Grey’s Anatomy’s decision to pursue a Meredith/DeLuca love story was sealed with a kiss — specifically, the awkward yet oddly charming one that the duo shared in last season’s finale. The gasp-worthy smooch — initiated by a drunken DeLuca, mid-meltdown at Alex and Jo’s wedding — was originally conceived as a “comic moment,” recalls showrunner Krista Vernoff. “But then I got the dailies and saw the chemistry, and I decided this was coming.”
On the eve of Thursday’s record-breaking episode of Grey’s (8/7c, ABC), which finds Mer and DeLuca heading to their first Grey Sloan social event as a couple, TVLine lightly grilled Ellen Pompeo and Giacomo Gianniotti about that fateful first kiss.
TVLINE | Did you have any idea at the time that that one-off kiss would lead to a full-fledged MerLuca pairing?
GIACOMO GIANNIOTTI | I didn’t know it was going to lead to what it has, but I definitely felt like it was the beginning of something. But, at the time, I just thought [the kiss] was going to have to be a cross for him to bear [in Season 15], like, “Oh, God, I kissed her drunkenly at the wedding, and every time I see her, I have to think about that and relive that.” But that initial childish interpretation turned into something more.
ELLEN POMPEO I was so sick actually when we filmed that. The only thing I could think about was poor Giacomo. [Laughs] It was like the last day of shooting [on Season 14] and he was leaving to go shoot a movie in Toronto, and I was like, “Oh my God, this poor guy. I have to kiss him. I hope I don’t get him sick before he goes to shoot his movie.” So that’s pretty much all I was thinking about!
TVLINE | When did Krista tell you about the larger story she had in mind?
GIANNIOTTI | At the beginning of [Season 15], during filming of the first episode. Krista called me and said, “We are getting you guys together. But I don’t want it to be a clear path. There should be some obstacles. She should be dating people and you should be dating people, and maybe somewhere in the middle of the season, they find each other.”
TVLINE | What was your reaction to the storyline?
GIANNIOTTI | I was shocked. Surprised. I definitely wasn’t expecting that. But then we talked about the stigma in Hollywood about men typically being cast with much younger women and how that’s very normalized now and people don’t bat an eye. But if the woman is with a much younger man, then there is a weird stigma and a negative connotation around that. Krista wanted to take that double standard and flip it on its head and show it can be an older woman with a younger man and be sexy and empowering. So I said, “Great, let’s do it.”
POMPEO | I really liked the dating stuff. I thought that was really fun. It takes us out of the hospital, and we get to have really cool guest actors. I liked doing those scenes. Ultimately, when they came to me [about Mer/DeLuca]… it’s always a discussion. It’s a group effort and a collaboration. And we all love Giacomo.
TVLINE | How has it been working together?
GIANNIOTTI | I’ve had a lot of fun developing this relationship with Ellen. We’re great friends off screen. I think our chemistry as friends is hopefully translating on screen.
POMPEO | I am having a lot of fun. I love Giacomo. We’re having a great time.