Jessica Capshaw Talks 'Creepy' Grey's Anatomy Twist, Weighs In on TV's Amputation Craze

JUSTIN CHAMBERS, JESSICA CAPSHAWThis week on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (Thursday, 9/8c), Arizona gets a most unexpected visit from an old friend – her left leg, which of course has been out of the picture for quite some time now. Jessica Capshaw shared with TVLine a preview of the good doctor’s bad, bad experience with Phantom Leg Syndrome (including how it will lead something to “explode”!?), offered an update on the Calzona romance (never say it can’t get worse!) and weighed in on TV’s red-hot amputation trend.

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TVLINE | What new phase of recovery is Arizona entering into this week?
I so always take my hat off to the writers and our researcher, because they do a phenomenal job of canvassing the landscape of what each character is going through, and being true to whatever it is. For Arizona’s storyline, they picked out the things that were angularly interesting to look at and tonally kind of a departure for the show – especially in this episode, because it gets kind of spooky. What she’s dealing with is Phantom Leg Syndrome, meaning she’s feeling pain in the part of her body that is no longer there. Imagine how mind-bending that would be if you were on the road to recovery, feeling like you’re getting your life back, and all of a sudden the thing that causes you the most amount of grief is actually the thing that’s not there anymore. It starts off incredibly dreamy, and creepy, and nightmare-y; it’s definitely dark. In fact, I had no idea how we were going to shoot it. There’s a point where the pain for her reaches a crescendo, and I remember looking at the director and being like, “How am I supposed to do this?!” Because when we’re on set there’s no music creating a mood, there was no one I was acting with…. Greys_AzLegIt was me by myself, reacting to something super-duper-creepy. This kind of storyline couldn’t be told [in the past] the way it’s being told right now, because we have the aid of these special effects guys that are doing crazy things.

TVLINE | I remember when you first walked across a room with a prosthetic leg. I was like, “How do they do that?”
It’s bananas. I was sort of fitting my knee into a socket, with that leg bent up and tied around my waist behind me, while walking on a prosthetic, and then they were erasing my [bent] leg with their digital effects. And in this week’s episode, they’re creating crazy effects where they’re having things, like, explode. It’s just bananas. Truly, it’s gotten to the point where my husband is like, “It’d be so great if people didn’t come up to you all the time to say, ‘I’m so happy you still have your leg.'” He’s afraid it might flip out our kids a bit. [Laughs]

TVLINE | I understand that next week, Arizona bonds with some “kindred spirit” teenager?
Yes, yes. At this point we have all been a sullen teenager, or know a sullen teenager, or have a sullen teenager. But there’s a storyline where a teenager who feels broken on some level gets Arizona as her doctor. And given that Arizona now has a different wheel in her wheelhouse to relate to people, this is the first time she gets to kind of say, “Snap out of it!” the way that she herself had to be told to snap out of it.

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TVLINE | I don’t know how much TV you watch, but have you picked up on the amputation trend going on this season?
No! What’s going on? Who else is being amputated?

TVLINE | [I detail for her the long list, from Horror Story to Walking Dead, right up to and including last week's Nikita.] There almost literally has been an amputation every week.
I would again have to take my hat off to Shonda [Rhimes] and the writers of Grey’s Anatomy , because I’ve got to say, I felt like Arizona was one of the first full-blown lesbian characters on [broadcast] television, and now I feel like that’s everywhere I turn! So hey, we might be trendsetters again.

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TVLINE | Have Arizona and Callie been through the worst of this particular ordeal?JESSICA CAPSHAW, SARA RAMIREZ
Don’t ever say that. We don’t ever say that on the set. Don’t ever say that you’ve already been through the worst, because believe you me, it can get worse. We thought we were in the clear after the [Season 7] car accident! We’re like, “Eh, it can’t get worse than that.” [Laughs]

TVLINE | But you did have a little quiet spell after that….
Yes, but listen, the [Season 8 finale] plane crash…. Again, TV magic. I was eight months pregnant when we were on location at Big Bear, and everything was hiding my big ol’ belly. I was eight months pregnant, screaming and crying and everything else – and that was before I even knew I was losing my leg!

TVLINE | But, Callie and Arizona are in a good place for the short-term.
Yeah, I think they’re on the road to being back in the relationship that they knew and loved before this devastation. And I think that’s a good thing.

TVLINE | So, what are they going to do with all these millions of dollars from the lawsuit? I’m thinking bad-ass bionic leg.
You have no idea. There’s some stuff a-brewing. We’re in the middle of doing stuff that has to do with that and it’s pretty kick-ass.

TVLINE | The speculation is that all of you will pool your awards and “save” the hospital.
That’s the speculation? I love it. That would be great! This week is the first you see that the hospital is in trouble, and…. It’s sure not the Chief Webber days, is it!

TVLINE | How has that aspect of the “survivors” storyline been for you?
For the last couple of episodes, you’ve seen a unique grouping of characters. Ellen [Pompeo], Patrick [Dempsey], Sandra [Oh], Sara [Ramirez] and I have been working together more than any of us have all worked together ever. And that’s been really cool because, listen, they’ve all been on the show forever, while in the landscape of the show, I’m “newer.” But we’ve all been there for quite a while, so it’s interesting to see us using that fluency and familiarity to really create scenes that are very hard-earned.

Want more scoop on Grey’s Anatomy, or for any other show? Email mattmtvguy@gmail.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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26 Comments
  1. Jon says:

    I love her. I don’t like Grey’s anymore, but I still misery watch it now and then, and Arizona is a great character played by a great actress.

  2. Emma says:

    Arizona and Jessica Capshaw are basically my favorite thing about the show now, would not be the same without her. I’m loving the journey she’s on and this next part sounds great.

    • Libby Johnson says:

      I think it is totally cool as an amputee that Jessica is talking to my friend who runs the AmputeeMommie Blog on how to portray an amputee and what we go thru…the Phantom Pains Suck! Bellieve me.

  3. Jessica says:

    Thank you for the great interview Matt. While I don’t personally ship Calzona on GA, I really do love their story line as a couple and during the survivor period of the plane crash as well. I do hope though that the Doctors pooling their money to save the hospital isn’t the outcome. It’s too simple and not at all worth it for the characters who have lost so much through this particular story and seems too quick and easy an wrap-up to something we as fans have followed since the end of last season. Other than that, I have really enjoyed GA this season and can’t wait to see how everything plays out in the end.

  4. Leigh says:

    Cool! Unlike sooo many stories on GREY’S where they race through plot with a dizzying speed, I’m glad to see/read they’re taking their time to explore the ramifications of Arizona’s situation. I’m also really glad I don’t watch the other “amputation” shows because one is more than enough!

  5. guest says:

    ok, I go out on a limp and say whoever wrote this interview also wrote the one on Charlotte. too many people suddendly saying “bananas”. Did you make the interview up or is bananas a substitution for a word that americans consider “dirty” (lol)

    • DoctorWhoFanatic! says:

      When something “goes bananas,” it means mind-blowing or crazy or completely unexpected and wild. Has nothing to do with “dirty” and it’s a relatively old euphemism.

      Also, I appreciate the unintended pun you made, but the phrase is “go out on a limb” not “go out on a limp.” X) Of course, either way, it’s kind of a pun. haha.

  6. Liza180 says:

    Arizona is one of my favorite characters and I probably would have stopped watching if not for her. Grey’s always has a way of keeping things fresh. Jessica capshaw seems like a real nice person although she is wrong about being the first real lesbian character on tv. That goes to willow and Tara on Buffy and even Ellen on her sitcom back in the day. But kudos to her making a storyline about bein an amputee interesting.

    • rowan77 says:

      She said, “was one of the first full-blown lesbian characters” not the first. And while Willow and Tara really opened the door, Ellen’s character was hardly full-blown. ABC (owned by Mouschweitz) was not okay with her exploring her sexuality too much on the show – then they cancelled her. Every day that actors announcements that they are coming out public is met with a shrug and a “meh” by the public shows me how far we’ve come in just 15 years. It’s encouraging.

    • Michelle says:

      I think she was referring to prime time television. Yes, ER did a lesbian story line but it wasn’t given the major screen time as Callie and Arizona have been given. I mean, naked showers? We saw Tara and Willow naked under the cover, but that was also on a floundering network. I think they would have done and allowed almost anything to bring in viewers. Right now, Callie and Arizona are regular married people. They have done this in a way that puts them on par with the other couples. They aren’t “OMG LESBIANS!” — they are just like every other couple on the show. I love how Shonda has does that.

  7. Ted says:

    She is amazing! This episode will be great to se what she will do with the storyline :)

  8. Yuwyuw says:

    I love Jessica capshaw! She’s adorable sexy and has the sweetest personality. But she’s in la la land when it comes to Greys and the writers and the amazingness they create because all the end of season 8 I could tell she was pregnant and the clipboard didn’t hide it.

  9. katy917 says:

    If they did pool together and save the hospital it would be true to Cristina’s chatacter because when Denny left Izzy $8.7 and they were all speculating what they would do with that kind of money and she said she’d buy a hospital and fill it with sick people lol but that was season 3 intern Cristina she’s come a long way since then.

  10. Casandra says:

    I Love Calzona!

  11. LC says:

    Is Jessica hinting that Calzona could be the answer to the latest Blind Item??? Hmmmmmm…

    • Ted says:

      No there are not the blind item

      • Tiggertoroo says:

        Have to agree per JCaps other interviews they’re taking baby steps back to being what they once were. Ausiello’s said no one would see it coming. All three interviews have someone asking JCap about Callie/Arizona’s marriage which is rocky at the moment so if Shonda went that way it would be predictable not unsuspected. Last, has already said No Grey’s couple was splitting up.

  12. Danielle H. says:

    My first thought was that they were going to just give the money back to the hospital and in that way end up buying the hospital and running it. Sorry, but it’s not like there’s not going to be a hospital on Grey’s Anatomy. Shonda tried to show a few people leaving at the beginning of the season, but everyone that mattered ended up back.
    I just don’t know how much steam this show has left. I’ll admit, it’s watchable this season. More so then the past few seasons. But I just have to wonder when the network will force an endgame.

    • Ted says:

      This season 9 is just getting better and better, love the drama not to know what will happened to the hospital, and what the solution will be

  13. Ghytrrrr says:

    Jessica was so hot in 9×10. Her blue eyes popped with that makeup she was wearing. I’d play for the same team with her lol

  14. John says:

    Frankly it would be the easy way out of them to give up their settlements to save the hospital. And stupid!

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