Surprising Secrets Behind The Screen Of Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy is one of the longest-running shows on television. This show has been through a lot since it first aired— from onscreen drama to behind the scenes drama. Basically, there’s drama all over the place.

Keep reading to find out why T.R. Knight decided to announce his sexuality to the world, how Kate Walsh became a series regular, and what the beef is about between Shonda Rhimes and Katherine Heigl.

Shonda Rhimes Wrote Crossroads

Photo Credit: Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Remember that movie Britney Spears was in way back in 2002? Britney and Zoe Saldana and Tarryn Manning played best friends who faced a lot of drama.

That film was written by none other than Shonda Rhimes, the creative mind behind Grey’s Anatomy. I think we can all agree that her writing skills have improved since Crossroads.

Rob Lowe Was Almost McDreamy

Photo Credit: Noel Vasquez/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Rob Lowe was offered the part of Dr. Derek Sheppard on Grey’s Anatomy. The part went to Patrick Dempsey when he turned it down.

Both Rob and Patrick have the signature McDreamy eyes, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else as Dr. Derek Sheppard. Rob Lowe is dreamy, but he’s not McDreamy.

Ellen Pompeo Is The Highest Paid Actress On Television

Photo Credit: Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes Lions
Photo Credit: Richard Bord/Getty Images for Cannes Lions

Before Ellen Pompeo negotiated her $575,000 per episode raise (that’s more than `$20 million a year), the star of Grey’s Anatomy was told that the show didn’t need her because they had Patrick Dempsey. That’s not a very nice thing to say to the actual “Grey” in Grey’s Anatomy.

After Dempsey left the show, ratings spiked, and Pompeo got her raise.

The Real Reason Isaiah Washington Left The Show

Photo Credit: Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic
Photo Credit: Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic

Back in the late 2000s, Isaiah Washington played Preston Burke, a morally superior cardiothoracic surgeon who served as Cristina’s mentor and love interest.

Washington had a pretty big role on the show, but when he used a homophobic slur in reference to T.R. Knight (the actor who played George O’Malley), Shonda decided that it was time to let him go.

Sandra Oh Originally Auditioned For The Role Of Miranda Bailey

Photo Credit: Araya Diaz/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Araya Diaz/Getty Images

Sandra Oh first auditioned for the role of Bailey. While she was speaking on a panel at the Pale Center, she said, “Thank god I did not get that part! Can you imagine not having [Chandra Wilson]? Forget it!”

I’m really glad that Sandra ended up playing Cristina. She was perfect for that part, and I’m so sad she isn’t on the show anymore.

T.R. Knight Said That The Incident Pushed Him To Come Out

Photo Credit: Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images

T.R. Knight said that being called the F-word by Washington pushed him to come out. He told Ellen DeGeneres, “I’ve never been called that to my face. When that happened, something shifted, and it became bigger than myself.”

T.R. played George on Grey’s Anatomy until the end of the show’s fifth season. George’s exit was pretty dramatic so I won’t spoil it here in case you’re a few seasons behind.

Why Katherine Heigl Removed Herself From Emmy Consideration

Photo Credit: Mike Coppola/WireImage
Photo Credit: Mike Coppola/WireImage

A year after Katherine Heigl won an Emmy for her portrayal of Izzie Stevens in Grey’s Anatomy, she withdrew her name from consideration. She explained, “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention.”

Ouch. Shonda Rhimes responded that Izzie had less screen time because Heigl asked for a lighter schedule so she could do movies.

Shonda Rhimes Wasn’t Happy About The Way Things Ended With Heigl

Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

It’s been years since Heigl left Grey’s Anatomy, but she and Shonda Rhimes still have some bad blood. Shonda told TV Guide, “On some level, it stung, and on some level, I was not surprised. When people show you who they are, believe them.”

This sounds like more drama than the actual show.

Sara Drew And Jessica Capshaw’s Double Departure

Photo Credit: @Showthefosters1 / Twitter
Photo Credit: @Showthefosters1 / Twitter

Both Sara Drew, who played Dr. April Kepner, and Jessica Capshaw, who played Dr. Arizona Robbins, left the show after season 14. Producers decided not to renew their contracts based on “the show’s creative direction.”

Neither Jessica nor Sara wanted to leave the show, and the news came as a shock to them.

Jessica Capshaw Is Stephen Speilberg’s Stepdaughter

Photo Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic
Photo Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Jessica Capshaw is the daughter of actress Kate Capshaw, and sales manager and high school principal Robert Capshaw. In 1991, Kate Capshaw married Stephen Speilberg. Jessica has several half-siblings whose father is Stephen Speilberg.

Keep reading to find out what Dr. Miranda Bailey was supposed to look like before Chandra Wilson nabbed the role.

Kate Burton Is Richard Burton’s Daughter

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WireImage
Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WireImage

Speaking of famous fathers, Kate Burton, who plays Meredith’s mother, Ellis Grey, is the daughter of one of the most famous actors ever. Her mother was producer Sybil Burton, Richard Burton’s first wife.

Shonda must really love Kate Burton because she cast her as Sally Langston in her other primetime drama, Scandal.

Shonda Got The Idea For Grey’s While Watching The Discovery Channel

Photo Credit: @sadiescnks / Twitter
Photo Credit: @sadiescnks / Twitter

In an interview with Oprah, Shonda Rhimes explained that she got the idea for Grey’s Anatomy while she was watching reality shows about surgery on the Discovery Channel.

She said, “My sisters and I would call each other up and talk about operations we’d seen on the Discovery Channel. There’s something fascinating about the medical world—you see things you’d never imagine, like the fact that doctors talk about their boyfriends or their day while they’re cutting somebody open. So when ABC asked me to write another pilot, the OR seemed like the natural setting.”

Miranda Bailey Was Supposed To Be Blonde

Photo Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic
Photo Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Shonda Rhimes wrote the original Grey’s pilot script with no character descriptions. She had no preconceptions about the characters’ races or appearances, except for one. Miranda Bailey was described as a “tiny blonde with curls.” Rhimes “thought it would be unexpected to have this sweet-looking person open her mouth and say tough things.”

But then Chandra Wilson auditioned for the role, and she was absolutely perfect.

Alex Karev Wasn’t In The Original Pilot

Photo Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic
Photo Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Justin Chambers, who plays Dr. Alex Karev, wasn’t in the show’s original pilot. They actually shot the entire pilot without him and digitally added in his scenes afterward.

It’s crazy that this show almost happened without Alex Karev, especially because Alex is one of the only characters left on the show who was there from the beginning.

Sara Drew And April Kepner Were Pregnant At The Same Time

Photo Credit: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Sara Drew went into labor just 13 hours after she pretended she was in labor as her Grey’s Anatomy character, April Kepner.

Like April’s baby, Sara’s daughter faced some medical complications when she was born. Sara told Access Hollywood, “Having just been through something so emotionally difficult on the show almost prepared me, prepared my body in a weird way to go through what I had to go through with Hannah in the NICU.”

Kate Walsh Was Only Scheduled To Be In A Few Episodes

Photo Credit: Amanda Edwards/WireImage
Photo Credit: Amanda Edwards/WireImage

Kate Walsh’s character, Addison Montgomery Sheppard, was the twist at the end of the show’s first season.

Originally, she was only supposed to be in a few episodes. Kate had such great chemistry with the cast that she stayed on for 59 episodes, and even got her own spinoff show, Private Practice.

Mark Sloan Was One Of Shonda’s Favorite Characters

Photo Credit: @luddingtonkarev / Twitter
Photo Credit: @luddingtonkarev / Twitter

Mark Sloan was one of Shonda Rhimes’ favorite characters, and she wishes she could have kept him alive for longer. She was trying to figure out ways not to kill him, but his storyline didn’t feel authentic enough after Lexie died.

We miss Mark Sloan too, but Mark without Lexie just doesn’t work. She should have kept Lexie alive too.

Maggie’s Character Has Been Planned Since The Pilot

Photo Credit: @CamillaLnews / Twitter
Photo Credit: @CamillaLnews / Twitter

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Shonda Rhimes said, “We’ve known the Maggie storyline since season four; basically, since the beginning of the show. I knew the Richard-Ellis love child was a storyline since I planned the pilot.

I was like, ‘At some point, we’re going to have the Richard-Ellis love child.’ In season four, we started talking about whether we’d do it next season. Every year it was, ‘Next Season? It’s not right yet.'”

Denny Was Supposed To Be A Love Interest For Cristina

Photo Credit @loganhatton42 / Twitter
Photo Credit @loganhatton42 / Twitter

The relationship between Izzie Stevens and Denny Duquette was one of the highlights of the entire series. Denny’s season is probably the season of the show you remember best.

The story of a doctor falling in love with a dying patient was originally supposed to go to Cristina Yang, but the writers ultimately felt like it was a better fit for Izzie.

Only Four Characters Are Left From The First Season

Photo Credit: @BellaPompeo / Twitter
Photo Credit: @BellaPompeo / Twitter

Meredith and Alex are all that’s left of the Seattle Grace five. Most of the original cast has left too, except for Chandra Wilson, who plays Miranda Bailey, and James Pickens Jr., who plays Richard Webber.

This is a show that is constantly changing. Some iterations are better than others, but we have loved it for fourteen seasons, and we’re not going to stop loving it now.

The Show’s Original Title

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ABC Studios
ABC Studios

Although the show’s name Grey’s Anatomy works great as is, the smash hit series would have been named something different if it were up to the producers. They originally wanted to call it Complications.

Due to all the wild events that go on with this show, that would have made sense, but we’re glad they didn’t run with it. Grey’s Anatomy has a more unique feel to it and it’s a play on words with Meredith’s last name.

Big Surprise Here

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Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

On rare occasions, the leading actress or actor of your favorite show doesn’t submit to an audition. This either means they are extremely perfect for the role, or they are tight with the showrunners. In Ellen Pompeo’s case, she’s more aligned with the latter.

“I didn’t audition for Meredith Grey; I was offered the part by Shonda and the network,” Pompeo said. Pompeo ended up being the perfect person for the character of Meredith. It’s almost like she was born for this part.

Seattle Wasn’t The Original Location

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ABC/MICHAEL DESMOND
ABC/MICHAEL DESMOND

What if the show was never set in Seattle and we never grew to love Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital? Well, that could have very well been the case if Shonda Rhimes hadn’t come to a helpful realization.

Rhimes wanted to have the series set in Chicago, which is her hometown. That’s until she realized the show would be too much like a different popular medical show, E.R. That’s how things ended up in the rainy city of Seattle.

THIS Actor Almost Played Derek Shepherd

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Carley Margolis/FilmMagic
Carley Margolis/FilmMagic

Not only was Rob Lowe going to play the part of Dr. Shepherd, but another actor almost got that script on their desk. How interesting would it have been to see Dr. Burke, but as McDreamy?

We think he wouldn’t have had the name of McDreamy for starters. Secondly, we’re not too sure Meredith would have been his lady of choice, but instead, Yang. The whole show would have been different had this happened and we’re kind of glad it didn’t.

Retrieving The Ideas From Journals And Fans

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Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage
Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage

Don’t you ever wonder how Shonda Rhimes comes up with so many storylines for this show? They’ve filmed so many episodes it’s almost daunting to think about, but Rhimes and others have some help.

The producers say that they want the show to feel as real as it can get, which is why they choose storylines based on medical findings. They also take suggestions from viewers that they find to be the most interesting. The cast also gets taught by professional advisers.

He Didn’t Know A Huge Plot Point!

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Jason Merritt/FilmMagic
Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

Remember in the first episode when Meredith and Shepherd wake up together after a wild night? Only one of them (Meredith) didn’t know the other was married, but at the time of filming, neither of them really knew in real life.

Patrick Dempsey had a real surprise waiting for him at the end of season one. No one told Dempsey or Ellen Pompeo that Dempsey’s character had a wife waiting for him somewhere else, attempting to get back into his life.

Multiple Auditions For Jessica Capshaw

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ABC Studios
ABC Studios

Jessica Capshaw almost wasn’t chosen to play Arizona Robbins. Capshaw initially auditioned for several roles, before getting the part fans all grew to know her by. The first role she tried for was Derek’s love interest, Nurse Rose.

After that, she went for Meredith’s wild friend, Sadie. Thankfully, none of those stuck and she became Robbins. Things wouldn’t be the same had she not landed that part. Who would’ve helped shape Karev’s path on the show if not for Robbins?

The Stone-cold Audition

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Carley Margolis/FilmMagic
Carley Margolis/FilmMagic

Imagine you’re auditioning for the biggest role of your life yet. You come in for the audition and see Shonda Rhimes there, waiting for you to give her a stellar performance. Then, Rhimes keeps an underwhelmed face for the entire performance.

That’s what happened with Patrick Dempsey during his audition. “At first I thought [Shonda] hated me, but she was calculating in her head where to put me and what I’d be right for,” said Dempsey.

Real Surgeons In Action

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ABC Studios
ABC Studios

There are a ton of surgery scenes throughout the series. It’s a show about doctors, what else do you expect?! Doesn’t it look like the actors and actresses are performing the surgeries? Since when did Ellen Pompeo become a real doctor?

Well, the executive producer of the show, Jim Parriott says what you see as a viewer is real. “We have a really terrific medical producer, Linda Klein, who stages these operations and brings in real surgeons so the handwork you see a lot of the time is a real surgeon tying a knot,” Parriott said.

Hiding Pompeo’s Pregnancy

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Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images
Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images

Remember the storyline where Meredith had to have liver surgery? Well, the writers threw this in when Ellen Pompeo became pregnant in real life. They needed a way to mask her pregnancy and this is what they did.

When Meredith’s estranged father needed part of her liver, it was the perfect way to cloak the baby growing inside Pompeo. All they needed was the hospital sheets over the top of her baby bump and everything was solid.

Williams The Teacher

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Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Scholly
Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Scholly

Before fans grew to love Jackson Avery, Jessie Williams worked in a far different field. The second half of the Plastics Posse was a teacher before he became a TV doctor! He helped kids in real life.

“I taught high school, I taught middle school, I taught kindergarten for about six months,” Williams said. We wonder if he wanted to leave all the kids behind to go on-screen or was this path the one he always envisioned.

Suggesting The Emotional Breakdown

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Critics’ Choice Awards
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Critics’ Choice Awards

Award-winner Sandra Oh is the one who suggested Cristina Yang should have an emotional breakdown. Fans felt the heartbreak after Yang lost her baby and Oh’s bone-chilling performance of a breakdown put the icing on top.

Oh probably knew that Since Yang always kept her cool, having her lose it for one episode would be perfect. She even wrote the episode herself to help give it a more genuine vibe. We still feel the chills just thinking about it.