It wasn’t for the headlines, or the ratings, or even just for the sake of a gripping Grey’s Anatomy story arc that showrunner Krista Vernoff decided to have Ellen Pompeo’s Meredith test positive for COVID-19. It was for the real-life first-responders on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“Last week, we felt Meredith Grey’s pain as a doctor treating an early surge of COVID patients,” the EP noted to The Hollywood Reporter. “This week, we begin to experience what it is for her to be a COVID patient herself.”
Sadly, it is an experience that too many of Grey’s real-life counterparts have already had. In fact, “over 1,700 healthcare workers in the US have died of COVID to date,” Vernoff points out. “Many thousands more have been infected.
“Healthcare workers are on the frontlines of this crisis,” she adds, “living through a war for which they were not trained.”
Given the choice, she couldn’t turn away — or allow the ABC drama to do so. “We saw an opportunity to dramatize and illuminate their plight through the incredibly well-loved and well-known character of Meredith Grey,” she explains. “Doctors and nurses are fighting for us and falling for us.
“The least we can do is wear a mask, socially distance and stay home whenever possible,” she continues. “Meredith has a real fight ahead of her. And… she has that beach. Darkness and light.”
Already, the shore that Grey visits when dreaming has reunited her with late husband Derek (Patrick Dempsey in the surprise appearance of the millennium). And when the show returns on Thursday, Dec. 3 (9/8c), “another person from her past” will roll in with the tide. “It’s a powerful season,” says Vernoff. “Stay tuned.”
Was there really any doubt that we would? What do you think of the series’ decision to have Mer face off with COVID? Hit the comments with your reactions.