a month and a half [into] full COVID, so it’s going to take place a little beyond where we left off in the last season.”
“We might have some flashbacks,” he continued. “We might have some things where we’re referencing last season, just to have context leading up. But we are going to have a little leap when we start this season in terms of time. We’re not picking up right where we left off.”
Sorry, there will be less kissing. Vernoff told THR it’s “safe to say” the kissing quotient will be down in season 17. “Obviously, you can’t have people making out, but there’s been a lot of sex on Grey’s Anatomy that doesn’t involve kissing,” she said. “There’s a lot of sexy lifting of clothes, and pulling down of clothes, and taking off of things, and standing behind a person in a sexy way. There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat, so to speak.”
A few actors are getting bumped up to series regulars. Richard Flood and Anthony Hill are officially Grey’s Anatomy series regulars, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Meanwhile, Stefania Spampinato, who plays DeLuca’s sister, Carina, will be transitioning to a series regular role on its firefighter spin-off, Station 19.
Flood plays Dr. Cormack Hayes, the widowed pediatric surgeon whose relationship with Meredith is giving us major enemies-to-lovers vibes, while Hill portrays Dr. Winston Ndugu, Maggie’s (Kelly McCreary) next love interest.
“I am so excited to add Anthony Hill, Stefania Spampinato, and Richard Flood to the Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy families,” said Krista Vernoff, who serves as showrunner on both dramas. “They are huge talents who made a big impact with our fans, with our casts, and with our writers, who are eager to write more for them.”
The cast is officially back to work. On September 8, Pompeo posted a photo from the set, showing her and Flood in character as Meredith Grey and Dr. Cormac Hayes. Could this be a clue that romance between the two will be part of the new season? We hope so.
Pompeo also dedicated her season to the health care workers who are fighting on the front lines against COVID-19. “First time back in my scrubs…” she wrote. “Since we shut down filming 7,000 healthcare workers have died from Covid. I dedicate my season 17 to all who have fallen and to everyone of you who by the grace of God is still standing… this season is for you with humility and a bit of humor to get us through and endless amounts of gratitude. I hope we do you proud 🙏🏼❤️ ”
This post will be updated as new information becomes available.