Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) will not be resorting back to her dark and twisty ways following the death of her husband Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) in “Grey’s Anatomy” Season 12.
In fact, Pompeo promises at the 2015 TCA summer press tour that Meredith — and all of “Grey’s”, actually — will be heading in a much lighter direction than they’ve been going in recent seasons.
“Shonda [Rhimes] really wants this season to be a lot lighter. I think re-airing the pilot also inspired her in a way to sort of get back to our roots and make it a little lighter and a little more fun,” Pompeo says. “We were dark, now we have to go light. You have to keep changing to keep the audience engaged. We definitely can’t do the same thing over and over and over.”
Rhimes agrees that Season 12 will be a brighter turn for the hospital drama and that the change makes her excited for the characters.
“I guess the theme [of Season 12] is rebirth, which I’m excited about for all the characters, but especially Meredith,” she says. “We sort of ended last year talking about how the sun was gonna rise again. We do have this world in which Meredith is single and she is living this life that she … hadn’t thought she would be living again.”
Part of that rebirth will have Meredith in a world she hasn’t been in for several seasons — the world of single women and dating.
“She’s living in a house with her sisters and she’s surrounded — there’s a lot of single women in the show right now — she’s surrounded by women who are dating and having a whole life and she’s not interested in that,” Rhimes says. “You’re kind of starting to wonder if there’s a second life for her? Or are those years behind you and you’re on a different track?”
Even if Meredith isn’t jumping back into the dating pool again, Pompeo is ready to tell the important story of learning to be on your own again after losing your spouse or significant other.
“It’s a very human story to tell, so many people lose their spouses in a myriad of different ways,” she explains. “A lot of people feel like they can’t get up again, so telling that story of how life does go on after what you think is impossible is something many people can relate to.”
As painful as losing McDreamy has been, Pompeo believes that the death of a major character allows the writers to dig deeper and tell new and exciting stories.
“In order for a one-hour drama to continue, there has to be big upheavals. Every time we’ve lost a major character — we’ve had such amazing characters on the show and every time we’ve lost one, it’s been devastating and sad and you think how can the show go on?” she says. “But that’s how the writers find inspiration. So the loss of the big characters is exactly how the show does go on.”
Additional reporting by Andrea Reiher