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‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Showrunner Meg Marinis On Season 20 Premiere’s Reset Twist, Secret New Alliance & More

In her Season 20 preview for Deadline, new Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Meg Marinis called it “back to basics,” and the season premiere, which she wrote, offered just that. In a return to Grey’s early years, the episode ended with Bailey retaking charge of the surgical interns.

The opener started with the interns facing the music after getting themselves in trouble with questionable medical decisions in the Season 19 finale and Nick posing a question to them, “Which one of you am I firing?”

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Banned from any doctor duties, the group find themselves in the middle of the action anyway. Simone and Lucas end up in the back of an ambulance trying to stabilize a patient with Bailey and Meredith’s directions while their parked vehicle is being hit by a wayward self-driving car every couple of minutes. (It is unclear why the ambulance was not moved away from the crashing car.) Kwan also got in on the action, saving the day by making the car stop when he slashed its tires.

Trying to save Teddy’s life, Owen makes the difficult decision to agree to a risky surgery and then holds hands with ex-wife Amelia while awaiting for the outcome. After complications, Teddy is out of danger, facing a long recovery.

While promising Catherine that she would return to the conventional approach to Alzheimer’s research to keep her funding, Meredith secretly recruits Amelia to help her continue the controversial new path she had been exploring.

Jo and Link feel guilt over their patient Sam’s death as they prepare to take their relationship public, while Meredith and Nick’s relationship remains on track after their reconciliation in the finale. Meanwhile, Richard asks Bailey to step back until he can trust himself again as he rejoins AA following his almost relapse in the finale.

In an interview with Deadline, Marinis discusses the events in the premiere and how they will shape the characters’ arcs in the coming episodes. For more about Season 20, including Ellen Pompeo’s status as Meredith continues to pop in occasionally, Jessica Capshaw’s and Alex Landi’s returns, the new character played by Natalie Morales and the reason Scott Speedman’s hair looks so different from last season’s finale, read Deadline’s preview.

DEADLINE: Let’s start with Meredith. Following her elevator conversation where Catherine says “I always win,” It looks like she is returning to Boston. Is she, and how will she juggle official and secret research?

MARINIS: Meredith, even though she’s still in Seattle at the end of the episode, she will continue to do her work in Boston because that’s where her daughter goes to school, and her daughter was the primary reason that she moved to Boston. She’s still trying to manage work and family life. But secret research is fun, and to be able to do that with her sister Amelia and to keep that relationship alive as well, when we can’t see Meredith but we see Amelia. And so we keep alive the character of Meredith, being able to know what she’s doing even when we don’t see her. And anything where Debbie Allen [who plays Catherine] is set to play the villain, that is fantastic.

Scott Speedman in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ S20 premiere/ photo by ABC
Scott Speedman in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ S20 premiere/ photo by ABC

DEADLINE: Scott Speedman’s Nick started the episode firmly in charge of the internship program but ended it by stepping down. What is the future of Speedman, who is listed as a guest star? Will we see him again this season?

MARINIS: Yes, he was listed as a guest star. We’re just so excited for Meredith and Nick to be together, we could see him again. We’ll follow that relationship.

DEADLINE: In another twist, Nick was replaced by Bailey. This is your first season as a showrunner, and one of the first major creative decisions you made was to reset and almost go back to Season 1 with a ragtag group of interns and Bailey in charge. What was the impetus for that decision?

MARINIS: That decision came from when I was thinking about Bailey initially, about where does Bailey go in her career after she’s won the Catherine Fox. In our world, that’s the award of all awards; we’ve seen Meredith win it and go through a career transition after winning it.

And even though the work that she was doing was in reproductive care, the award was for teaching reproductive care. And Bailey is the teacher of all teachers. She’s created surgeons like Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang and Alex Karev and Izzie and George. She doesn’t get the credit that she deserves for all of the teaching and mentorship that she’s done, which has sent all these surgeons out to do amazing things.

And I was thinking of also, where we left the interns at the end of last season, they’re in the messiest of messes. So I thought, who is going to bring them back from that, and I thought, oh, there’s only one person who can bring them back from that and that’s Bailey.

Scott Speedman and Chandra Wilson in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ S20 premiere/ photo by ABC
Scott Speedman and Chandra Wilson in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ S20 premiere/ photo by ABC

DEADLINE: In the premiere, the interns are all struggling with the fallout from the finale. At the end of last season, romantic relationships among them were forming very fast but they all seem to be pressing pause on that in the premiere. Are you resetting that too, trying to pull back on those relationships?

MARINIS: I think that when you go through something like they did at the end of last season, it is difficult to come back from that. I think that all five of these interns, Grey Sloan was the one program that took them, and none of them want to mess up this last chance that they got to be a surgical intern. And I think when that is put in jeopardy, you start to look around and think, how did I get here and who put me here and is it my fault or is it his fault? I think there’s a lot of questioning, who’s at fault for what happened at the end of the finale.

DEADLINE: There was also an eerie similarity to what happened with Levi who also lost a patient in a similar situation, which sent him into a deep depression. With Lucas, he seems to have come out of it a little easier. Is the worst over for him, and would Levi be helping him and Simone get over losing a patient?

MARINIS: You’re going to see Levi with these interns a lot still this season, using, what you said, his past experiences to help guide them through. I think also there was a difference with what happened with Levi. These interns have only been interns for about five or six months, we’re still in the middle of their intern year, and he was a senior resident and he blatantly didn’t listen to something. So I think there are differences, but that story is not over with the premiere.

Caterina Scorsone in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ S20 premiere/ photo by ABC
Caterina Scorsone in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ S20 premiere/ photo by ABC

DEADLINE: There was this moment between Owen and Amelia while Teddy was in the OR where they were holding hands. Owen has been fully committed to his wife but this is Grey’s Anatomy, and they are exes, so you never know. Are they firmly in the friends zone or could there be something else happening?

MARINIS: Yes, they’re in the friends zone. But it’s a friendship that we find really interesting in the writers room, because they’ve been married. They’ve been through so much together, I think that they feel comfortable being with one another in that space. I think they’ve also been through so much with his relationship with Teddy as well.

DEADLINE: For Teddy, is the worst over, will we see her back and will her recovery be a part of the season?

MARINIS: Yes, her recovery will be part of her season arc for sure. She’s not perfectly back immediately after the premiere.

DEADLINE: For me, the premiere was a lot about guilt. The interns felt it over losing a patient, Jo felt it for not being there to help, Richard felt it for almost succumbing to temptation.

MARINIS: Absolutely. I think that when things like this happen, you immediately go to this space of, how could I have prevented it and could I have prevented it. It feels like we’re dealing with the immediate guilt now, but as we move forward, we’ll see that a lot of our characters will reset in order to start from the beginning and make sure that what they just experienced is not forgotten or unlearned from, if that makes sense.

It’s interesting because it’s still so much of what happened at the end of last year’s finale continues throughout this season. We really don’t just forget about it. Everything still weighs on everyone and how they can truly move forward and not make the same mistakes again.

DEADLINE: I mentioned Link and Jo who are preparing to go public with their relationship. Will there be bumps on the road for them? There are a lot of entanglements for each of them with doctors at the hospital.

MARINIS: Absolutely. I feel like them coming together was two seasons in the making, so I feel like it’s very earned to see them happy for a second. I do think that, like any relationship when you live and co- parent and have a romantic relationship and work together, there’s always going to be challenges. And we’ll just have to be able to watch and wait and see. Can they leave those challenges at work or do they come home with them?

James Pickens Jr. in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ S20 premiere/ photo by ABC
James Pickens Jr. in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ S20 premiere/ photo by ABC

DEADLINE: At the very end, Richard went back to Alcoholics Anonymous and told Bailey that he was stepping back at the hospital. How much of his struggles will we see this season, and how much will Richard pull back from his daily duties as he recovers?

MARINIS: I think the best way to put it is that he is going to simplify his duties at work and that he is making sure that he focuses and concentrates on his wellness at the same time. He’ll still be in the hospital but he says at the end of the episode to Bailey, he wants to be able to trust himself again. And so he needs to go back, make sure that he trusts himself, make sure that his mind is clear so that he isn’t slipping either in his sobriety or at work.

DEADLINE: AI is a big topic these days. You had a malfunctioning self-driving car in the premiere. Why did you decide to tackle AI and is it something that you’re going to do more of on Grey’s?

MARINIS: The AI of it to me, I think a lot of people don’t understand it, and I think it’s moving really fast. So I was interested in seeing that and also, you’re reading about technology that’s not ready that’s been released, I’m always interested in that.

Also, I think that being a doctor where you’re a professional and you keep your own feelings inside when you’re dealing with the patient, but also having to manage the compassionate side of being a human being. I think there’s a lot of interesting things for people in health care where all day long they have to take care of other people, and then at home it’s like a flood of emotions.

Honoring doctors is a huge part of why I love this job, I think they’ve got the hardest job in the world, and I think it’s become harder. So that part of it was also interesting to me, when you use feelings to make decisions, and what about repercussions of that. Because obviously Simone and Lucas had that, Blue had that with Maxine. It is rippling through the episode as well.

DEADLINE: What is the overall theme for Season 20?

MARINIS: A theme for the season is back to basics. You see a lot of people reset in the premiere, and Bailey’s not going to go easy on these interns. It’ll be really fun to watch her put them through their paces.

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