Post Mortems
Grey's Anatomy Meredith and Nathan

Grey's Anatomy's Ellen Pompeo on Meredith's Sudden Romantic Detour: 'We've Got to Lay This on Fans Gently'

Grey’s Anatomy, you bait-and-switchy bastard.

Just as Thursday’s penultimate Season 12 episode had begun laying the groundwork for a Nathan-Maggie romance, Shonda Rhimes threw out one of her signature curve balls by having Meredith lock lips (and then some) with Grey Sloan’s newbie surgeon. Of course, the hookup was as surprising as it was inevitable. Ever since Martin Henderson arrived on the scene last fall fans had pegged his doc as “The New McDreamy.” But even the actor himself was thrown by how the romp went down.

“The way it was set up, I was convinced that Maggie and Nathan were going to be the couple,” he says. “And then this thing happens with Meredith — I was shocked. Even though I knew there was always a potential for [a Nathan-Mer romance], I never really bet on it. I thought Shonda had other ideas.”

You know who wasn’t surprised by the sudden shag session? Ellen Pompeo, who tells us, “I knew it was coming eventually.”

In the below Q&A, Pompeo elaborates on the who-what-where-when-why of Meredith/Nathan, disclosing what she thinks along the way.

TVLINE | How did you find out Meredith and Nathan would be a thing?
The day before the table read, [exec producer] Debbie Allen came and told me. I don’t think anyone else knew at the table read. They thought it was going one way, and then in the last scene, it’s like, boom.

TVLINE | Why do you think it took so long?
Shonda is very cautious about Meredith’s journey forward, and who that’s with and how that happens. I know she’s very thoughtful about it and has very specific ideas about what Meredith’s introduction to new guys should be. We’re trying to get the fans used to the idea of Meredith dating first and seeing Meredith in the presence of another man romantically. I think we’ve got to lay that on the fans very gently.

TVLINE | Did Will help start that transition?
I think that was the point, yes. A little foreplay there. [Laughs] I think that Meredith really liked [Will], and that scared her. She really enjoyed their night together, and that made her feel very guilty, so she had to end that, because she wasn’t ready to fall for another man. And I think that with Nathan, [Meredith feels] they can never really be together, because there’s too much else going on with him and Owen. She feels like it’s much safer, because she’ll never have feelings for him; it’ll just be sort of scratching an itch.

TVLINE | A one-night stand?
I don’t know if it’ll be a one-time thing or not, but I think that it’s emotionless. It’s just a physical thing. That’s why she’s doing it — because she doesn’t have to worry about falling in love with another man.

TVLINE | What do they see in each other?
I have no idea. [Laughs] I think that possibly Meredith sees that he lost someone, too, so they have that in common.

TVLINE | How does their hookup reverberate in the finale?
No one really knows. Maggie has a crush on him, so Meredith can’t really reveal what has gone on, because she has to keep it secret from her sister… [And] I’m not sure if the relationship, the sexual relationship, is going to continue or not. I think maybe they want to give the fans a little taste and see how they react first, and then they will decide what to do. Shonda is sort of savant in that way. She just gets these ideas, and she’s very, very confident about what direction she wants her characters to go in. So maybe she has a plan for next year.