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EXCLUSIVE: 'Grey's Anatomy' Star Jessica Capshaw Talks Prison Episode, Alex's Fate and Arizona's Dating Life

by Philiana Ng 6:05 PM PST, January 26, 2017
Playing EXCLUSIVE: 'Grey's Anatomy' Star Jessica Capshaw Talks Prison Episode, Alex's Fate and Arizona's Dating Life

Warning: Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Thursday’s winter premiere of Grey’s Anatomy, do not proceed. Everyone else, read on.

Grey’s Anatomy left the familiar walls of Grey-Sloan Memorial for the uncertainty of a maximum-security prison on Thursday’s winter premiere to look after the violent (and potentially dangerous) pregnant 16-year-old inmate.

The trio of doctors tasked with taking care of the volatile teen -- Jo, Arizona and Miranda -- got a lot more than they bargained for when they entered the premises of the women’s prison. The momentary reprieve from the frenetic chaos of Grey-Sloan, and Alex’s impending prison sentence, was invigorating for Grey’s star Jessica Capshaw, who has played Arizona since 2009.

RELATED: Alex Makes a Costly Decision About His Future on 'Grey's' Fall Finale

“The hospital is such a familiar place to be, but some of our greater episodes have been in a ferry boat crash, in the woods in a plane crash -- I feel like I’m saying crash a lot but we have a lot of crashes,” Capshaw told ET, laughing at the thought. “Hopefully, this was no exception. The idea that you could take these three characters off-campus and create a different anxiety or anticipation or excitement surrounding a story that’s off the beaten path for them, it was really fun. I adore Chandra [Wilson] and Camilla [Luddington]. It was a lot of girl power going on. We went in there as bosses and got it done.”

Following Thursday’s episode, Capshaw jumped on the phone with ET to discuss what’s next for Grey-Sloan Memorial, how Alex’s plea deal shifts the hospital landscape and much more.

ET: Tonight’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy was basically all about you, Chandra and Camilla. What was it like having an entire hour devoted to the three of you?

Jessica Capshaw: It was a great story to tell and it was exciting. The table read was a total page-turner and we got to do things that we don’t normally.

Were there any unique challenges that you faced during filming?

It was challenging keeping your sense of caution at a different level than you’re normally keeping it over the course of a 12- to 15-hour day because there was a dangerous and unpredictable element, not knowing what was going to happen. It was a different part to play and we all had to remind ourselves where we were in the story and how on-guard we [were supposed to] feel at any given time during the story.

RELATED: Pregnant 'Grey's' Star Camilla Luddington Talks Co-Stars' Mommy Advice

Does Arizona’s experience with the pregnant teen, Kristen, change her perspective on her relationship with her daughter, Sofia?

Yeah, I do. I think by the time you see them all driving home at night and also in the scenes where Arizona is speaking to her patient’s mother, it is almost inconceivable that there would be a time in a mother-daughter relationship where a mother would give up on her child. Trying to understand that and playing a scene where you’re watching the most gross dissolution of a relationship that is meant to be a bond that lasts forever is really challenging and probably not one she’s ever had to deal with. No doubt getting in the car after a day like that and understanding that there is a world where mothers and daughters are torn apart and being someone who doesn’t have her daughter to go home and hug, is probably a really big challenge.

Does Arizona have empathy or pity for Kristen after confronting her mom about abandoning her child?

Definitely. It’s so heartbreaking. You never know how they edit it and as soon as you put music to it, it could change something that you did. But I remember when we shot the scene, I definitely think that it was one of those things -- oh, I thought it was heartbreaking, heartbreaking, heartbreaking. To have a young woman -- we don’t even ever get to find out what it is that she’s done that’s so horrible, but we’ve got to imagine that it was pretty horrible -- and to think that there was ever something you could do that could estrange you from your parents is again, inconceivable. I’ve got three daughters and a son, you’d like to think that there’s nothing they could do that you wouldn’t forgive them for or help them through.

Will we see Sofia, and tangentially, Callie, down the line?

I think the conceit is, we are all to imagine that in the perfect utopia of Shondaland that Callie and Penny and Sofia are happily, happily ensconced in a new life in New York. Who knows when they might pop back in or out or if the relationship is played off-screen. We do have quite a few babies and children on the show. I think that babies and children should be in school and be at home being cuddled. We don’t have as much of Sofia onscreen and we take the luxury of referring to her or imagining that Arizona gets to see her every other week or whatever it is, and that they figured that out. We are meant to imagine that Callie and Arizona have a really mature [relationship] and [they’ve] certainly earned being able to have a delightful relationship and to love each other as co-parents, though they’re not together.

RELATED: 'Grey's Anatomy' Star Camilla Luddington Debuts Baby Bump on Instagram

Arizona seems to be getting back in the dating game after Callie’s departure, with the hospital’s new residency director, Eliza. What’s brewing with them?

The most exciting part of the relationship is the possibility. At this point, I don’t know that she’s moving on from Callie. It’s so funny because I’ve always gotten the notion from various things that were said to her or various things that she did that Arizona plays it fast and loose. I don’t know that she’s always [looking to settle down]. Her dance card is always full. (Laughs.) So I don’t know that this is her first foray to getting some action. I think this is more someone who is flirty and fun in a promising way, rather than in an ephemeral way. In very distinct Shonda Rhimes fashion, there always has to be a bit of a challenge that makes it even more exciting to watch. She has the challenge of feeling like Eliza might not be on Richard’s side, which makes it hard for her because Richard is a good friend of hers.

We also learn that Alex took the plea deal, which means he’ll likely serve a prison sentence. What is Arizona’s mindset after that bit of news drops?

It’s super devastating. It’s one of those things where you can’t even explain how you feel when something that you can’t do anything about starts to happen and unravel. It must be a really helpless feeling and clearly she has such great affection and love for their friendship. It’s very complicated and it’s one of those things where everybody feels very helpless because there’s nothing you can do.

How does that shift the landscape of Grey-Sloan?

You’ll have to watch the show, my friend! (Laughs.)

Earlier you mentioned your friend Camilla, who’s expecting her first child in a few months. What sort of pregnancy advice have you given her?

We constantly talk about it. At any given time that I run into her, she’s wearing an article of my clothing because I gave her all of my maternity clothes. No one is ever an old pro because parenting is constantly a moving and growing thing, but clearly I have been pregnant a lot. (Laughs.) When it’s your first time, you have that worry. You know you’re about to enter into a relationship with another person that’s like no other in the whole entire world, so she’s feeling all that. When you become a parent, one of the things that gets revealed to you is how much the things that used to be such a big deal to you no longer can stand up to the things that you worry about for your children. We were texting over the weekend and I finally picked up the phone and called her and she was like, “I don’t know how long I can talk because I’m losing my voice,” and I was like, “Girl, you have no idea how your world is about to get rocked!” (Laughs.) Losing your voice is the least of your worries, my friend!

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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