'Grey's Anatomy': James Pickens Jr. Says Season 16 Will 'Test Everybody' (Exclusive)
Grey's Anatomy is hitting the ground running on season 16, but what about all those cliffhangers that left fans with a flurry of unanswered questions?
While we'll all be waiting with bated breath this September to see where Jackson disappeared to in the fog and if Meredith actually goes to jail and what Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital looks like without Meredith, Richard and Alex, one of the OGs of Grey's, James Pickens Jr., is offering hints as to what awaits in the upcoming season. One thing we do know: The premiere will pick up right where the dramatic season 15 finale left off.
"You know that there's something on the other side of it that's going to be really exciting and is going to take the audience and they'll have to go on that ride, so that's the fun part," Pickens Jr. told ET of the game-changing finale at Disney/ABC's All-Star party at the Television Critics Association summer press tour earlier this month, promising fans will be filled with "anticipation" to see how it all unfolds. "Obviously, my character and [Meredith] and Alex, we've been fired now, so that's presenting a whole new set of issues, especially for Dr. Webber. It's going to test some of his stuff."
For Webber, being fired by his former protege, Miranda Bailey, from Grey Sloan was a huge move, one Pickens Jr. said wasn't shocking to him from a creative standpoint.
"It made perfect sense," he explained. "If someone was going to fire me, [it had to be] Bailey, who I mentored. But it sets up for some really fascinating and really funny and timely storytelling moving forward. I'm excited to see where it takes us all."
So what is Grey Sloan without the trio of longtime docs gracing its hallowed halls?
"It's going to be interesting," Pickens Jr. teased, playing coy. "It's going to test everybody, the folks who remain at Grey Sloan and our characters who now have to look into new territory and figure out what's the next step of my career and my life. That's going to be what the audience is really going to take a hold of."
With Webber no longer at the hospital, Pickens Jr. addressed whether this could be the season his character may be hanging up his doctor's coat for good and retire from practicing medicine, something the former Chief of Surgery made plans to do since early in the show's run.
"We don't know yet," he said with a smile, "but he's kind of the glue that kind of holds everything together. This will be interesting for him. It'll test his relationships, it'll test his sobriety to some extent."
The upcoming season will celebrate yet another milestone in the show's remarkable run: 350 episodes. Pickens Jr., who has been with the medical drama since Day 1, said it was "pretty easy" getting back into the swing of things on Grey's, which recently wrapped filming on the season 16 premiere. "At this point, it's fun," he said. "It's always exciting. There are some new writers who have come on board and some cast members who have been added, so it makes it fun to look forward to."
Pickens Jr. also put the rare 350-episode achievement, which will air in November, into perspective.
"It's crazy. It's pretty rarefied air at this point," he marveled. "You won't see this model again. TV has changed so much; the options for watching your favorite TV shows have changed so much, so long-running dramas are -- I don't want to say, dinosaurs -- but it's part of a wonderful past of television. The torch is passing now and to be a part of something so iconic and has so much history, I've been pretty blessed. Pretty fortunate."
Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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