“On Grey’s Anatomy, I did the opposite of what we did on Station 19. There had been so many tragic deaths for so many years on Grey’s Anatomy that I felt like the most surprising thing I could do, repeatedly, was to not kill someone,” Vernoff, 48, told Us Weekly exclusively.
The writer served as showrunner on Grey’s from 2007 to 2011, then came back on board in 2017; she also took over Station 19 for creator Stacy McKee for season 3. Although the spinoff killed off multiple characters during the season, Grey’s did not.
“Time after time, no matter how many times I’ve done it, everyone, every time expects that the person who’s in danger or threatened in some way is going to die,” she explained to Us. “On [Grey’s Anatomy] everyone was so used to the shock death that they were always looking for shock death! So I felt like the more surprising thing was to bring the joy and turn up the humor and the playfulness that had, a little bit, fallen out of the show in the wake of Derek’s death. That is how I feel like Grey’s has changed a little since I came back — a lot of characters who might have been dead by now are still alive!”
Derek, portrayed by Patrick Dempsey, was killed in season 11 after a car accident — and was only one of the many heartbreaking deaths on the series.
During the interview, the Shameless writer also hinted at the future for DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti), who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Although Vernoff hasn’t begun mapping out season 17, she has some ideas for the character’s arc.
“I think that people with mental health diagnoses participate as productive members of society all the time,” she told Us. “I don’t think that a mental health diagnosis prevents a person from being a surgeon as long as he’s willing to treat it. And that’s the big question mark.”