This 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.
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…. It 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.
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?
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.