CLOSE

Dr. Derek ‘McDreamy’ Shepherd, who Patrick Dempsey played for more than 10 seasons, is back for at least part of Season 17
of ABC’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’

USA TODAY

“Grey’s Anatomy” returns to ABC on Nov. 12  (9 EST/PST) for its 17th season – and yes, it will tackle the coronavirus pandemic. But don’t expect politics to take center stage.

“We’re not responsible for politicizing COVID,” Ellen Pompeo, who plays Meredith Grey, said during Variety’s Virtual Power of Women panel. “That’s not on us.”

Executive producer Krista Vernoff agreed: “I think it’s our job to humanize it,” she said during the panel. “I feel like the politicians have politicized an illness that affects human beings regardless of political affiliation. So our job is to make it human, not political.”

While the season will focus on the pandemic, audiences won’t be shocked to see actors in medical gear. This is, indeed, a medical show.

“We’re more fortunate than some other actors,” Pompeo said.  “Not only is the crew in full PPE, but we are as well because we get to play doctors.” Cast and crew are tested three times a week, said executive producer, director and recurring star Debbie Allen.

Pompeo teased the beginning of the new season with three keywords: “Girl, hold on.”

“We are bringing it this season,” she added. “Just hold on, it’s coming.”

“Grey’s Anatomy” returns to ABC on Nov. 12 at 9 EST/PST for its 17th season – and yes, it will tackle the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Bonnie Osborne, ABC)

Yes, it’s still on: 7 reasons why ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ now 15, has outlasted ‘ER’

Vernoff wasn’t planning to do a pandemic season, and called it “a complicated decision.” “Grey’s” usually offers a certain amount of escapism, and she hoped the show could channel that. But her writers convinced her otherwise.

‘The writers are so brilliant and they had some pitches that were so exciting to me that it made me feel like, ‘Oh, we could do our show and the romance and the humor and the escapism and the pandemic,” she said. Having several doctors in the room (one writer and several advisers) helped make the decision, as COVID-19 had changed their lives more acutely: Doctors and nurses who visited the writers’ room showed how the stakes had changed in medicine. 

CLOSE

Sara Ramirez, 44, made the announcement by sharing a selfie, sporting a purple shirt and serving fierce looks with a fade haircut.

Wochit

That shift in the medical community – one of urgency – will play out in the show.

“I want to honor that tonally,” Vernoff said. “We’ve been having conversations about the tone and the energy and the urgency, and I want to inspire people to take care of each other, to wear their masks, to help this pandemic end, I want to honor the doctors and the change to the medical system, and it also has to play out like ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ And so far, I feel like we’re threading that needle.”

The panelists also discussed the series’ legacy and its impact on television for the Black community and for women.

“We never were a show to beat you over the head with what you were supposed to see,” series regular Chandra Wilson said. “We just showed you.”

In case you missed: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ star Sara Ramirez comes out as nonbinary in powerful Instagram post

And this: Channing Dungey, veteran TV executive for ABC and Netflix, jumps to Warner Bros.

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Last SlideNext Slide

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2020/10/29/greys-anatomy-star-ellen-pompeo-previews-covid-19-pandemic-season/6070953002/