“Grey’s Anatomy” stars Jerrika Hinton and Giacomo Gianniotti have divulged that things are about to reach “fever pitch” as the show nears its midseason finale. The venerable ABC drama is still reeling from the fallout of Alex’s (Justin Chambers) brutal attack on Andrew (Gianniotti) — and as the characters prepare for a court trial, things are set to reach a dramatic high.
“Oh, the trial … wow!” Hinton teases during an interview with Screener. “We just had the table read for the midseason finale the other day, and that reaches a fever pitch.”
“This attack could stay with him for awhile,” adds Giannoitti. “It’s tough.”
The pair hit the red carpet for the My Friend’s Place “Ending Youth Homelessness” fundraiser at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood Oct. 19, where Hinton presented Gianniotti with their Champion of the Year award. The accolade was to honor the actor’s work with the Los Angeles resource center and day shelter, which provides services and programs to homeless youth.
Before taking the stage to accept his Champion award, Gianniotti filled us in on the biggest champion in his own life — the late legend Robin Williams, who helped inspire both his acting and philanthropic aspirations. “I’m a big fan of his work. ‘Hook’ is hands-down my favorite!” says the 27-year-old Italian-born, Canadian star.
“As I became an adult I realized what he did, as someone who worked a lot with charity. He dedicated his life to giving people joy — not just through his work, but through his personal life. His charity, Comic Relief, has raised over $50 million for the homeless. He was always about giving back, and I love that because it’s a great balance between being an entertainer, and actually having an opportunity to connect with people.”
Gianniotti never had the chance to meet Williams before he died, but he paid tribute to the star in his acceptance speech: “Entertainers have a massive power to affect change because of all the attention they receive,” he says. “Like Spiderman’s uncle said, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’ Robin knew this very well, and used his power for good, so I’m just carrying his torch and following in his footsteps.”
Having previously worked with elderly homeless men in Toronto, Gianniotti was introduced to My Friend’s Place by Hinton, and has since worked closely with the organization — raising awareness, volunteering at free breakfast events and rocking up on his motorbike with a backpack full of supplies when he hears stocks are low.
In April, Gianniotti rounded up 41 of his fellow “Grey’s Anatomy” stars and crew to compete in a Tough Mudder event that raised $15,000 for the non-profit’s Transformative Education Program.
Officially named a Champion for his efforts, the actor said his heroes also include the castmates who helped him transition to a full-time member of the tight-knit “Grey’s Anatomy” cast.
“James Pickens Jr. (Richard Webber) has been great. He’s been in the business a long time and he’ll bring up movies he’s been in and I’m like, ‘You were in that!?’ He’s been in everything and he’s awesome to work with.
“Both him and Justin Chambers are veterans of the show and have given me a lot of advice on how to jump onto this very fast-moving train and not take it too seriously. Often as actors we fall into the trap of takings things too seriously and giving them too much weight, when really if we just step back, the circumstances are enough and we should just let the audience see what’s happening. They’ve both given me a lot of great acting lessons.”
Hinton, 35, also has her on-set heroes. She shared how Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey) and former “Grey’s” star Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang) helped her through her first months on the series.
“They’re both wonderful women and were a great help in learning how to make sense of the world of television,” Hinton says. “When you come from guest starring –- going in and doing a job for four days or a month, then being unemployed the next month –- it’s a big shift to be in the same place, day in and day out, for months at a time. So they were guiding forces in helping me make sense of this world.”
As for whether the absence of one of the show’s greatest icons, Patrick Dempsey, has left a gaping hole on set, both Hinton and Gianniotti say the cast have moved on from the shocking exit. Dempsey’s loved character, Derek Shepherd, was controversially killed off last year — and while the episode stirred a ruckus among fans, crew and actors have adapted to life without “McDreamy.”
“He’s talked about in the episodes by the characters,” says Gianniotti. “But more than that, not really.”
One person everyone’s talking about this week is returning doc Leah Murphy (Tessa Ferrer), whose romantic liaisons with both Alex and Arizona will become a hot topic for Gianniotti and Hinton’s characters in the hospital cafeteria — we can’t wait to see what happens when Leah walks in on the gossip session!
Find out more about My Friend’s Place at myfriendsplace.org.
“Grey’s Anatomy” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.