'Grey's Anatomy': Giacomo Gianniotti on Whether Meredith and DeLuca Are Endgame (Exclusive)

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Grey's Anatomy is going all in on the love triangle with Meredith, DeLuca and Link this season, and when Thursday's episode rolls around, the competition for Meredith's heart heats up even more as the two suitors amp up their flirt game. While it's been fun seeing Meredith navigate the dating world and grow closer to DeLuca and Link in different ways, it's pretty clear -- at least for the moment -- that DeLuca may have the edge, thanks to moments like their intimate elevator exchange in the winter premiere, and "MerLuca" fans are all for it.

"It’s been a lot of fun to see how they’ve been playing up the love triangle, the comedy with it, and how much fun Meredith is having," Grey's star Giacomo Gianniotti told ET earlier this week at the Disney-ABC party at the Television Critics Association press tour. "I think DeLuca is having a great time balancing everything and having a healthy competition between him and Link, which is fun to watch and fun to play. In the next couple of episodes, we’re going to see a lot more from both sides. Both Link and DeLuca share more common ground and continue this love triangle.”

Going up against an "ortho god" like Link in the surgery room may be one thing, but competing against him for Meredith's attention is a whole other ballgame. But as Giannotti tells it, he doesn't believe DeLuca sees it as a competition he necessarily needs to win because DeLuca and Link offer her completely different things, and DeLuca has the confidence in what he can bring to the table romantically. 

“If Link was more DeLuca's age and was also a resident, then I feel like there would be a real sense of competition," Gianniotti said. "Because he’s so different from DeLuca, I feel like it’s not really a competition. He’s sort of in another league, as DeLuca is to him. They bring very different choices [for Meredith]."

"I think DeLuca is confident with what he has to offer," he added, pointing to the aforementioned elevator moment during the windstorm as a turning point. "They spent that time in the elevator together where he revealed a lot about himself and opened up and was vulnerable, which she found beautiful and attractive that he felt safe enough to be open and vulnerable around her. I hear that that’s an attractive quality to women -- men who talk about their feelings and aren’t this iron-clad gate who don’t talk about their emotions. That’s something positive about him and we’ll see where it goes.”

Grey's Anatomy
ABC

Gianniotti revealed that the elevator scene, during which Meredith nonchalantly drops her knowledge of Italian to DeLuca, no doubt making her even more attractive to him, was a "fun" one to film. The Italian native shared that he and Ellen Pompeo rehearsed those particular lines dozens of times. 

"I coached her and I helped her with that phrase. She really was like, ‘I want to get it right. I don’t want to sound funny. Practice with me.’ We worked on it a lot and she did a great job. I’m very proud of her," he marveled.

One thing DeLuca may have going for him is the fact that he's been around Meredith longer and seen what she's been through these last few years, whereas Link -- who swooped in only a few months ago -- is a newcomer to the complexities of the Grey Sloan doc.

"I think you're right. I think there’s some context that he has with the years [he's been present] that have helped him know a little bit more about her life, what she likes and what she doesn’t like, and he’s spent more time with her," Gianniotti observed, adding that "it's hard to turn on that disregard" for Chris Carmack, who plays Link, because he's so likable in real life. "In that way, he has a little bit more of an advantage.”

And that advantage may come into play on Thursday, when Meredith reluctantly sets an official New Year's Eve date with DeLuca. Finally, after all the innocent flirtation and near-kisses. (And yes, there may be more Italian spoken between the two.) Gianniotti shared DeLuca's idea of what an ideal first date with Meredith looks like, perhaps previewing what Grey's fans may actually get to see.

“I don’t think you want to sell it too big on the first date. You kind of want to go to a place that’s quiet and intimate, where you can talk," he hinted. "There are a lot of Joe’s Bar on Grey’s, the classic bar we all go to. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was their first date." 

"We see each other in our clothes [scrubs] all the time and he says, ‘We need to get out of these clothes.’ And she goes, ‘Woah, what do you mean? What are you talking about?’ And he says, ‘No, I mean we need to get out of these clothes. We need to be in our own clothes outside of the hospital, where we can actually see each other as human beings and not as surgeons and as attending and resident, where we’re just equals," Gianniotti added. "I think that’s what he’s eager to do. When you get out of work, that hierarchy is gone and you can connect to each other as people and he’s eager to get himself in a position where she can see him in that way and not in the light blue scrubs, which makes him a resident and makes him less than you.”

Grey's Anatomy
ABC

With things starting to progress in a serious way between Meredith and DeLuca, could they be an endgame couple for Grey's? That may be a tad early to forecast.

“I like to not think ahead too much and keep it in the moment, otherwise you make choices that you can’t undo later. The writers write like that and I think they play things by ear [and let things unfold] slowly," Gianniotti said diplomatically. "Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s see how things play out and then we can get to that after. If you play something too early, you can’t get yourself out of it. Sometimes more interesting opportunities present themselves down the line, not just for love and relationships but also storylines. Like, oh we might want to tell a storyline with DeLuca about this, but because we’re married to him being with [Meredith], we can’t really have him tell that storyline and then we kind of screwed ourselves. It’s about keeping it open for forks down the road that we can get to.”

Pairing Meredith and DeLuca hasn't always been met with resounding excitement from Grey's fans. Ever since their unexpected drunken kiss in the season 14 finale, it seemed like they weren't a match made in heaven. But the tide turned over the course of the current season, a point Gianniotti has noticed. 

“They’ve been supportive from what I’ve seen and heard. I’m very excited and I’m glad they’re supportive. I’m glad they’re supportive of her [finding love]," he expressed, bringing up the occasional reference he'd see on his social media feed to Meredith's late husband. "Sometimes it’s like, ‘But Derek…’ But he’s dead. Is he supposed to rise from the dead? I mean, in what world? People die. He’s gone and he’ll never be back. But Meredith, that character, even though no one will ever replace him, deserves to have love in her life and someone to share her life with -- a companion. If the fans do really love her and care about her, they would care about her happiness and they would realize that she deserves that.” 

Looking ahead, there is more to look forward to with DeLuca's story outside of the obvious love triangle. 

“You’re going to learn a lot about DeLuca’s past, and the relationship with his father and his sister is going to deepen," Gianniotti teased. "You’re going to get a lot more context, which will eventually become common ground between DeLuca and Meredith.” 

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

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