Anatomy of a Hit Show: Grey’s Crew at Paleyfest

by Jenny Cooney Carrillo March 21, 2017
Jason George, Chandra Wilson and Giacomo Gianniotti

Jason George, Chandra Wilson and Giacomo Gianniotti from Grey's Anatomy

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ER still remains the longest-running medical drama in TV history, lasting 15 seasons and 331 episodes, but Golden Globe-winning drama Grey’s Anatomy is fast closing in on that record.

Now in its 13th season, the show created by Shonda Rhimes has already been renewed for a 14th season and is expected to cross that Guinness Book of Records milestone in late 2018. So it stands to reason that it would be honored by the Paley Center for Media at the annual Paleyfest at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre. That’s where we talked to many current cast members. They told us they had little doubt the show would live on for the foreseeable future.

“I remember when we got to the third season we thought, ‘maybe six seasons’ and then ‘well ten would be a nice number’ and then the number kept growing and now I can’t see where it would end,” reminisces actress Chandra Wilson, who is one of the few remaining original cast members, playing bossy doctor Miranda Bailey. “I think one of the secrets of the show’s success is that people get really attached to the characters and their journeys and it transcends the screen, because they just want to know where the characters are going to end up.”

Five season veteran Jason George, who plays resident Dr. Ben Warren (who was only a recurring character in his first few seasons before his character married Miranda Bailey) also acknowledges the revolving door of cast coming and going can send a message to fans that nobody is safe, not even original leading man Dr. Derek ‘McSteamy’ Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) who was married to the ‘Grey’ in Grey’s Anatomy – Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) – but killed off in a car accident at the end of the eleventh season and further proof the show can survive anything.

“(Creator) Shonda Rhimes has put together a great cast and they’re not afraid to mix it up so you can never be too complacent when you always know there are real stakes,” George reveals as he arrives on the red carpet to a deafening round of screams from fans waiting behind a barrier. “If your favorite character gets sick or hurt, it could be bad. Back in the old days if they got hurt you’d think, ‘well they’re safe because they are a series regular’ but that’s not the case anymore.”

Italian actor Giacomo Gianniotti, who plays Dr. Andrew DeLuca, says he’s only just coming to terms with the show’s huge international following also. “I was born in Rome, raised in Canada but go back to Italy every year and speak the language and I had no idea how huge it was in Italy before I joined the show,” he admits. “I noticed it first on social media because of the proportion of Italians interacting with me but now I realize of course fans are going nuts there because he’s an Italian character on their favorite show with an Italian name played by an Italian actor,” he says proudly, adding with a grin, “and now when I go back to visit, people go crazy.”

New Zealand actor Martin Henderson admits he’s excited about the prospect of his character, Dr. Nathan Riggs, exploring a relationship with Meredith Grey but always understands why many fans have vehement objections to him ‘replacing’ the late Dr. Derek Shepherd. “I knew it would be pressure but I always told myself even negative feelings from fans toward Nathan is a positive thing because that’s how much they love the show, that they are passionate and say ‘how dare he take Derek’s place’ or ‘he’ll never replace Derek’ and I think they are enjoying the whole debate as much as I am being in the middle of it.”

See what the cast has to say!