Never let it be said that Jessica Capshaw can’t keep a secret. For months, she’s remained mum about whether her Grey’s Anatomy character would live or die post-plane crash. But, with the revelation in this week’s season premiere that Arizona survived — and her injured leg had been amputated! — at last she can break her silence. Here, she opens up to TVLine about how she learned of her alter ego’s fate, why the doc seemed to be blaming wife Callie, and what impact the loss will have on “Calzona” down the line.
TVLINE | What was your first reaction when you heard what was going to happen to Arizona?
I was nine months pregnant when we shot the plane crash. Then we went on hiatus and I was like, “Phew, now I just have to be a baby mama.” And right before I had our daughter, Shonda called and said, “We’re gearing up for next season and this is what I’m thinking… ” Again, I’m like 10 months pregnant and I’m like, “Huh? What do you mean?” [Laughs] “What do you mean she’s losing her leg?! What?!” It was completely shocking to me. And then I had a chance to metabolize the information and think about the possibilities. And then when we got back to work I was really like, “This is crazy. This is such an insane responsibility.” There are so many different levels to it, and there were certainly levels that had not happened or been around for Arizona in this particular story.” So it was shocking, but once I kind of leaned into it [I realized it] was rife with possibility. This was like a wallop of a new dimension to play.
TVLINE | Were you relieved that at least they didn’t kill you off?
[Laughs] I was very happy to stay.
TVLINE | Was it hard keeping the secret?
Yes it was. Shonda had asked me to [not discuss it publicly]. I was laughing because one of the reasons I went on Twitter at all was because you could hear from people who were watching the show and answer questions, and all of a sudden I was left with nothing to talk about. So I was pretty much the most boring tweeter ever. I was boring myself. [Laughs] It’s been a couple of days since I tweeted so maybe I should tweet my breakfast?
TVLINE | In Thursday’s premiere, Arizona seemed to blame Callie for her lost limb. Why?
You saw in the preview for the next episode that Arizona says to Callie, “Just don’t let them take my leg.” There’s almost an implicit, “I’d rather not be here then lose my leg.” That’s how desperate she is about not wanting to lose her leg. But, ultimately, she does. And she has to blame someone. In the coming episodes you will see who was responsible — not necessarily who was to blame. An amputation is not taken lightly, so obviously it had to be amputated. But how that decision came to pass is going to be something she has to have a very strong reckoning with.
TVLINE | Has it been a challenge to shoot your scenes this season?
These special effects guys are amazing. I don’t know how they do what they do. Because, obviously, we’re filming the scenes with my leg there, and then they have this whole process by which they digitally remove my own leg and then they create something — and that’s what the residual limb you saw was.
TVLINE | How dark does it get for Callie and Arizona?
I think as dark as [it can] get. Listen, the obvious thing to remember is without dark there is no light and without light there is no dark. You have to show the differences between things. And right now it’s really dark. She’s so steamin’ mad. We’re not aiming to tell a story of defeat, so what goes up must come down, but she is steamin‘ mad and looking for anyone and everyone else to blame but herself… Ever since she got back from Africa everything has happened to her. She found out that her girlfriend got pregnant, then she took on being a mom, then she got in a car accident… there’s so much that’s been happening to her and she’s always risen to be the good man in the storm. And I think that this is her time to finally be, “What? Stop already. I have no part in this. It’s all just happening to me. And now I have to figure out how to survive this.”