A very special reunion! Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy has seen the return of some fan-favorite characters — but making it happen wasn’t easy.
Chyler Leigh reprised her role as Lexie, the younger half-sister of Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), during the Thursday, April 1, episode. Viewers also got a surprise visit from Eric Dane, who played Lexie’s love interest, Mark Sloan, who previously made his last appearance on season 9 of the ABC medical drama in 2012.
While speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about the special cameo, Dane, 48, said that returning to Grey’s Anatomy felt like he “never left.”
The Valentine’s Day actor added: “It was very comfortable and very easy, and it was so nice to see a lot of the same faces with the crew. It’s a role that always fit for me, like one of those great old T-shirts. And it was just like putting the T-shirt back on and hanging out on a beach for a couple days, and catching up with some old friends.”
Lexie and Mark were both killed in a plane crash during the season 8 finale, but returned in a vision as Meredith continues her fight with COVID-19, the central story line of the current season. When showrunner Krista Vernoff initially approached Dane about reprising his role, he and Leigh, 38, were in totally different locations.
“Chyler was in Vancouver, [Canada]. So, we had to work some magic,” the Euphoria star, who was in Shanghai before agreeing to join the cast on set, told the outlet. “Chyler could get here but then she couldn’t get back to Canada. There was some green screen. There was a lot of me and Ellen. And Ellen an eye line. … [But] 2,000 miles of distance between us is not going to [take away] the chemistry that happens onscreen between [me and Chyler]. I know who I’m talking to, she knows who she’s talking to. And that translates.”
Dane was “super bummed” that he couldn’t reunite with his former onscreen love interest in person — but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be part of the Grey’s Anatomy team again.
“I spent so much of my life with these guys,” he said of his old costars. “When you see them again, it’s not a big, ‘Oh, my God, what have you done?’ It’s like nobody skips a beat. It’s just, everything kind of fit. It fit then; it still fits. … I think it all came full circle.”
Mark and Lexie weren’t the only characters to make a comeback during Meredith’s dramatic fight against the coronavirus. In a November 2020 episode, fans saw the unexpected return of Derek Shepherd (a.k.a. McDreamy), played by Patrick Dempsey. The 55-year-old actor exited the series in April 2015 after his character died in a tragic car accident.
“The timing for Patrick’s return had finally come. He was extremely professional, friendly, funny, and his chemistry with Ellen was still there,” a source exclusively revealed of Dempsey’s shocking cameo last fall. “The crew enjoyed the time with Patrick, and there was a lot of catching up.”
The Enchanted star “had a ball” returning to his old role, he told Deadline at the time. “Hopefully, that feeling translates, and the fans enjoy it,” Dempsey added. “I know that they’ve been wanting us to get back together, and I think this will satisfy a lot of people, and surprise a lot of people, hopefully.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.