The actress talks to ET about Thursday's episode, reuniting the Shepherd sisters and if Amelia is moving on from Owen.
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Thursday's episode of Grey's Anatomy, titled "Good Shepherd."
Amelia Shepherd finally got some closure.
Grey's Anatomy dedicated an entire hour to the Derek-less Shepherd family this week in an episode titled "Good Shepherd," where an impromptu and long overdue New York City reunion between Amelia (Caterina Scorsone), mom Carolyn (Tyne Daly), and sisters Nancy (Embeth Davidtz) and Kathleen (Amy Acker), the latter of whom has often been mentioned but never seen, drudged up Amelia's past inhibitions and personal battles during an explosive conversation around the dinner table. (The fourth Shepherd sister, Liz, portrayed by Neve Campbell in season nine, was "out of town.")
Ever since her Private Practice days, Amelia has been the definition of tumult -- with her share of failed romances (her recent divorce from Owen), battles with substance and alcohol abuse, and health problems (her brain tumor in season 14) keeping everyone on their toes. And as the youngest Shepherd sibling, she was often seen as the baby of the family, with her late brother, Derek (Patrick Dempsey), taking responsibility as her unofficial caretaker following their dad's death when they were kids. Those factors, mixed with Amelia's lack of communication with her family over the years, compounded her sisters' perceptions that she was still the "black sheep" of the family, no matter how successful she became or the strides she took to improve upon herself.
But a deep heart-to-heart between Amelia and her mom in Central Park provided the answers she had been seeking about her error-prone, directionless past. "Do you think I sabotage my relationships? I don't know how to love?" Amelia asked, after coming clean to her family about her divorce from Owen (Kevin McKidd) -- and her mother's response was both heartbreaking and illuminating. "Every time you fell down, you got up and came back stronger... You weren't afraid of it. And that's what made you -- out of all the kids -- the most like your father," Carolyn said, explaining that it was difficult to be around her youngest daughter following Papa Shepherd's death, hence why she handed the reins over to Derek. "You deserved a mother... and it is my biggest regret."
Following the episode, ET spoke with Scorsone for a breakdown of the Amelia-centric hour, reuniting the Shepherd family members (and finally meeting Kathleen!), Amelia's romantic future with Link (and if Owen is still in the picture) and the touching Central Park moment between Amelia and Mama Shepherd.
ET: When did you know that you were going to get a standalone hour dedicated to Amelia's story?
Caterina Scorsone: One of the nice things of having an Amelia-centric episode was a lot of stuff that was developed when Amelia was a regular character on Private Practice. There was a lot of backstory that we learned about her on Private Practice that some Grey's fans haven't seen. Getting to go back and encounter her family of origin, as opposed to the family that she's built in Seattle, is great. You kind of get to see a little bit of where she came from and where she fits into her family dynamic.
You've been playing this character for almost a decade now, and I feel like the theme of this episode is a lot about Amelia confronting her past and her place in the family -- that many of them still look at her as the "black sheep." You really see Amelia work through this with her sisters and her mother, especially.
Right, although she's encountering the behavior that triggered a lot of her childhood stuff to come up. I think one of the things that's beautiful about it is I think it's a really relatable, universal story -- maybe it's a bit more extreme in Amelia's case. Often we grow up and we encounter new ideas and we have new experiences and we change and evolve into a different person [than] when we were a child or when we were surrounded by our childhood dynamics. But I think there's a part of most people that doesn't notice the change happening, so when they go back to see their family at holiday times, they have an opportunity to excavate some of the dynamics that formed who they became and some of the dynamics that led to them wanting to change that dynamic. It's a beautiful opportunity to see somebody working through therapy. She's like, "Wow, I think I'm a different person but these are the conditions that formed the person that I became."
One of the most beautiful moments was Amelia's conversation with her mom, Carolyn, in Central Park, where they hash out their nonexistent mother-daughter relationship...
Ugh! Tyne Daly is unbelievable. I'm so grateful that I got to work with her. That was the part of doing the standalone that made me most excited and nervous. I couldn't believe that I was going to have an opportunity to work opposite Tyne Daly. (Laughs.) Because I've been playing Amelia for so long and I've known Tyne played my mom -- I've seen all of the footage of her with Derek [in the season five episode, "Sympathy for the Devil"] -- and she was a big part of my backstory even when I was playing scenes without Tyne. Whenever I would do scenes about her, I would picture Tyne as my mom as Amelia -- whenever I had to remember something or telling a story. She was an active part of my creative life. So when Tyne walked into the lobby of the hospital where we did our first scene and I saw her, I burst into tears! (Laughs.)
When Carolyn conceded that she wasn't there for Amelia when she needed her in her formative years, that was truly heartbreaking. Have you thought about how differently things could have turned out for Amelia had her mom taken the reins more as a parental figure?
Absolutely. In that moment, Amelia's mom [stepped] up as a mother and took care of Amelia's inner child and said, "Listen, you weren't given what you needed at the time when you were forming your ability to attach. I was not there." There was an absence. In terms of psychology and attachment theory, Amelia went through some incredible trauma at a formative time -- she was 5 years old and she was sitting in that store and she witnessed her father murdered in front of her. After that, her mom -- from what she says in this episode and from what I established in my backstory on Private Practice -- her mom, because of her grief, wasn't able to mirror Amelia and be present for Amelia in the ways that would have helped her process that trauma. That trauma was guided in her body and in her amygdala [nerve tissue in the brain responsible for emotions, survival instincts and memory] and created this fight or flight response that wasn't cured. I think that she probably had a viron that was predisposed to addiction, but I absolutely think that the body attachment and the trauma that she witnessed at such a formative age was a big part of the road that her life ended up going down for a long time.
It's Amelia's strength that, despite all that trauma and broken attachment, she was able to overcome and go to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and create relationships and go to med school and start getting back to medicine and have friendships. Her mom was big enough to admit her part in that piece and still be available as a mother. It's a powerful story. Nobody does things perfectly, but when you're able to look at them and talk about them, and forgive them and yourself and others, that's a pretty good job that you're doing there.
We've met the other Shepherd sisters, Nancy and Lizzie, before, but it's pretty stunning that it took until season 15 for Kathleen to finally be introduced. What did it mean to be able to have a full picture of the Shepherd family with Amy Acker now in the mix?
Amy Acker is such an incredible actress. She's so talented, she's so funny and as a person, she's so kind and lovely. I had a blast working with her. I hope that she comes back and plays with us more. Working with her and Tyne and Embeth was incredible, and I'm so happy to have a complete picture in my creative, imaginative mind about Amelia's family. We're also so lucky to work with Chris -- he's so great in the episode and so funny. It was just a wonderful time. And Bill D'Elia, who was the director, and Julie Wong, who was the writer; I just feel super lucky to have this experience.
You haven't shared a scene yet with Neve Campbell, who plays Lizzie.
I know! She has to come back! (Laughs.)
Shifting gears, Amelia and Link's blossoming relationship has been a pleasant surprise. Did you see them coming as a couple? What is their long-term future?
I didn't see it coming. It kind of a twist that Krista [Vernoff] came to me about, she was like, "We want to try this. You're going to go back to New York and he's going to be there." Chris Carmack is a super talented guy and so it's been fun to play with him. The chemistry is really good and there's been a lot of fun, comedic beats that we've been able to play, which has been a really refreshing turn for Amelia. A lot of what she's been going through were fun at times, but there was a lot of heaviness with the Betty storyline. This has been a little bit of a reprieve from that. In terms of long-term, I honestly don't know. We're doing some fun stuff, but I also think that "Omelia" is such a beautiful and rich relationship; Kevin [McKidd] and I love working together too. We're just trying to stay as present and open and as available for what flows through [the writers'] pens. Both relationships are really interesting and fun to play for me, so I'm trying to be in acceptance of whatever lands at my desk in the next script.
Amelia and Owen have been back and forth over the years; they're currently divorced, co-parenting baby Leo and at the same time, Owen is expecting a child with Teddy. Should we be closing the door on Amelia and Owen? What do you think their relationship status should be when it all comes down to it?
I would never say they're over for good. They do have so much history and they've shared so much pain and they both have their wounds and they've witnessed each through those. At this point, it's extremely complicated and they've reached a bit of an impasse at this point in their lives. At least where it stands right now, they're taking a step back and taking a breath and trying to figure it out. They can't keep ramming their heads into this wall right now, but they're just so beautiful together and their bond is so deep that I think it would be impossible for them to being nothing. They're going to either be incredibly cordial to each other or one day, they'll find each other again. I don't know. But what I can tell you is, as actors, Kevin and I adore each other and we love working together, so [maybe the writers] decide they are buddies, co-parenting babies in this new, structured way. Or could they end up re-finding each other and end up living happily ever after?
Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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