“Grey’s Anatomy” ended its eighth season with a plane crash that already claimed the life of Lexie (Chyler Leigh). Fans have spent the summer wondering whether the rest of the doctors survived, and whether they will be able to continue practicing medicine at Seattle Grace. Kevin McKidd, who plays Chief of Staff Owen Hunt, shed some light on how the ninth season will unfold, what Owen will do to help his staff, and if Cristina (Sandra Oh) and Owen’s relationship can be saved.
When does the season premiere pick up? Does it start right after the plane crash?
Episode one is a couple months after the crash. We see where everyone’s at and what their progress is and they’re still reeling from this terrible event. Episode two flashes back to the hours and minutes immediately after the crash and what happened and how the doctors got out of there and how they managed to find their way back to Seattle and start to heal. So it’s kind of a back and forth between episodes one and two that I think emotionally adds a real depth to what happened. You sort of start late and then push right back. People I think will find it emotional and pretty tough to watch. It’s very dark and very intense. Everyone’s very proud of the two shows. I’m eager to see what people’s reaction is.
How, as Chief of Staff, does Owen put the hospital back together and bring Cristina back to Seattle Grace, given that she was determined to leave before the plane crash?
Owen’s trying to reach Cristina, I think. He’s trying to be there for her and help her, but how much she’s willing to receive — that is a different story. There’s a lot of damage that’s happened in their relationship over the last little while and it doesn’t suddenly [disappear] because of this plane crash. So it’s complicated. Owen wishes that distance wasn’t there because he wants to help her. But that isn’t the case initially. But he does a much better job of hiring staff and trying to get people back and functioning well again after this challenge. They have to move on and learn to accept and get back into the stream of life. Owen did that. He went through all of the similar kind of events in his life, so he can step up to that challenge and be the chief that he should be. He’s not a shoulder to cry on so much as what people need and sometimes that’s kind of tough love, in a way, It gives them something else to focus on.
There are so many rumors about who lives, who dies, and who has permanent, life altering injuries. Can you reveal any information?
Everybody who was in that plane had some major damage done, some more than others, but there’s a lot of time spent with each person and respect for the losses that they’ve undergone.
With Mark and Teddy no longer on the show, are Owen and Derek going to become BFFs?
I think so. They’re going to step up for each other. They’re not going to be all touchy feely because guys don’t do that. But they definitely start to bond. Owen’s been through a lot. Derek’s (Patrick Dempsey) obviously been through a lot. It’s very satisfying working with Patrick, so I hope people enjoy that. In a way, there’s less pressure for Derek in work but Owen’s trying to juggle all these balls and keep the whole thing together, so Derek helps Owen as much as Owen helps Derek in the initial days after the crash. We’re going to see that friendship develop.
How does Lexie’s death impact the hospital?
It’s a real loss to see Lexie go and Chyler. We love her. It’s weird, her not being around. I think we’re going to see some new interns coming in and some interesting new developments. Obviously, Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) going to be hit the hardest because Lexie was her sister, so I think you’ll see that play out in an interesting way too because she’s dealing with it the entire season. It’s really sad that she’s gone. It’s such a shocker. It’s an emotional exit for her and it will be felt for some time.
Showrunner Shonda Rhimes has said that she eventually wants to see Own and Cristina reunite in a genuine way that takes all their issues into account.
Owen and Cristina, it’s a long, slow journey for them. They’re not the best communicators in the world. There’s a lot of passion. There’s a lot of feeling for each other. But they differ on core issues that are hard to resolve, fundamentals beliefs about the way things should and shouldn’t be. So I hope they can resolve it. I’m pleased that Shonda said that because I have a lot of faith in Cristina and Owen. But they don’t make it easy on each other, man. They’re tough on each other. They’re a pretty dysfunctional couple. I wish they could talk more helpfully sometimes which would be interesting to watch. There’s a lot of unconscious bringing out of the emotions and insecurities all those things that Owen and Christina have going on but they’re also very connected and they’re each other’s person I think, so I hope they can get it together. They were built on sand last time. They need to have a good foundation. So hopefully we can see them do that.
The ninth season of “Grey’s Anatomy” premieres on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 9/8c on ABC.