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Kate Walsh Cried ‘Real Tears’ in Season 18 Elevator Scene With Ellen Pompeo on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (Exclusive)

She’s back — again! Kate Walsh returned to Grey Sloan Memorial in season 18 of Grey’s Anatomy — and the entire experience was “very emotional” for her.

“It was just so surreal,” the Emily in Paris actress, 54, exclusively told Us Weekly while promoting her partnership with Alcon’s Systane Complete Preservative-Free Eye Drops, noting just how “grateful” she is to the series for launching her incredibly successful career. “It’s like going back home and going back to a job that changed my life in an amazing way so long ago.”

Related: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 18 Easter Eggs

Walsh got her start in the Grey’s universe during season 1 of the medical drama in 2005, portraying neonatal surgeon Dr. Addison Montgomery. Two years later, she went on to star in her own spinoff, Private Practice, which ended in 2013 after six seasons. During her time on the spinoff, the 13 Reasons Why alum would make guest appearances in seasons 4 through 6 of Grey’s Anatomy.

After Private Practice came to an end, “I was thinking, ‘OK I’m done,’” Walsh recalled to Us. When she returned to Grey’s seven years later, she had to change her mindset and get back into character. “‘OK, let’s go,’” she recalled thinking at the time.

On Wednesday, April 6, the Perks of Being a Wallflower star teased yet another return to Grey’s on TikTok. “I’m back in uniform and that can only mean one thing… #GreysAnatomy 😏,” she captioned the video, adding, “Coming your way Thursday, May 5th! 💋❤️.”

Kate Walsh Cried Real Tears Tearjerker Greys Scene
Kate Walsh at the Whitney Art Party in New York on January 28, 2020. Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

Walsh couldn’t help but gush to Us about working with the cast once again.

“It’s been really, really fun. It’s so nice to be back and to get to play some more with them,” she said. “And it’s a really great story. It’s a great medical story line, but also the great personal stuff. I was super excited to have some juicy scenes with Jim Pickens and Debbie Allen and everybody.”

Related: Biggest ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Returns Over the Years

One of those scenes from earlier this season, though more emotional than “juicy,” occurred when Addison and Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) talked about the loss of Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) — Addison’s ex and the father of Meredith’s children — while in the elevator.

Addison cried over Derek’s death and how the hospital brought back memories of him. Meredith, for her part, invited her colleague to meet their children.

When asked if she genuinely sobbed during that scene, Walsh said her tears were legitimate.

“It was definitely not my Systane Complete Preservative-Free Eye Drops,” she joked to Us. “No, those were real tears.”

Related: 'Grey's Anatomy': The Reasons Behind the Biggest Cast Changes

The Alcon eye drops have instead helped her on set in other ways. The actress — who has 20/20 vision but suffers from dry eye — noted to Us just how distracting it can be “in a scene if you’re constantly blinking.” With just one drop, she said, she can see better. The easy application is so “great,” she added. “I don’t have to redo [my] makeup.” (Unless she’s genuinely crying, of course.)

Now, Walsh is both reminiscing on the successful series and looking toward its future.

“It’s been an honor to be a part of such a legacy. It’s just so rare,” she said, adding, “Who knows? It could go onto season 19. It’ll go for 20. Who knows?”

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