As if Grey’s Anatomy wasn’t dramatic enough, wait until you hear about all the drama that goes on behind the scenes. It’s no secret that there have been tons of arguments, rumors, and gossip associated with the cast and crew of Grey’s. But hey, with a show that’s been running for so long, and a cast of (now) world-famous actors that are making an absurd amount of money, it’s pretty much inevitable for a little bit of drama to break out.
In addition to all the scandal, there’s also a whole bunch of little-known trivia about the creation of the show. So, we’ve compiled 17 little-known secrets about what goes on behind the scenes on Grey’s Anatomy.
17. Isaiah Washington left after insulting T.R. Knight
Shonda Rhimes has proved time and time again that she has absolutely zero tolerance for bad behavior from her actors, and Grey’s Anatomy was no exception. No incident proved this better than the constant issues that Isaiah Washington (who played Preston Burke) was causing on-set. However, the final straw occurred during an argument with T.R. Knight (AKA George O’Malley). Washington decided to call Knight the F-slur, resulting in a huge amount of backlash from other cast members and the media. Additionally, T.R. Knight wasn’t out yet, which only strengthened Rhimes’s final decision to fire his ass. This was pretty much the beginning of the rumors that Rhimes kicks off any cast members she has a personal beef with. *Sips tea*.
16. Katherine Heigl withdrew herself from Emmy consideration
Katherine Heigl, who played Dr. Izzie Stevens was another source of drama on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. There have been years of back and forth shade between Rhimes and Heigl, and most of it started when Heigl decided to withdraw herself from being considered for an Emmy. Her reason? She felt that Rhimes hadn’t given her character enough Emmy-worthy “material” to warrant being nominated. Heigl has since apologized and clarified that she wasn’t thrilled with her own performance, but the damage was done and Rhimes wrote her off. She even used the phrase “there are no Heigls in this situation” in an interview, referring to difficult and nasty actors. Ouch.
15. A story about female doctors shaving their legs in the hospital helped inspire Rhimes to write Grey’s
The story of how Rhimes was finally inspired to create Grey’s Anatomy is actually super unusual and interesting. In an interview with Oprah, Rhimes described her thought process in pitching the idea for Grey’s. Although she had long been obsessed with watching medical/surgery shows on the Discovery Channel, it was a personal anecdote from a doctor that really set her idea in motion. The doctor explained how hard it was for female doctors to shave in the hospital showers, which made Shonda think about how these women’s lives completely take place in the hospital. So, she decided to explore the personal lives and day-to-day drama of life in a hospital.
14. Shonda Rhimes had to rewrite a huge scene in “The First Cut Is the Deepest”
In one of the earliest and most memorable scenes on Grey’s Anatomy we see Drs. Karev and Yang racing around the hospital, seeing who can deliver the most good news in one day. However, this was only after a lot of series revisions. Apparently, it took Rhimes a while to get in the swing of things in terms of her writing style. Originally, she planned to have the doctors racing to tell bad news, which gave the whole thing a much darker feel. The network demanded she rewrite the scene. In fact, Rhimes recalls them telling her, “If you think you’re funny, you’re sick.” Yikes.
13. Patrick Dempsey was originally terrified of Rhimes
Before the legendary rivalry between Patrick Dempsey and Shonda Rhimes (more on that later), there was still a significant amount of tension between the two, even when they first met. According to Dempsey, he was pretty terrified of and intimidated by Rhimes during his audition. Rhimes is known for being tough, and he was definitely thrown off by her “stone cold” expression. However, he later found out that she was simply concentrating super-hard, trying to figure out who Dempsey should play. This exchange ended up being pretty ironic, considering the bad blood that now exists between the two.
12. Rhimes has a very specific way of making sure her cast is diverse
Shonda Rhimes has always been praised for the amount of diversity in all of her shows. Her characters come from a variety of backgrounds and represent many different races, sexualities, abilities, etc. But that’s no coincidence! Rhimes has a specific methodology for ensuring her cast is as diverse as possible. As she put it: “Take half the characters that you made men and make them women. Take one character you were gonna cast one color, cast them differently.”
11. Jesse Williams was originally a teacher before starring on Grey’s
Although it’s hard to believe due to his stunning looks and incredible acting skills, acting wasn’t always Jesse Williams’s career of choice. In fact, the now world-renowned actor was a teacher before his days on Grey’s Anatomy. Of course, we all know that Williams is extremely intelligent, and a hugely outspoken political force in Hollywood. So it kind of makes sense that he was once a high school teacher. In fact, Williams graduated Temple University, then went on to teach American Studies, African Studies, and English for six years in Philidelphia.
10. The writers read fan letters and medical journals for inspiration
It can get pretty difficult for the writers and creators of Grey’s Anatomy to constantly think of new and exciting medical material for the show, especially given that they aren’t medical professionals. So, how do they get info for the endless medical content on the show? They obsessively read notes and suggestions from fans, and scan medical journals for interesting or unusual illnesses/cases. They may be a little over-dramatic from time to time, but we’re not here to criticize.
9. They often use real cow organs in scenes that involve human organs
Things can get a little bit gross on the set of a medical show like Grey’s Anatomy. With the number of organs, blood, surgeries, and grotesque injuries/illnesses on the show, it requires a whole bunch of special effects and creative thinking. So, how do they make human organs look realistic? It turns out they actually use real cow organs. Definitely not as bad as the real thing, but still pretty nasty. Hey, it certainly looks real.
8. The original title of the show was set to be “Surgeons”
Believe it or not, there was a time when Grey’s Anatomy may have never been. While the show was already planned out, there was a while when Shonda Rhimes was toying around with a few other titles for the show. One of which, was simply Surgeons. While the title is certainly to the point, it’s honestly super boring. That’s why we’re glad that Rhimes landed on the much more clever title, Grey’s Anatomy. Plus, if you didn’t already know, the title is a play on both the name of the main character (Meredith Gray), as well as the medical textbook “Gray’s Anatomy.”
7. James Pickens Jr. was hired immediately after his audition
As one of the most iconic characters in Grey’s Anatomy history, it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Dr. Richard Weber. In fact, Rhimes felt the same way after seeing James Pickens Jr.’s audition. Apparently, the casting process was pretty lengthy, but not when it came to Dr. Weber. After his audition, they asked him to stand in the hallway for a few moments. When they called him back in, they immediately offered him the part. Basically, it seems like Pickens Jr. was born for this role.
6. Addison Montgomery was only supposed to stay for a couple of episodes
It’s weird to picture Grey’s Anatomy without Addison Montgomery, especially since her character’s storyline was so popular. Popular enough, that they decided to create a spinoff show called Private Practice about Addison’s wellness center. However, when the first season of Grey’s Anatomy was created, Addison was not planned to be a recurring character. She was initially going to be in a few episodes, mostly to serve Derrick’s storyline, then leave for good.
5. Ellen Pompeo had to hide a pregnancy during filming
Believe it or not, Ellen Pompeo was pregnant for the majority of the filming of season 6 of Grey’s Anatomy. This was obviously a bit of an issue, as there was no plan for Meredith to be pregnant in the plot of the show. So, to combat this, the writers found a way to make it so Meredith’s belly wouldn’t have to be visible for most of the season. If you remember, a huge part of season six included Meredith giving a piece of her liver to her father, which caused her to be bed-ridden (and thus, covered by a blanket). Pretty clever!
4. Alex Karev wasn’t involved in the original pitch
It’s hard to imagine Grey’s Anatomy without Alex Karev. His character is super complex and has added a whole lot of drama and important plot lines to the show. However, he actually wasn’t included in the original pitch or pilot. After Rhimes decided to write in his character, they had to go back and add him to every scene by digitally implanting him. The creators of the show felt the cast of characters needed someone who was a little rough around the edges, and liked actor Justin Chamber’s work in another ABC pilot.
3. Sex and the City was a huge inspiration for Grey’s
Believe it or not, Shonda Rhimes was hugely inspired by Sex and the City for the narrative style of Grey’s. While the two shows couldn’t be more different in their content and overall themes, Rhimes really loved the way Carrie Bradshaw narrated and commented throughout every episode of Sex and the City. That’s why she decided to have Meredith to a similar style of narration throughout every episode. During her pitch, Rhimes described it as “a more grounded version of Carrie’s articles in Sex and the City.”
2. Dempsey and Washington got into a physical brawl on set
To no one’s surprise, Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington had their own personal issues and conflicts. Seeing as the two of them ended up being fired for causing drama on-set, it makes sense that their strong personalities would clash at one point or another. Apparently, their rivalry started when Dempsey was chosen for the role of McDreamy over Washington. Eventually, there was a small argument about certain actors showing up late for shooting, which allegedly ended in Isaiah grabbing Patrick by the throat. Very professional.
1. Patrick Dempsey and Shonda Rhimes did not get along
No Grey’s Anatomy rivalry was more messy and intense than the feud between Patrick Dempsey and Shonda Rhimes. There were tons of accusations that Dempsey acted like a diva, and infamously allegedly began a fling with a young intern while still married to Jillian Fink. According to rumors, Dempsey was caught hooking up with the young staff member in his trailer and began acting increasingly unprofessional. This led to his suspension, and ultimately Rhimes decided to kill off his character (McDreamy) pretty suddenly to get him off-set for good.