Grey’s Anatomy‘s Season 17 incorporation of the real world’s coronavirus pandemic will not be all about “death and despair,” says showrunner Krista Vernoff.
As a guest on THR’s TV’s Top 5 podcast this week, Vernoff was asked if COVID-19 would in some way be a “Big Bad” for the doctors to deal with, or but a new part of their lives that lives alongside the usual drama. “It sort of sits somewhere in the middle,” she previewed, “depending on the episode.”
As a factor in Season 17 storytelling, Vernoff said, “There’s joy and fun to be had in people who are quarantining away from the hospital,” especially for the docs who, to protect loved ones, crash elsewhere between shifts. As we have seen in real life, “Many of [these doctors] aren’t going home to their families; they’re getting Airbnbs and living together,” Vernoff noted.
“There’s a lot of story to tell that is sort of COVID-related but not about death and despair,” she added.
Vernoff also pointed out there are storytelling possibilities when it comes to the cancellation or postponement of elective surgeries, both in how that can result in surgical nurses being furloughed due to lack of work, or in Dr. Grey & Co. not getting to do what they do best. “Our show is a surgical show,” the EP reminded, “and there are a lot of surgeries that are simply not happening.”
What’s more, there are medical stories to be found in the fact that “death has increased in this country particularly because people were in the early months [of an illness] and are still afraid to go to the doctor, afraid to go to the hospital,” said Vernoff.
In fact, when the Grey’s boss reached out to the medical community at the start of the pandemic to see if there was a helpful message she could tweet out, the suggestions were a la “Come to the doctor at the first sign of stroke” or “at the first sign of heart attack,” she shared. “Because people weren’t going. And they were dying.”