'Grey's Anatomy': Kelly McCreary Says Maggie and Jackson 'Endure More Friction' in Season 16 (Exclusive)

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What happened to Jackson?

Grey's Anatomy returns for its 16th(!) season on Thursday and that looming question over the premiere is addressed pretty quickly with the aftermath of the missing Grey Sloan doctor. Fans will recall Jackson (Jesse Williams) disappeared into the fog -- literally -- abandoning Maggie on the side of the road in the middle of the night after the couple had a blow-out fight. That cliffhanger not only surprised viewers, but also the cast.

"My first thought when I read that scene was, 'Did Jackson just die?! What happened?! What's going on here?' I had no idea," Kelly McCreary said in the latest episode of ET's Unfiltered series, out Thursday. "But I felt like it was such a great metaphor for what Maggie was experiencing in that moment, which was that this person that she had previously felt so connected to, there was this fracture and that person had disappeared from her, you know? He was lost in the fog, both emotionally and literally, in that moment for her."

The premiere episode, titled "Nothing Left to Cling To," reveals that Jackson isn't lying in a ditch somewhere fighting for his life, but rather saving someone else's. Still, Maggie and Jackson's relationship is in great jeopardy of imploding. If they were to reconcile their romance, McCreary says the pair has a lot of work to do.

"For Maggie and Jackson to find their way back to one another, they frankly have to keep having conversations like the one that they had right before he disappeared into the fog. There was some real truth and honesty being shared. Now, could they do it in a more loving way?" McCreary said with a laugh. "Absolutely, if they want to stay together!"

"But yeah, I think that's what happens in relationships. You uncover these layers. Everything is great and then you [have] a little friction and then you've got to work your way out of that friction and then it will be great again," she continued. "And then, you get to some more friction. That's the stage that they're in."

Is there a chance Maggie and Jackson could overcome the challenges they're currently facing in order to make their relationship work?

"I can definitely tell you that Jackson and Maggie, they probably have to endure some more friction," McCreary said, playing coy. "That's all I can tell you right now."

In May, McCreary married her longtime love, Pete Chatmon, whom she met on the Grey's set, and she shared that her own relationship has given her insight into why she believes Maggie and Jackson's romance is unhealthy.

"I can see very, very clearly, 'Oh, you keep doing that, that's not the recipe for a healthy relationship,'" the actress said. "Like do you want to be right? Or do you want to be together? I can see very clearly when Jackson and Maggie are doing the right thing and when they're not. But I don't think it informs necessarily how I play it because Maggie and Jackson have a different sort of way of showing affection than Pete and I do. They have a different sense of humor about things than Pete and I do. It's night and day. It's a totally different vibe."

McCreary made her Grey's debut in 2014, after appearing in two episodes of Shondaland's former TGIT drama, Scandal. She spoke about whether fans of Grey's often confuse her real-life persona with that of her character.

"I think I've been really lucky not to have my self as Kelly McCreary conflated with Maggie Pierce. I often receive some of the enthusiasm and anger directed at her, but I don't think anybody thinks I am her. They hold me responsible for her which, maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't, I don't really know. But yeah, I don't think anybody is confused about whether I'm a prodigal, young cardiothoracic surgeon!"

To watch McCreary's full Unfiltered interview, watch the video above. 

Grey's Anatomy returns Thursday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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