Grey's Anatomy returned this year to a drastically different reality. We've said goodbye to Dr. McDreamy and seen professional and personal roles shift for Dr. Grey, Dr. Bailey, and pretty much everyone else. Jerrika Hinton, who has played Dr. Stephanie Edwards on the ABC drama since 2012, stopped by our LA studios to talk about how the show has changed, and will continue to change, in season 12. Watch Jerrika help us count down the top five most heartbreaking Grey's moments of all time, and then read on for our entire interview.
POPSUGAR: Let's talk about this new season. I know that Shonda said she wanted to tackle bullying on the show and she really did that in this first episode. Do you think we're going to see more examples of that as the season goes on?
Jerrika Hinton: I think, well, I think you kind of always see an example of it between the interns and the residents.
PS: That's true and that's very realistic, I've heard.
JH: Very realistic, when you're actually a surgical resident. I think that the way that they told that story in the premiere was just so perfect. And I'm not sure if we're going to see more threads of that kind of bullying, that particular kind coming back. But you'll definitely be able to see it within the working relationships.
PS: Stephanie has not had a ton of luck in love.
JH: No. I don't think that hospital breeds happy relationships.
PS: Would you even want to ever entertain the possibility of her getting back together with Jackson at some point?
JH: Oh, gosh if I ever say that that's something that should happen, my whole Twitter feed would just be burnt to the ground. I feel like the priority for her finding love this season should be about her finding herself first and allowing the audience to really find her in a way and connect with her. Because whatever journey she goes on past that point will be that much more fulfilling.
PS: What do you know about your storyline? I know you guys have not shot the whole season yet.
JH: No, not yet. We're on episode six right now. Right around four, there's a really big Stephanie episode where you find out a big piece of the puzzle about where she comes from. Everyone in that place is kind of chasing their own demons. They're all running from something in order to get somewhere. And you finally find out what she is running from that is propelling her in this journey.
PS: Was that backstory a surprise to you or did you know all along?
JH: It was a surprise at what point it came in the season. It's actually something that I pitched last season because it relates to a story from a member of my family. It's inspired by a member of my family.
PS: That's really fascinating, because I've spoken to some of your castmates over the years, and it sounds like several people have pitched ideas that Shonda's kind of run with. That's got to be empowering.
JH: It's really gratifying.
PS: She's such a juggernaut. She's doing a gajillion shows at once but seems to be so - what I hear at least - is that she's very laser focused when she's in it with one show, and one scene, and one actor.
JH: Yeah, that's the way you gotta do it. I mean, anybody who is a master of multitasking, right? And, like, this is beyond multitasking. I wish that there was a word for what it is that she does.
PS: It's "Shonda-ing."
JH: Hashtag Shonda-ing! When one is well versed in the art of Shonda-ing the primary thing is focus, right? Because the only way you can juggle all of those balls at once is by knowing which one to focus on: focus on one that's in the air at that time. And so, when she's in the world of Grey's, she is 100 percent there. When she is in the world of Scandal, 100 percent there. Murder, 100 percent there. The Catch, 100 percent there. The book that she's writing, there. The other thing that's she's doing, there. At home with her kids, there.
PS: Tell me what it was like to see Viola Davis's big win at the Emmys? That was such a cool moment and she gives the world's best speeches.
JH: She does. She is an extraordinary woman. And every day I'm jealous that the Murder kids get to work with her 24/7. I think, for such a historic win, she was the perfect person. Not only is she monumentally talented in stage and screen, she is so intelligent and I admire her. That's the kind of person I want to be when I grow up.
PS: Now, you actually guest starred on Scandal. If you could play another character in Shonda's universe, what would you like to do?
JH: My answer to this is always the same and I wish I could have a different one. But I want to be the long-lost daughter that Annalise Keating gave up, who her mother, played by Cicely Tyson, had to raise. And all of a sudden Cicely Tyson plops her back on Annalise's doorstep, but the thing is, I want to be mute. Because I just want to be in a scene with the two of them and watch them go at it and not have the pressure of having to actually speak. I just want to watch it all happen.
PS: So, clearly, you've never thought about this. [Laughs] Tell me how you think the dynamic of this season is going to change with Derrick being gone.
JH: I know that Shonda has said the focus this year, and you can see it even in the advertisements for the show, right? "Let the sun shine in." The focus is on not bringing such monumental trauma to all of the surgeons lives, all the time, and letting us experience that part of humanity more through the patients. Now, because it is still Shondaland, I'm certain that horrible things will continue to happen. You know we won't be spared.
PS: What is it like when you get a script for each episode? What's kind of the emotional state as you sit down to read each script?
JH: Well I think it is important to start from a place of almost kind of meditative openness. No expectations attached to what it is you're about to read, and being completely open to the journey, and not just from a human place to experience this story, but also as the vessel for your character. Because sometimes, from time to time, we'll read things, we'll immediately say, "OK, character wouldn't do that, they wouldn't respond in that way!" But perhaps they would and perhaps you should be open to that. And we love our characters so much, we're always such strong advocates for them and we frequently only see the good in our characters and it's important when you sit down with that script to be open to the full spectrum of what's possible.
PS: The show has so many die-hard fans that have followed it from the very beginning. Going into a new season, how do you think that it continues to deliver for people? How do you think this season is going to sort of raise those stakes a little bit?
JH: Well, it's not just the people that have been there from the beginning that are still watching it, this is one of those few shows, possibly the only show that people are now discovering in real time and binge-watching it and then carrying over to watching it in real time on network TV. I don't know if there are many other shows that they're able to do that with, you know, kind of catch up and then be a part of it actively. So, those new fans are constantly coming in as well and they're more able to see kind of the changes from season to season. Well, two of the central life bloods of the show are no longer there. The two anchors in Meredith's life are now gone, and so that in of itself is fertile ground for a whole host of new stories and a whole and honestly, a very different kind of show. You know it's still going to be Grey's because it's all of these writers have also grown up in Shondaland along with all of the viewers, but having those two things absent from our central character's life is going to take everything down a completely new path.
PS: You're very active on Twitter, like most of your castmates are.
JH: Yeah, it's kind of a requirement.
PS: My favorite recent tweet of yours was when revealed the names of your houseplants. Can you please tell us what they are?
JH: [Laughs] I grew up naming inanimate objects - I mean, my computers! The only thing I won't name? I won't name a car. Which is most common thing to name. So my houseplants are, Trianna, Trionce, Trevie Nicks, and I also have Trina Turner. Trina Turner is a sickly little thing. Trina needs to get it together.
Catch Jerrika on Grey's Anatomy Thursday nights on ABC.